A targeted review by a multi-stakeholder group on Friday said Ohio’s program that regulates hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) of wells is well managed, although some improvements could be made.

The Ohio Hydraulic Fracturing Review was conducted by a three-person team appointed by the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations, or STRONGER Inc., a nonprofit organization that conducts voluntary state reviews of oil and natural gas environmental rules. STRONGER was formed in 1999 “to reinvigorate and carry forward” the state review process begun cooperatively in 1988 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

STRONGER conducted a similar review in Pennsylvania last year (see Daily GPI, Sept. 24, 2010).

Appointed last July, the team consisted of three members and five observers who represented environmental groups, state regulators, the oil and gas industry, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the EPA. Fifteen additional people attended the review.

“The review team has concluded that the Ohio hydraulic fracturing program is, over all, well-managed, professional and meeting its program objectives,” said Lori Wrotenbery, director of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s Oil and Gas Conservation Division and chair of the review team. “We believe several aspects of the Division of Mineral Resources Management [DMRM] and its operations merit special recognition.”

Hydrofracking has been a well completion practice in Ohio since the 1950s, STRONGER noted. To date no groundwater contamination by hydrofracking has been reported, it said.

The team’s report singled out Ohio’s hydrofracking regulatory program for its operations in comprehensive program assessment, planning and use of stakeholder input, which led to state legislation that improved the program. The program also was praised for reporting comprehensive information about hydrofracking operations with the well completion report; reviewing potential pathways of contamination; strong enforcement tools; increased staff levels; and use of a website to disseminate information.

Recommendations were made to improve the Ohio DMRM’s pending rulemakings, chemical information availability and evaluations of water withdrawals for hydrofracking operations.

In addition to Wrotenbery, the review team’s members were Wilma Subra, an environmental scientist from Louisiana, and Jim Collins, a petroleum engineer representing the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Observers were Kari Matsko, Northeast Ohio Gas Accountability Project; Greg Russell, Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease LLP; David Neslin, director, Colorado Oil and Gas Commission; DOE’s Nancy Johnson, and EPA’s Robert Puls.

Copies of the review are available by contacting Michael Nickolaus at mnickolaus@gwpc.org, or at (405) 516-4972.