Base decisions on science
Gas and oil drilling do not appear to cause anywhere near the environmental damage some activists claim. Still, when there are valid questions, state and federal governments should be alert to potential problems.
For that reason, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is right in its plan to monitor nonproductive wells used to dispose of waste from other wells.
Sometimes referred to as “injection wells” because millions of gallons of waste fluid from other drilling operations are pumped into them, the disposal facilities are scattered throughout eastern Ohio. The state contains 188 disposal wells.
In the Buckeye State and elsewhere, scientists have said it is possible the disposal wells are linked to minor earthquakes.
That became a special concern in Ohio during 2011, when an injection well near Youngstown was blamed for 11 earthquakes.
After that occurred, the state established new, stricter rules for disposal wells. It stepped up seismic monitoring around some of them.
Now, ODNR plans to spend $257,287 to buy additional seismic monitoring equipment to provide additional information about underground disturbances linked to disposal wells.
That is an excellent idea. Much more information about the alleged link between earthquakes and disposal wells is needed to decide whether existing state restrictions are adequate to prevent problems with the facilities.
The ODNR plan should help ensure any decisions on injection wells are made on the basis of scientific knowledge, not scare tactics like so many of the unfounded complaints made about the drilling industry.