Ohio Enacts More Restrictions on Oil & Gas Related Wastes

With the passage of Ohio's budget bill (House Bill 59), the State has enacted tougher regulation of oil & gas related wastes. Beginning January 1, 2014, a person is prohibited from storing, recycling, treating, processing, or disposing of brine or other waste substances associated with oil & gas exploration and production without a permit or order authorizing those activities. The relevant provisions are found in Ohio Revised Code 1509.22.

Under the old law, the Chief of the Oil & Gas Division at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources had to either adopt rules or issue orders regarding the management of oil & gas related wastes. H.B. 59 establishes a new permit program. In addition, the old law covered only storage and disposal of such wastes. Under the new law, it clarifies that a permit or order would be needed for recycling, treatment and processing of such wastes.

One aspect these changes are meant to address are operations that take flow back (brine) and allow for solids to settle out prior to disposal via injection well. It was somewhat unclear whether this was deemed "storage" under the old law. Now it is clear these operations are meant to be covered.

In line with the State's shift toward fees to pay for Agency services which has occurred over the last decade, the new law establishes a $2,500 fee for obtaining such a permit.

Finally, H.B. 59 clarifies the materials that are covered under new permit program. The old law covered: brine, crude oil, natural gas, or other fluids associated with exploration & development of oil and gas resources. H.B. adds to the "other fluids" category- well stimulation, production operations or plugging. It appears the intent was to ensure all waste material associated with either exploration, production or closing of a well are captured under the requirements. As Ohio continues to see development of the Utica Shale resources, it is likely additional changes and regulations will be enacted.

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