COLUMBUS - A list of toxic chemicals used by Ohio shale drillers must be made available locally to governments, first responders and residents under a new state directive.
Ohio officials notified companies that a federal chemical disclosure law trumps a 2001 state law requiring the information be filed with only the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The state gave companies until Oct. 21 to begin complying with the federal law.
State Rep. Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown, who has fought for stronger regulations in shale drilling and disposal, said Monday he was pleased with the decision, but was still unsure as to what local authorities are required to receive the information and where it will be available for easy accessibility.
Attempts to reach Trumbull County Hazardous Materials chief Jason DeLuca for comment on Monday were not successful.
The guidance affecting the state's burgeoning hydraulic fracturing industry follows an April letter in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made clear that Ohio's chemical-reporting laws don't supersede federal right-to-know requirements.
The letter came in response to a complaint by a coalition of environmental and community groups involving a January chemical emergency near St. Marys in Auglaize County.
The reporting change will benefit residents in areas of Ohio where hydraulic fracturing is abundant, said Teresa Mills, whose Center for Health, Environment and Justice spearheaded the complaint.
"They can go to their local emergency planning commission and ask for these records," she said.
Her group, the liberal ProgressOhio and the Buckeye Forest Council have also called on the federal government to consider suspending Ohio's authority to oversee deep wells used for disposal of the chemically laced wastewater that results from using the hydraulic fracturing method to drill for oil and gas.
In the complaint, they used the example of Benedict Lupo of Poland, the owner of Youngstown-based Hardrock Excavating who is facing federal criminal charges alleging he intentionally violated the federal Clean Water Act by ordering company employee Michael Guesman of Cortland to dump brine and oilfield waste down a Youngstown storm drain. The waste ultimately drained into the Mahoning River.
Guesman has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. In his plea deal, he admitted illegal dumping occurred on multiple occasions. Lupo's case is still pending in U.S. District Court.
Hagan on Sept. 17 renewed an earlier request to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in his fight for access to public records stemming from February's illegal dumping incident and subsequent cleanup and investigation.
Specifically, Hagan had asked for communications with Hardrock Excavating, Lupo's other company, D&L Energy of Youngstown, Lupo and any warnings ODNR received regarding illegal dumping before the official investigation began. He initially requested the documents in February. Hagan said Monday the request still has not been filled. He intends to continue pressing for the public records.
ProgressOhio and the Buckeye Forest Council noted that D&L Energy was the operator of a Northside Youngstown injection well located on a fault line that triggered multiple earthquakes.
Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to extract natural locked in shale rock deep underground.
The federal right-to-know law allows oil and gas companies to shield some chemicals from the inventories it releases as trade secrets. Among chemicals used in the process that may be listed are: ethylene glycol, which can damage kidneys; formaldehyde, a known cancer risk; and naphthalene, a possible carcinogen.
A leader of Ohio's oil and gas association said the state chemical disclosure law was intended to centralize and ease access to information about the chemicals used in drilling.
Ohio Oil and Gas Association vice president Tom Stewart said the new directive will make it more difficult for firefighters to learn what chemical hazards they might encounter at a shale well fire.
"We changed the law so fire departments could rely on the annual reports we make to (Natural Resources), which would be inserted into an emergency response website," Stewart said.