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Good company looking to sink ODNR ruling | News, sports, jobs

Good company looking to sink ODNR ruling |  News, sports, jobs


Injection wells company AWMS Solutions of Howland has returned for the third time before a Franklin County General Court of Appeals judge, requesting a ruling that it hopes will enable the company to reopen the Weathersfield Township injection well.

It represents AWMS, a wholly owned subsidiary of Avalon Holdings Corp. , attorney Matthew Fansoch, who is also a trustee of Howland Township. Injection wells force wastewater from the oil and gas well industry deeper into the earth as a means of disposal.

In a filing last week, Vansuch asked Judge Kimberly Cocroft to hold the Ohio Department of Natural Resources responsible for any future decisions it makes to shut down an injection well due to seismic activity — earthquakes. The Company seeks to reopen the injection well in a manner that is fair to the Company.

“The reason for the accountability is clear, as the inconsistency is the only consistent thing about (ODNR) actions toward AWMS,” the filing claims. Vansuch cited an Ohio Supreme Court ruling earlier in the case when it said that AWMS “could not have reasonably foreseen when it took over (ownership of the injection well) that the state’s inconsistent regulatory approach or lack of response to AWMS attempts (re-opening the well) would leave AWMS.” in limbo for years with its operations suspended indefinitely.”

The well was shut down recently after two small earthquakes caused by the well on State Road 169 just north of the Nile caused the ODNR to shut down.

Back to court

This case has been litigated in the Franklin County General Court of Appeals twice before. It has also been shown to the Ohio Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court and the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission, which ruled in June in favor of rules written by ODNR on what actions the ODNR would take if the well reopened and caused future earthquakes.

That decision is that the AWMS is now appealing in Franklin County and asking for it to be rescinded.

On May 21, 2021, Eric Wendel, ODNR Head of Oil and Gas Resources, ordered that after the AWMS well reopens, it must be closed again in the event of an earthquake of magnitude 2.1 or greater within a 3-mile radius. The facility, as it did in 2014 shortly after it first opened.

The Oil and Gas Commission said it found the restart orders to be legal and reasonable.

But the Vansuch file argues that it is not reasonable for ODNR to “force an automatic shutdown of AWMS operations for seismic events unrelated to AWMS processes”, and it is not legal and reasonable for ODNR to “force an automatic shutdown of AWMS operations for a 2.1 (magnitude) seismic event” compared AWMS’ proposed ‘risk mitigation’ plan and ‘yellow light’ modifications.

Vansuch argues that it is not legal and reasonable for ODNR to “keep AWMS operations closed indefinitely with no timelines to keep (ODNR) accountable and responsive.”

He argues that if another earthquake occurs and the ODNR closes the well again, the ODNR will not have “timeframes” for the ODNR to review the seismic event and provide the AWMS with a path toward reopening the well.

He stated that the ODNR Scheme “allows for the AWMS to be closed for an indefinite period of time and without requiring the Chief (ODNR’s Oil and Gas Division) to make any decision on any compensation to the AWMS. There is no enforcement mechanism by which the ideal expectation (of the Oil and Gas Committee) that (Oil and Gas Division) can be enforced that (the ODNR Division ODNR) will review any request “in a reasonable time”.

“Regulatory Purgatory”

Vansoch noted that Cocroft “rightfully summoned the stalling tactics (ODNR) on the first appeal.” Vansuch said the AWMS wants “reasonable standards at specific points in time when the suspension will be lifted unless the Chief (ODNR) enters an order to extend the suspension for a specified period of time.”

He added, “This avoids the regulatory purgative in which AWMR has been condemned while maintaining (ODNR) the ability to reasonably assess and regulate injection activity” in AWMS well.

The ODNR has argued that it needs an indefinite amount of time to review seismic activity because “it is not known what specific conditions will occur or what data will be available”. Note Fansush.

Furthermore, the current reopening framework would allow the ODNR to close the AWMR well “on the basis of purely speculation”, such as the area around the well that had no seismic activity before and that seismic activity ended after the well was closed.

Vansuch writes, “ODNR assumes that the seismic activity must be caused by the AWMS and requires the AWMS to refute the assumption … then the (ODNR) can take as long as it wants to review the information without any AWMS appeals.”

Finally, the requirement to close the well in the event of a 2.1 earthquake is an arbitrary number, Vansoch argues. Officials said the 2.1 quake was felt by only one person.

The ODNR office argued that it chose 2.1 because this is the level at which a “community announcement may feel an earthquake that raises a safety concern”.

ODNR has also indicated its concerns about the safety of the dam at the Meander Reservoir in Mineral Ridge, which is set to receive $45 million in upgrades in the coming years, some of which are specifically designed to address the need for the dam to withstand earthquakes that may result from injection wells in the Youngstown area.

“(The ODNR rules) impose an appropriate conservative margin of safety in the face of significant danger to the welfare, life and property of innocent people,” ODNR stated.

The ODNR has argued that subsurface conditions in Northeast Ohio require that only low-level earthquakes be allowed because in Northeast Ohio, “seismicity begins to be felt at lower magnitudes…due to the underlying soil and geological conditions in the Mahoning River Valley.”

ODNR has until November 8 to respond in writing to Vansuch’s file unless an extension of the deadline is granted.

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