Columbus Dispatch

August 7, 2013

Gas leaks from shale wells rare

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, August 5, 2013
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Minutes after Debby Kline flicked a lighter near a bathroom sink in her Portage County house in northeastern Ohio, she called the fire department.

A sink-to-ceiling flare erupted when she tried to light a candle on Dec. 21, she told a TV news show. State oil and gas regulators are still investigating what caused natural gas to bubble out of the faucet.

Kline’s Nelson Township house is within a half-mile of two Utica shale wells that state records show were drilled and fracked in October and November.

Videos of burning water in Ohio and Pennsylvania households have helped bring attention to shale drilling and fracking, but such incidents are rare. Most complaints associated with oil and gas drilling are about drinking-water wells that run dry or produce water that’s discolored, smelly or clogged with sediment.

But in some cases, natural gas from poorly cased and cemented wells can seep into drinking-water wells, making faucets spit fizzy water that some homeowners can ignite.

“We encourage people not to do that, because there is an explosive risk,” said Kevin Sunday, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials said they could not discuss Kline’s case while it is being investigated. Kline also declined to comment.

Oil- and gas-industry advocates say shallow pockets of natural gas can leak into groundwater. They say drilling gets blamed for something that has been going on, unnoticed, for years.…

February 28, 2013

Cleaner coops welcomed by egg farm's neighbors

Source: Columbus Dispatch, February 25, 2013
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When Crystal Sullivan moved into her Croton Road house more than a decade ago, the flies from the nearby egg farm were so thick that they coated the porch ceiling.

The infestation was widespread. Neighbors complained of flies crowding their cars and ruining their picnics. Nearby, one young man was too embarrassed to bring girlfriends home.

But today, with fly season again approaching, Sullivan has hope. She stands on her porch in Licking County, the hen houses looming just down the road, and says things have changed since a new company took over.

“I think it’s getting better,” said Sullivan, 29.

After decades of turmoil surrounding pollution and lawsuits and state-ordered shutdowns, things are uncharacteristically quiet at the former Ohio Fresh Eggs farms in Licking, Wyandot and Hardin counties. After Trillium Farms took over the mega-egg operation, the Ohio Department of Agriculture renewed its operating permits last year — permits that had been on hold since 2008 — with little hesitation.

“We haven’t received any complaints … in quite some time,” said Agriculture Department spokeswoman Erica Hawkins.

J.T. Dean is the chief operations officer at Trillium, which with 9 million hens producing 4 million dozen eggs a week, is one of the 10-largest egg producers in the country. He’s an Iowa boy who was born into the egg business: The Dean family, which co-owns Trillium with an Iowa construction company, manages several egg farms. His boss is his dad, and when Dad said he was interested in some egg farms in Ohio, Dean balked. He knew those Licking County operations well. They had left a black mark on the entire egg industry.…

February 6, 2013

Farmers in Ohio divided on 'fracking'

Source: Columbus Dispatch, February 2, 2013
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The growing amount of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” being performed in Ohio as part of a booming oil and gas industry is causing a split in opinion among the state’s farmers.Some see the movement as an economic opportunity, while others see the practice as a threat to their livelihoods.

High-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing is being heralded as an economic engine in Ohio because it can exploit deeply buried reserves of natural gas and other petroleum products.

Fracking could generate 65,680 jobs and $4.9 billion of investment in Ohio by 2014, according to a 2012 report by researchers at three Ohio universities and sponsored by the Ohio Shale Coalition, a pro-fracking group aimed at maximizing the economic impact of shale-gas production in the state.

Some farmers foresee financial windfalls from leases with oil and gas companies, which according to the economic impact report averaged $2,500 an acre, as well as royalties — continuing income of 15 percent of the value of gas extracted on their properties.

But other farmers see fracking as a threat to their way of life because it injects millions of gallons of water, toxic chemicals and sand deep underground to break apart shale formations and release the gas. These chemicals could put their land off limits for organic farming, which has strict certification standards.

Although the state’s two general farming associations, the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Ohio Farmers Union, are concerned that fracking could contaminate farming soil and water, neither has a current position on the growing natural gas drilling practice in the state.…

January 30, 2012

Obama’s ‘spilled milk’ joke touched on a real issue

Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH), January 26, 2012
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The most-painful moment of Tuesday night’s State of the Union address — painful to both political parties and the independents watching — might have been the joke that fell flat when President Barack Obama told it.

“We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 per year proving that they could contain a spill — because milk was somehow classified as oil,” he said. “With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.”

It turns out that, despite the joke, spilled milk actually can be a problem in Ohio.

Over the past five years, the state Environmental Protection Agency has received 33 reports of large milk spills or discharges that involve dairies, dairy farms or trucking companies. Seven counties have reported two spills each.

The problem is that, once milk reaches waterways, it interacts with bacteria so that water is depleted of oxygen, said Linda Oros, a spokeswoman for the state EPA. The bacteria die; then the fish do, too.

In 2007, for example, 700 gallons of milk dumped down a drain on a Fairfield County farm killed 3,800 fish in a nearby stream, said Jim Quinlivan, of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. That happens less frequently with milk than it does with manure or sewage, he said. And milk spills don’t always kill fish.

Obama’s joke referred to the 1973 federal Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure rule. Vegetable oils and the butterfat in milk were considered the same as petroleum under the rule, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2009, the agency proposed exempting milk from that rule, after the dairy industry brought it up. The exemption became effective in April 2011. In a fact sheet on the issue, the agency argues that milk containment and spill prevention are already regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.

Farmers would agree, said Joe Cornely, a spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau. Dairy farms are regulated by those agencies, as well as by various state agencies and soil and water conservation districts and can be fined for spills.

Except he didn’t hear farmers complain about it much.

“Farmers might have preferred to hear something more substantive on regulatory issues that are a more-pressing concern,” he said of Obama’s speech.

Among them are the possibilities that the EPA could regulate the amount of dust in the air at farms and more strictly control crop-protection chemicals, he said.

Still, it’s nice to know that the president is thinking about them.

“Most farmers appreciate the president’s comments that unnecessary regulations aren’t helpful,” Cornely said.…

March 15, 2011

Environmental concerns likely to alter planned Ohio pipeline

Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH), March 14, 2011
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The drilling boom that has created hundreds of natural-gas wells in Pennsylvania and West Virginia could shoot new pipelines across Ohio.

State officials are weighing proposals for three pipelines that would help move ethane, propane and other liquefied natural-gas products to refineries in Ontario and Louisiana.

It’s not clear whether all three pipelines would be built.

An application that Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. filed with the state in November calls for a 240-mile pipeline from the Ohio River in Monroe County to the Michigan line west of Toledo.

The $550 million pipeline would create as many as 2,500 construction jobs and transport as much as 93,000 barrels of liquefied natural gas a day, according to the application.

It also would cross 334 streams, including three state scenic rivers, and go through 11 high-quality wetlands. The pipeline also would run near Toledo’s Oak Openings Preserve Metro Park, home to 180 rare and endangered plants.

That has environmental advocates concerned. Trent Dougherty, an attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council, said the state often does a poor job of enforcing rules that require companies to avoid or repair environmental damage.…

December 10, 2010

Columbus oil refinery sued by Ohio EPA: State says company violating air pollution limits

Publication Date 06/16/2010
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)

Less than a year after Heartland Refinery Group was praised by city and state officials as a cutting edge “green” business, the company has been sued by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for violating air pollution limits.

In the process, the state says Heartland created “a substantial odor nuisance and potential adverse impacts to public health and the environment.”

The state’s action is a substantial blow to the plant, dubbed a “re-refinery” because it strips soot and other compounds from used motor oil so that it could be recycled. Heartland officials planned to recycle as much as 20 million gallons of used oil a year.…