Prove your humanity

May 11, 2024: This story has been updated to include response from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources on drinking water well testing.

On April 25, the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission upheld a June 2023 order by Eric Vendel, the chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management, suspending operations of the K&H Partners wells. The company is a subsidiary of Kansas-based Tallgrass Energy.

The chief’s order last year stated that wastewater brine had been showing up in gas production well three-quarters of a mile away. In 2019, the owner of the production wells said 100 barrels of brine flowed from the gas well for 90 minutes. 

Evidence presented in the order showed that the brine could be migrating through fractures in the underground shale formation and that the impacts create an “imminent danger” to health and the environment. 

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K&H appealed the suspension to the Oil and Gas Commission and was allowed to restart operations in October 2023. Hearings were held in December. 

On April 19, the commission issued its ruling, which sided with the ODNR, and upheld the chief’s order suspending operations at the K&H Partners injection wells. 

The Commission said part of the job of the ODNR in issuing permits is to protect groundwater, and concluded that the agency acted lawfully and reasonably suspending operation of the wells. 

Protecting drinking water

According to the Athens County Independent, the ODNR met with area residents in late March, explaining its plan to test private drinking water wells for contamination from nearby oil and gas wells, including the three K&H Partners wells, and four other injection wells owned by another company, Reliable Enterprises. 

“There is no evidence that there has been an impact to underground sources of drinking water from the K&H class II well,” said ODNR spokesperson Karina Cheung, in an email. “However, out of an abundance of caution, ODNR is currently in the process of contracting for the testing of nearby water wells to confirm that understanding,” she said, adding that  the Division will analyze drinking water wells within a half mile radius around the affected production wells.

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