Posted By Jackie Stewart, Energy In Depth Appalachian Basin,
Monday, September 17, 2018
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2018
The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a Tucson, Ariz.-based environmental activist group, has used the legal system for years to delay federal leasing of minerals. These delays are costly not only for federal and state government coffers, but for the local communities and forests CBD claims to be trying to protect. CBD’s latest target is Ohio’s Wayne National Forest – where CBD has claimed victory after victory over ongoing delays of federal permitting and, most recently, the cancellation of a federal auction lease sale.
CBD says its mission is “to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction.” But as EID has highlighted before, CBD is actually an extremist “multimillion dollar litigation factory” that brags about ignoring science and the law in pursuit of its agenda. What is CBD’s real agenda? To use “psychological warfare” to “mock” regulators and “destroy” and delay projects of every type – not to advocate more effective regulations or to protect the environment.
The Wayne National Forest provides a perfect case study illustrating CBD’s tactics. The group recently statedthat the “feds” are finally “listening to their concerns” with regard to its efforts to “stop all fracking in the Wayne.” In reality, of course, all of these delays can be traced to the CBD’s May 2017 lawsuit alleging, among other erroneous claims, that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Services violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing fracking in the Wayne.
EID will look at what the CBD claims to be, how the group articulates its real goals in rare moments of candor, its playbook of techniques designed to mislead reporters and frighten the public, and the disturbing business model that has evolved over the years to, among other things, fleece taxpayers through a technicality in the Endangered Species Act.
In a 2009 interview, CBD founder Kieran Suckling explained how the CBD playbook works – sue a federal government agency, attempt to “mock” and “destroy” regulator’s careers during litigation, and ultimately settle out of court.
Suckling has stated what CBD does in plain English, saying;
“The environmental movement spent a decade going to meetings and demanding action and getting nothing done. They were asking powerful people for something from a position of no power. We realized that we can bypass the officials and sue, and that we can get things done in court.”
“They are one tool in a larger campaign, but we use lawsuits to help shift the balance of power from industry and government agencies, toward protecting endangered species. That plays out on many levels. At its simplest, by obtaining an injunction to shut down logging or prevent the filling of a dam, the power shifts to our hands. The Forest Service needs our agreement to get back to work, and we are in the position of being able to powerfully negotiate the terms of releasing the injunction. They feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed – and they are. So they become much more willing to play by our rules and at least get something done. Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigning.”
This exact strategy has been employed by CBD in its effort to stop development in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest, as you can clearly see in this National Association of Royalty Owner’s (NARO) infographic.
With “psychological warfare” and endless litigation as its admitted strategy, CBD has not had to trouble itself hiring scientific experts or those concerned primarily with the nuances of species protection. Instead it has decided to recruit from top law schools, not primarily to ensure that we have clean water and air, or that loggerhead sea turtles thrive, but to shut down, if possible, entire industries that humans rely upon for survival and, failing that, to reap financial windfalls through abuse of the law.
It is not “winning” that CBD is interested in – it is using the process itself to frustrate the aims of regulators, other NGOs and industries trying to create a safe and healthy environment for humans and other species. This strategy allows CBD to generate a lot of media attention and even more money, while never having to actually help find a solution to any environmental problem.
As former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Director Dan Ashe explained to the House Committee on Natural Resources in 2011, this litigation strategy actually takes away from pools of money federal agencies would otherwise spend on species and habitat recovery. Ashe said,
“We fully agree with the concern that our resources are better spent on implementing the ESA than on litigation. … [O]ur FY 2011 resource management allocation for listing and critical habitat was $20.9 million, of which we spent at least $15.8 million taking substantive actions required by court orders or settlement agreements resulting from litigation.”
If CBD existed to help advance environmental policy, it would work with regulators, industry and NGOs to advocate for and craft laws and regulations to suit its ends. Instead, it seeks to “cripple – and eliminate, if possible – industry.” It appears that’s precisely the case with the Wayne National Forest, as CBD’s efforts to “mock” regulators has led to a complete gridlock in allowing regulators to do their job to adjudicate requests for permits and mineral development.
Meanwhile, as the regulatory gears remain jammed, there’s no doubt that the CBD and its team of lawyers are working overtime to try and settle with the federal government, as they have done over and over again in cases all over the country.
The Sue & Settle Playbook
CBD is, first and foremost, a deep-pocketed law firm. The group’s 2016 Form 990 shows revenue in excess of $14 million. It’s hometown newspaper, the Tucson Citizen, has called it a “multimillion dollar environmental litigation factory.” Unfortunately, it is a “factory” that is willing to say or do, it seems, almost anything in pursuit of its ideological agenda, regardless of its relationship to the truth or its actual impact on the environment.
The Wayne National Forest lawsuit is just the latest example of CBD filing an Endangered Species Act lawsuitagainst the Department of the Interior (DOI), which the DOI inevitably is unable to comply with due to CBD’s intentionally impossible demands. CBD’s approach – really, its business model – has, according to self-described “environmental extremist” and outdoors writer Ted Williams, become an industry:
“You and I are a major source of revenue for that industry. The Interior Department must respond within 90 days to petitions to list species under the Endangered Species Act. Otherwise, petitioners like the Center for Biological Diversity get to sue and collect attorney fees from the Justice Department.
The Center also shakes down taxpayers directly from Interior Department funds under the Equal Access to Justice Act, and for missed deadlines when the agency can’t keep up with the broadside of Freedom-of-Information-Act requests.” [Emphasis added]
In the same article, environmental leader Amos Eno, who currently directs the Resources First Foundation, is even more blunt:
“The amount of money CBD makes suing is just obscene,” he told me. “They’re one of the reasons the Endangered Species Act has become so dysfunctional. They deserve the designation of eco-criminals.” [Emphasis added]
Eno, who formerly directed the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and who worked in the federal government’s Endangered Species Office, noted that CBD’s litigation strategy actually runs counter to its stated goal of protecting species – actually hurting endangered species instead:
“Eno figures the feds could ’recover and delist three dozen species‘ with the resources they spend responding to the Center for Biological Diversity’s litigation.
’The amount of money CBD makes suing is just obscene,’ he told me. ’They’re one of the reasons the Endangered Species Act has become so dysfunctional.’” [Emphasis added]
According to a former Obama Administration official:
“CBD has probably sued Interior more than all other groups combined. They’ve divested that agency of any control over Endangered Species Act priorities and caused a huge drain on resources. In April, for instance, CBD petitioned to list 404 species, knowing full well that biologists can’t make the required findings in 90 days.”
It is for that reason that CBD’s Taylor McKinnon’s claim that the group’s Wayne National Forest lawsuit was being filed to “stop this dangerous fracking plan because drinking water safety and public lands should come before corporate profits” was so disingenuous.
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that CBD raked in over $2 million in taxpayer dollars paid to its attorneys and directly to CBD for cases open between 2009 to 2012 in Endangered Species Act-related litigation and settlements. Then-Chairman Hastings said:
“American taxpayers have a right to know how much of their money is going to pay attorneys and settlement costs for lawsuit-happy organizations that make a living off of suing the federal government. The numbers from the Justice Department speak for themselves.” [Emphasis added]
In response to investigations, CBD called for the chairman’s retirement, saying in the press release “good riddance” to then-Chairman Hastings. In addition, the NGO also put out a flurry of press releases slammingHastings in retaliation.
Fast forward to just a few months ago, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) opened another probe into CBD as part of an ongoing investigation into the organization and foreign influence on U.S. natural resources and environmental policy.
In other words, CBD has not only grown into a litigation factory, but a taxpayer-funded cash cow with clear ties to foreign influence that is simultaneously stalling America’s move toward energy dominance.
The Media Playbook: Adjectives, Not Facts
In addition to filing suits to frustrate the efforts of regulators, CBD brings legal action so that it can write press releases about … bringing legal action. This strategy has been relatively successful, especially in Ohio around the Wayne. The news media has too frequently “reported” on these legal filings without understanding the broader strategy behind many of them.
A visit to the group’s online “Newsroom” reveals a steady churn of adjective-laden press releases, often several a day, many of them regarding filed or ongoing litigation. In fact, as of this writing, CBD has issued 395 press releases in 2018 alone. By the time you read this, the number is sure to be higher.
CBD press releases follow a familiar pattern: amp-up the adjectives, seek to scare – rather than inform – the reader, repeat. There’s no “just the facts” for CBD.
The headline and subhead from CBD’s release about the Wayne National Forest lawsuit is a typical example: “Lawsuit Challenges Fracking Plan for Ohio’s Only National Forest; Feds Overlook Danger to Wildlife, Watersheds, Ohio River.”
This May 2017 press release is, as noted previously, an attempt to nullify the years of significant environmental reviews that went into the Environmental Assessment that concluded there would be “no significant impact” from the development of oil and natural gas in the area, allowing leasing in the Wayne National Forest. Energy In Depth has reported on this circumstance previously.
The press release and media talking points are a model of sophistry, wholly inaccurate and completely misleading substantively. Let’s unpack it:
Probably the most absurd allegation is the fact that CBD claims there was not a “hard look’ at how the Wayne National Forest’s many natural values would be impacted by fracking and horizontal drilling, in violation of NEPA’s requirement for federal agencies to disclose significant environmental effects of their proposed actions.” They also mention that there was not enough “public notice and comment” and the decision to lease was “rushed.” Federal agencies have been debating and conducting environmental reviews around this subject since 2011. The decision to lease federal minerals did not come until October 2016. During those years of review there were multiple public notices, meetings, and comment periods, as EID has covered extensively.
The entire premise of this typical CBD press release is an attempt to scare Ohioans into believing that the federal government did not include dangers to wildlife, watersheds, and the Ohio River, rushed to make its decision and rejected public opinion, which CBD knows to be false.
In this blog post, we have only scratched the surface of CBD’s radical ideology, its legal strategy premised on harassment and obstruction, its disinterest in science as an objective enterprise, and the techniques it uses to mislead the media and the public. And we have done so only in the context of the group’s anti-energy crusade, which Energy In Depth has reported on extensively.
From the story of its origin to its anti-regulatory activities, there is ample evidence that CBD has positioned itself so far to the fringe of the debate over oil and gas development that it borders on journalistic malpractice to trust any “analysis” or claim it makes without independent investigation.
Any entity – a government agency, an industry, an NGO – should have its claims investigated and held up to journalistic scrutiny. That is equally true for the activists of CBD. Citizens seeking facts and reliable information about environmental policy, and journalists seeking credible information on the science behind energy development, should be wary and should most likely look elsewhere.
Posted By Mike Chadsey, Director of Public Relations,
Monday, September 10, 2018
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2018
Ascent Resources and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association hosted U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson on a tour of a Utica shale drilling rig in Guernsey County.
After proceeding through security and watching a safety video, the tour commenced with a walk around the well pad to see the various pieces of equipment on site and how the pad is laid out to ensure safety and efficiency. Next the group checked in with the crew in what is known in the industry as the “doghouse” for a visit. It was there that the Congressman first commented on the impressive technology in place to protect Ohio’s precious water resources. Here, the driller showed the congressman how they take the pipe downhole, what precautions they use during the process and how intricate the equipment used really is.
While everyone was watching and listening to the crew explain what was happening the gentleman at the controls offered up he was from Ohio and he pointed to the group on the rig floor and shared that they were all from the tristate region. Hiring local is part of an industry wide effort in Ohio to ensure that qualified workers for the tristate area find meaningful employment in the industry that is working in their towns. According to the latest state data, over 200,000 are employed in shale related jobs in Ohio.
After a tour around the drilling floor it was back down to check out the various pumps, machines and equipment used to drill a horizontal well. All along the tour, it was pointed out the various measures in place to protect safety the workers, watershed and our shared environment.
According to Amanda Finn, Government Affairs Manager at Ascent Resources, “we host these kind of tours to ensure our elected officials at all levels understand what it is we do, how we do it and the incredible economic activity we create when we set up in a given area.”
At the conclusion of the official tour, the entire group gathered to answer questions that were posed by the Congressman about various aspects of the industry, the state of Ohio’s oil and gas industry and how things have been since coming out of the downturn.
Mike Chadsey, Director of Public Relations for the Ohio Oil and Gas Association shared that, “OOGA is grateful for the Congressman taking time out of his busy travel schedule to stop by an active well pad in Guernsey County to take a tour and ask intelligent questions about the industry and discuss current production from Ohio’s producers.”
Ascent owns 9 of the top 10 producing natural gas wells in Ohio per the latest report from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and they are a growing company with over 200 employees in Oklahoma City and over 100 here in Cambridge. They, like other producers, while coming out of a long downturn are reinvesting in Ohio by purchasing assets from other companies such as their recent acquisition of the Hess and CNX joint venture acreage. They are still a single play operator only drilling in the Utica in Ohio.
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Manager,
Monday, August 27, 2018
Amanda Finn grew up in Mason Ohio just north of Cincinnati where she lived until her final year of high school. Just before starting her senior year, her parents moved the family to Oklahoma. That year proved to be a challenging time in 17 year old Finn’s life, which she managed to survive after realizing she was not required to ride a horse or live in a teepee (original dramatic thought of a 17 year old). She then moved on to attend Lindenwood University just outside of St. Louis, Missouri and graduated with Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing. Immediately after school she started working for a local marketing research firm in St. Louis focusing on internal marketing and social media. This was a good role for a recent college graduate, where she remained for three years developing marketing strategies for major Midwestern clients.
With her parents move to Marietta, Ohio, a visit home sparked a change in career path that she was looking for. Finn met a local Ohio congressman and, after shadowing his D.C. fundraiser staffer, she was offered a position to move back to Ohio and start working as his director of finance. This opened the door to the state’s energy industry as Finn was meeting numerous people directly involved in oil and gas.
In her fundraising role, Finn met the CEO of Magnum Hunter Resources Corporation, who presented an opportunity for Finn to leave the fundraising side of politics and make the leap over to government relations and community affairs. Having built a network in oil and gas while doing congressional fundraising, Finn felt ready to make this career shift. For the next two years, Finn was the Government Relations Manager for Magnum Hunter. During this time, she also focused on community relations and public relations throughout Ohio and West Virginia. During the oil and gas industry’s bust of 2016, Magnum Hunter filed for bankruptcy, in turn causing staff turnover. Finn then went on to Ascent Resources – Utica, LLC (“Ascent”) where she currently works as their Government Relations Manager.
“I think it’s addicting,” Finn described. “I think most people’s jobs get old and they just go through the daily motions. This industry is always something different, it’s always exciting, every day is something new and you have no idea what’s going to happen when you walk in the door. I think part of the allure of the industry is the many ebb-and-flows that keeps you on your toes and produces some of the best work ethic I’ve ever seen.”
Finn’s role at Ascent involves a variety of focuses, but a key piece is government relations. The job, which includes working individually and with OOGA involves educating and working with members of the General Assembly on key pieces of legislation, rules and regulations through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and all aspects of community relations. This includes working with local township trustees, commissioners or mayors, along with land owner relations, mainly updating them on activities in the area and fielding any issues or complaints.
“I think it’s challenging for some to understand or see the magnitude of the legislative process and why it is so important,” explained Finn. “These legislative initiatives and rules/regulations proposals are key to the industry continuing to operate at a safe and productive level in the future.”
Ascent Resources - Utica Overview
Ascent is headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma with about 240 employees based in that office; Finn works in the Cambridge field-office that has over 100 employees and is the largest office outside of the headquarters. In Ohio there is one other small office in St. Clairsville that focuses on Ascent’s dry gas operations. Finn described that Ascent hires primarily local contractors, with at least 80% of them coming from the tri-state region in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Ascent is operating strongly in four Ohio counties that include Belmont, Harrison, Guernsey and Jefferson, and its recent acquisition of natural gas assets from CNX, Hess and UMD will expand its acreage position in Monroe and Noble Counties. Across these counties they have seven rigs running and four frac crews. Being the largest gas producer in Ohio, Ascent has nine of the top ten gas wells in the state according to the latest production figures released for Q1 of 2018.
“Legislatively we’ve achieved a lot in 2018 with HB 225 and HB 430 being signed and will become law later this year,” Finn said. “The affected mine legislation, SB 236 will be a focus in the next legislative session along with other initiatives that will be finalized in the next few months. Rules and regulations have been more of a struggle, with ODNR doing an overhaul of the rules package as part of their five year review process. Part of resolving this is to try to get everyone on the same page and ensure that they are interpreting the rules in a way that won’t create added frustrations to the producers.”
Finn initially became a member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association in 2013 while she was in her fundraising role. When she started working at Magnum Hunter, one of the first things she did was make sure the company became more involved with the Association. She also stepped up her personal level of participation by joining the Government Affairs Committee and the Environmental Committee, later becoming chair of the Government Affairs Committee in 2016.
Finn carried this same attitude over to Ascent when she started her new position. Ascent upped its membership to the highest corporate level in order to get a wider reach of its staff members involved with the OOGA. They now have at least one employee on each committee that OOGA has available. Finn continues to chair the Government Affairs Committee and has expanded her involvement to include a Board of Trustees seat in 2017 and was recently appointed to the Executive Committee in 2018. She remains involved in other committees to keep Ascent up to speed on what is happening in the industry, and sits on the Environmental Committee, Communications Committee, Technical Committee and other work groups when necessary.
“If you take advantage of your membership, it’s of huge benefit,” said Finn about her involvement among the Association. “If you participate in committees, pay attention, read the news clips and get engaged, you get as much out of it as you put in. For Ascent, I would not be able to do everything else I do if I didn’t have the legislative assistance OOGA provides. Having OOGA be that support system of representing us on a daily basis is of huge importance to Ascent.”
The member spotlight series features OOGA members making an impact with their membership. If you would like to recommend someone to be highlighted, please contact Lyndsey Kleven firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Manager,
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
During an August 6 ceremony, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) presented Dan Pottmeyer, Chairman of Zanesville based Producers Service Corp. with the 2018 Oilfield Patriot Award, an annual honor bestowed by the trade association.
Established in 2006, the award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to protect, promote and advance the common interests of those engaged in all aspects of Ohio’s crude oil and natural gas industry. Pottmeyer was honored for his long-time advocacy on behalf of the industry, as an authentic entrepreneur who saw the need and took the risk to start Producer Service Corp. at a time when the industry needed a local quality service company that Ohio producers did not have access to. This is in addition to his devout involvement within the Ohio Oil and Gas Association since the late 1980s.
“The Oilfield Patriot Award was made for people like Dan Pottmeyer,” said Jim Aslanides, president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. “The legacy that Dan is leaving in Ohio for the oil and gas industry has brought countless benefits and created hundreds of local jobs. Dan was the innovator that led the employee purchase of the company in 1994, which laid the groundwork for becoming a 100% employee owned company today with each and every employee being an individual shareholder of the company.”
A resident of Zanesville, Pottmeyer left a stable position with Halliburton to take a chance on Producers Service Corp in 1981. Today the company currently operate four large shale fracturing fleets out of its operating districts in Zanesville, Ohio and Hennessey, Oklahoma. Dan is a former football player and graduate of Marietta College with a degree in petroleum engineering. He has been an inspiration to many other members of his family to follow in his footsteps and study petroleum engineering.
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Manager,
Tuesday, July 31, 2018
The 2018 OOGA Summer Meeting will be held at the Zanesville Country Club on August 6th – August 7th bringing together the membership and top industry leaders.
A legislative update regarding issues impacting Ohio’s oil and gas industry will be held on Monday morning before the start of the first golf flight.
The Monday golf flight will consist of competitive stroke play at Zanesville County Club. Golf will continue on Tuesday with competitive stroke play at The Virtues Golf Club (formerly Longaberger Golf Club) and a scramble held at Zanesville Country Club. Ken Miller Supply is sponsoring the Clay Shoot again this year at Briar Rabbit Shooting Sports. Tennis, euchre, corn hole and other traditional favorites will take place simultaneously at Zanesville Country Club.
All Summer Meeting attendees are invited to join OOGA for a networking welcome reception; beverage and appetizers will be served Monday evening at Zanesville Country Club at 7:30.
As has been the tradition since 2006, the 2018 Oilfield Patriot Award event will take place on Monday evening, sponsored by Producer Service Corporation. Festivities will include a reception, dinner, award ceremony, and a video presentation honoring the recipient. *Separate registration required to attend this dinner.
General registration for this year’s event is available online. Be sure to login and pre-register online for the 2018 Summer Meeting at www.oogasummermeeting.com. Registration will also be available onsite at the event.
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Manager,
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Updated: Thursday, July 19, 2018
Ascent Resources hosted a training exercise to assess integration of emergency response plans for the Senecaville Fire Department, Ohio EPA, Ohio DNR, County EMA, in Guernsey County. The drill was based on a fire with liquids going off the pad.
“We recognize we have a responsibility to keep people safe, and today’s activity allowed us to work with our community partners to ensure our response mechanisms are working. Today, we strengthen our relationship with those partners,” said Joe Steele, Ascent Resources’ EH&S Supervisor.
The purpose of the drill was to test Ascent Resources’ employees for notification of response, incident command, resource management and overall communication. Over 15 Ascent employees were involved and played various roles from engaging with law enforcement, working with the local fire department, updating DNR and EPA.
“The drill was well put together, there was really good communication between all parties, it was important to go through a real-life example of a situation that may happen on a well pad,” said Lt. Dan Webster from the Senecaville Fire Department. “The take away was that we learned there are additional resources available that could have been used if required. The biggest thing was the interaction between all parties before something happens. You don’t want to be meeting someone for the first time at 2 am when it’s raining, and something just happened.”
The verdict after debriefing was while things can always be tightened, everything went according to plan. Those involved kept to the task at hand and executed their role with precision and dedication. Days like today keep operators prepared, the community protected and allows everyone to go home safe at the end of the day.
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Manager,
Tuesday, June 26, 2018
The Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) and Energy In Depth (EID) released findings in its Utica Shale Local Support Series that show Ohio oil and gas operators have invested more than $343 million in direct investment into counties where drilling and production of oil and natural gas from the state’s shale resources is occurring. The findings include more than $300 million in road improvements with more than 630 miles of roads improved. In addition, $43.7 million in property tax payments, with a projected more than $200 million to be paid over the next decade.
“The series of reports continue to prove that the oil and gas industry is a partner to the communities that it operates in,” said Matt Hammond, OOGA’s executive vice president. “The industry is making significant contributions to the state and local economies in multiple ways, as can be seen directly by the millions of dollars paid in property taxes and road miles improved. This revenue flows directly to local schools and creates local economic activity."
The Utica Shale Local Support Series: Ohio’s Oil & Gas Industry Road Improvement Payments, report takes a closer look at the history of the Road Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) and the execution of these agreements within eight counties spanning from 2011 to 2017: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Jefferson, Harrison, Monroe and Noble. The key finding includes more than $300 million total investment, more than 630 road miles improved, 100 percent invested directly into local communities.
The Utica Shale Local Support Series: Ohio Oil and Gas Industry Property Tax Payments, report looks at the industry’s contributions of $43.7 million to six Ohio counties from 2010 to 2015: Belmont, Carroll, Guernsey, Harrison, Monroe and Noble. The report projects that over the next decade, $200-$250 million will be paid to these six counties alone. The percentage of property tax collections to local Ohio schools in these areas is 60-70 percent.
The Utica Shale Local Support Series is an on-going series of studies between OOGA and EID that collectively examine multiple ways in which oil and natural gas production directly benefits local schools, counties, townships, cities, villages and other vital local services and infrastructure. The information obtained for the studies was gathered through public record requests.
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Manager,
Friday, June 8, 2018
The Ohio Oil and Gas Association commends members from the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate for passing House Bill 225 and House Bill 430, moving the bills on to await final approval from the Governor.
“On behalf of the members of the OOGA, we thank the leadership of the Ohio House and Senate for bringing these vital bills to the floor for consideration and the bipartisan support from members in both chambers in passing these important pieces of legislation,” said Matt Hammond, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. “The vision and fortitude of Representative Tim Schaffer and his sponsorship of House Bill 430, and Representative Andy Thompson for being a tireless advocate of House Bill 225, both of which are greatly valued by the membership of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.”
House Bill 225 requires the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to spend 30% of the Oil and Gas Well Fund on plugging orphan wells and requires annual reporting from the ODNR to the Ohio General Assembly. With support from environmental organizations, those in the oil and gas industry have long advocated for a more robust oil and gas plugging program even as Ohio operates one of the best in the nation. This legislation will clean up legacy issues dating back to the early 1900s and ensures that revenue coming from the severance tax and fees are used to support the oil and gas regulatory program. H.B. 225 passed both the House and Senate Floors unanimously.
House Bill 430 reaffirms the traditional sales tax standing that oil and gas operators have received since 1960. Every business needs clear and consistent system of taxation, this legislation will provide Ohio’s oil and gas industry tax certainty. This bill simply reaffirms what has been conducted for decades and does not expand the scope of exemptions, but rather clarifies it. H.B. 430 passed the House by a vote of 85-12 and the Senate 32-1. It is also important to note that the Ohio Department of Taxation initially testified in opposition to H.B. 430., later withdrawing its opposition the day the Senate passed the bill out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
The past few months have been full of twists and turns, uncertainty and political obstacles. Pending approval from Governor Kasich, signing these pieces of legislation into law will benefit Ohio’s oil and gas industry by bolstering the state’s orphan well plugging program and clarifying oil and gas sales tax treatment.
Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Manager,
Monday, May 14, 2018
The Ohio Oil and Gas Association hosted a successful Region 1 & 2 Spring Golf Outing at the Wooster Country Club on May 11. Groups of foursomes played in a shamble format braving brisk temperatures.
The Association would like to give a special thank you to the event’s sponsors: American Refining Group dinner sponsor, Ergon Oil Purchasing, Inc. beverage cart sponsor, IGS Energy lunch sponsor, Worthington Industries golf cart sponsor. The golf team of Matt Dye, Justin Cauldwell, Jeremy Cauldwell and Guss Zoppi won the tournament with a score of four under par. The closest to the pin on hole 14 was Joe Herman and hole 8 was Mike Wehner. In addition there was a raffle and multiple door prizes donations from member companies.
The Association would like to thank everyone who participated in this event, and the Sound Energy team Tyler Levengood, Bruce Levengood and Carrie Ellenbaugh for helping to put on a great event and overseeing the logistics.
Posted By Jackie Stewart, Energy In Depth Appalachian Basin,
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
The first ever and award winning Utica Shale study to examine the root source of methane (CH4) linked to fracking has finally been published in a scientific journal. The long awaited multi-year University of Cincinnati (UC) groundwater study that found no impacts from fracking was finally published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Monitoring Assessment – more than two years after researchers first announced its findings. The study was also blessed by the Ohio Environmental Council in 2014 as their recipient for the “Science and Community Award.”
Notably, the study’s topline conclusions echo comments made by the report’s lead researcher and a master thesis that was uncovered by EID two years ago, stating:
“We found no relationship between CH4 concentration or source in groundwater and proximity to active gas well sites.”
“… our data do not indicate any intrusion of high conductivity fracking fluids as the number of fracking wells increased in the region.”
The study further highlights how incredibly important the publication of the findings are, given the fact that it truly is a first-of-its-kind, stating:
“[O]ur study is the first to characterize CH4 sources in groundwater in the Utica Shale drilling region of Ohio, and is one of only a handful of time series studies of CH4 concentration and associated isotopic composition in an oil and gas extraction area.”
“We hypothesized that CH4 concentration would increase as the number of shale gas wells in the area increased, with the isotopic composition of CH4 reflecting an increasingly fossil fuel derived natural gas source, and that pH of groundwater would decrease and electrical conductivity would increase due to the presence of acidic, salty hydraulic fracturing fluids in groundwater. We also predicted that groundwater wells located within 1 km of active shale gas wells would have elevated levels of dissolved CH4 with isotopic ratios reflecting a natural gas source, and that groundwater within this ‘active zone’ would have decreased pH and increased electrical conductivity.”
But the data collected from 25 water wells in Carroll, Harrison, Stark, Belmont and Columbiana counties between 2012 and 2015 simply did not support that hypothesis:
“Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not see an increase in CH4 concentration or change in isotopic composition of CH4 in groundwater in regularly monitored wells over the study period (Figs. 2 and 3), despite a large increase in the number of producing shale gas wells in our study area (Fig. 1). In fact, we saw a decrease in CH4 concentration in some of our regularly monitored wells, although the number of samples in our time series is relatively small. The low numbers of significant correlations indicate there may be natural variability in concentrations of biogenic CH4 in groundwater in our study area (contrary to our expectation).”
“I’m really sad to say this but some of our funders, the groups that had given us funding in the past, were a little disappointed in our results. They feel that fracking is scary and so they werehoping our data could point to a reason to ban it.” (emphasis added)
But again to the authors of the UC groundwater study’s credit, they correctly reported what the data they collected indicated even though it was contradictory to their hypothesis. In fact the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) stated,
“This innovative research study is examining the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on groundwater in Ohio’s Utica shale. Led by UC geologist Amy Townsend Small, this first-of-a-kind project is testing for the presence of methane (the primary component of natural gas) and its origins in groundwater and drinking water wells before, during, and after the onset of fracking. Other studies have focused on water contamination only after fracking is complete. The project involves the gathering and analysis of water samples in eastern Ohio by UC graduate and undergraduate students.”
The study notes that just 115 drilling permits had been issued in Ohio when the study began in January 2012, and that 1,600 permits had been issued by the study’s conclusion in February 2015. Most of the 180 total samples were collected in Carroll County, which has emerged as the most-drilled Ohio county, seeing shale well counts increase from just three in late 2011 to 354 in 2015, according to the study’s master thesis.
The fact that the samples collected on a “voluntary” basis and based on “landowner interest” — translation: from landowners that were involved with Carroll Concerned Citizens or sympathetic to their efforts — further validates the study’s conclusion. And the findings really couldn’t be clearer: there was no evidence of groundwater contamination attributable to natural gas development in the study area. From the study:
“our data indicate that the dominant source of CH4 in groundwater in the Utica Shale region is biogenic, and that neither the CH4 concentration nor its source change with an increasing number of shale gas wells or with changing distance to shale gas wells.”
EID applauds the UC research team for not only (finally) getting this study published, but not deviating from the original conclusions reported more than two years ago. We now call for those who have claimed fracking is “poisoning” Ohio groundwater (we’re looking at you, Dennis Kucinich) to acknowledge scientific evidence and stop fear-mongering that is driven more by politics than the facts.