Ohio Governor John Kasich’s proposed budget was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives in early February as HB 59. Our prior analysis of the original bill can be found here. HB 59 includes amendments requested by three Ohio agencies that would govern the disposal of drilling wastes containing naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) and technologically-enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM). See our summary of HB 59’s NORM/TENORM provisions here. But these provisions may be on their way out of the budget bill.
State Representative Dave Hall—chairman of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee—said in a recent interview (subscription required) that HB 59’s drilling-waste amendments “just needed a little more work and I expect that will probably end up being a bill itself.” Hall predicts that the safe and proper handling of radioactive drilling waste will become more important as drillers begin recycling hydraulic fracturing fluids, which can become radioactive when they come in contact with naturally-occurring radium underground. According to Rep. Hall, this complicated issue should be addressed in a comprehensive review of landfills, which he anticipates his Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee will tackle after summer recess.
Both the oil and gas industry and environmentalists agree that the NORM/TENORM provisions should be removed from the budget. In recent testimony before the Agriculture & Development Subcommittee, Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) Treasurer Jim Aslanides said that “the [oil and gas] industry is not aware of any issue with Ohio’s current regulatory structure for TENORM.” Aslanides noted that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has presented General Assembly testimony stating that “tests at Utica well sites ‘indicate very low levels of NORM and TENORM.’” Aslanides also expressed concern that the budget’s drilling-waste provisions may confuse Ohio’s current TENORM regulatory structure by spreading responsibility and authority across multiple agencies. Conversely, environmental groups contended in recent testimony that the NORM/TENORM provisions do not fully address radioactive drilling wastes, and recommended the materials instead be shipped to landfills licensed to handle low-level radioactive waste.
While the drilling-waste provisions may not find a home in Ohio’s budget bill, some form of drilling-waste regulation will likely end up on the books. The North America Shale Blog will continue to track this issue and report on new developments as they arise.