Last week we discussed the release of Ohio Governor John Kasich’s proposed budget, in which the Governor proposed changes to the state’s severance taxes for oil and gas wells. On Monday the budget was introduced as a new bill (HB 59) in the Ohio House of Representatives. But also included in HB 59 were a number of proposed amendments to state laws governing the disposal of drilling wastes containing naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) and technologically-enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM).

These amendments — jointly developed by the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Ohio Department of Health — are designed to provide for greater coordination between these agencies, to enhance their oversight capabilities, and to require drillers to ensure the proper management and disposal of their drilling wastes. Specifically, the provisions in HB 59 would require the following:

  • Materials contaminated with oil-based substances sent off-site for disposal must be sent to a licensed solid waste landfill or can be beneficially reused, only if authorized by Ohio EPA (drill cuttings are not TENORM).
  • Well operators would be required to sample any wastes potentially containing TENORM for radium prior to shipping wastes off-site, to ensure the wastes are managed and disposed of properly.
  • If a landfill accepts TENORM waste from the oil & and gas industry, it must receive and review analytical results to ensure compliance with regulatory limits established by the Ohio Department of Health. This requirement also would apply to wastes destined for solid waste transfer facilities, as well as wastes coming to Ohio’s solid waste landfills and transfer facilities from out-of-state.
  • Solid waste landfills would be prohibited from receiving any TENORM materials for disposal if the material contains radium-226 and/or radium-228 at concentrations that are equal to or greater than five picocuries per gram above the natural background radiation level, as identified by the Ohio Department of Health.
  • Solid waste landfills may receive TENORM materials containing radium-226 and/or radium-228 at concentrations greater than five picocuries per gram above the natural background radiation for purposes of mixing these materials to get them within acceptable levels for disposal. Such activity would require prior authorization by the Ohio Department of Health. Under this proposal, dilution is one of three options that would be available to handle wastes exceeding the 5 picocuries/gram standard; such wastes also could be shipped to one of several low-level radiation landfills in the west or to a Michigan landfill that allows radiation levels up to 50 picocuries/gram.
  • The Director of Ohio EPA would have authority to create additional rules, if necessary, for management of TENORM materials at solid waste landfills, including requirements for leachate and ground water analysis of radium and management of TENORM materials in a separate monocell at the landfill.

By way of background, in September of 2012 Ohio EPA issued an advisory regarding the landfilling of drilling wastes. The advisory discussed ODH’s existing authority to regulate the disposal of drilling wastes containing NORM and/or TENORM.

Our prior coverage of this issue can be found here, and media coverage of the proposed legislation can be found here and here. This blog will continue to monitor the status of HB 59 and these proposals as they proceed through the legislative process.