The Athens County Fracking Action Network filed an appeal of what's known as the K&H2 well in eastern Athens County earlier this year, with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources disputing the standing of the group to make such an appeal. The well in question is one of two injection wells owned by K&H Partners of West Virginia at the site.
In June, the Oil and Gas Commission granted the ODNR's motion to dismiss the appeal, siding with the state agency and K&H in arguing that the commission did not have the authority to consider the appeal. State law designates ODNR as Ohio's sole oil and gas regulatory authority.
ACFAN had asked the Oil and Gas Commission to reconsider its decision, but last week this request was declined.
"The Oil and Gas Commission declined to reconsider its previous decision in response to ACFAN's motion for reconsideration and today (Thursday, June 10), I filed an appeal of the commission's dismissal of the ACFAN appeal of the K&H injection well permit with the Court of Common Pleas in Franklin County," ACFAN attorney Richard Sahli confirmed in an email.
In its decision, the commission said it found no cause to reconsider, stating that it had correctly concluded that the panel lacks jurisdiction to entertain ACFAN's appeal.
In the filing with Franklin County, Sahli requests the court find the dismissal from the commission "unlawful and unreasonable" and to overrule the dismissal, remanding the matter to the commission to hold a hearing.
"The permit was issued for a disposal injection well located in Troy Township, Athens County, which causes the members of ACFAN to be adversely affected and aggrieved," he wrote.
The Oil and Gas Commission has argued that the permit is a drilling permit, not an injection-well permit, and as such it lacks authority to review the appeal.
Meanwhile, ODNR spokesperson Mark Bruce recently responded to calls from ACFAN for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strip regulatory primacy from the ODNR. He noted that the U.S. EPA just reviewed the ODNR in an audit last year.
"(Since 1983), the ODNR has operated the program to, and in many cases, above U.S. EPA standards and looks forward to the opportunity to continue doing so. The U.S. EPA recently completed the in-state portion of an audit of our (underground injection control - UIC) program, and we welcome the results of the review and our continued positive working relationship with the agency," he said.
Bruce said that the ODNR has taken "aggressive steps to ensure Ohio's UIC program has the proper rules and regulations, appropriate inspectors and adequate funding." In recent years, he said, the department has worked with strengthened laws, hired additional inspectors, geologists and seismologists, and increased program funding in response to increasing UIC activity.