Companies in Ohio got an extra month to submit information about hazardous chemicals used and stored at oil and gas drilling locations to local emergency workers.
On Sept. 11, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) issued a letter saying oil and gas well owners and operators had to file documentation outlining what hazardous materials were on site above certain thresholds with the agency’s State Emergency Response Commission, county local emergency planning commissions and fire departments who cover the area.
Ohio law had previously allowed this information to file with records for oil and gas companies, but the U.S. EPA just ruled the requirements of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act had to be separate.
The reports are standard requirements for other industries handling hazardous materials, so first responders can know what they might be dealing with should an emergency arise. The filing deadline for an annual report was March 1, 2013, but because oil and gas wells received notification after that date, they had until Nov. 15.
Chris Abbruzzese, deputy director for communications with the Ohio EPA, said the agency has been working with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association to present seminars on meeting the requirements. However, it has become apparent that some entities need additional time.
“The SERC recognizes that facilities are diligently working to compile the information needed to comply with EPCRA and is providing an extension, asking companies to submit their reports no later than Dec. 15, 2013,” he said.
Colorado-based PDC Energy Inc., which has drilled two wells in Washington County and has three more permitted, fully intends to comply with the rules, said Michael Edwards, senior director of investor relations for the company.
Under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), well owners and operators must provide written notice to Ohio’s State Emergency Response Commission, local emergency planning commissions and local fire departments within 90 days of receiving hazardous chemicals maintained on-site in a volume of more than 10,000 pounds.
For materials deemed extremely hazardous substances, the reporting threshold can range from one to 500 pounds, depending on the substance, and users need to report it within 60 days.
The Ohio EPA notified operators in September that they had to file in this manner instead of under another state system as was previously done.
They have until Dec. 15 to file reports that otherwise would have been required by March 1.
Failure to comply could result in civil penalties of as much as $32,500 a day from the U.S. EPA.
“In our normal course of business, our operations in Colorado and West Virginia, I think there are very similar regulations,” Edwards said.
In Monroe County, 35 wells have been or are in the process of going into the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, another eight are producing and 30 more with permits, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. County emergency management agency director and LEPC coordinator Phillip Keevert said some companies have already submitted their information and others have said they are working on it.
“They’re reporting like they’re supposed to,” Keevert said. “The companies were just socked with the deadline.”
Even before the requirement was official, officials said the companies have been working with first responders to plan for potential emergencies.
Last year, Triad brought in Wild Well Control, a company that deals with blowouts and other emergencies at oil rigs, to work with first responders. Wild Well would actually be responsible for controlling such an emergency situation, but would work closely with first responders, said Rocky Roberts, vice president of Appalachian Operations for Triad Hunter.
In Noble County, ODNR records show as of Oct. 26, there were nine producing wells, 40 drilled or in the process of drilling and 20 permitted.