Drilling Down

American Water Management Appeals Shutdown Ruling

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A company fighting to reopen an injection well operation in Weathersfield Township along state Route 169 is taking its case to the 10th District Court of Appeals.

American Water Management Services LLC, Howland, has filed a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals, 10th Appellate District of Franklin County, asking the court to overturn an order the Franklin County Common Pleas Court issued last month.

On Dec. 18, the common pleas court dismissed American Water’s request that the judge overturn a decision by the state Oil and Gas Commission, which upheld an earlier order by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to shut down the injection well.

In September 2014, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Oil and Gas Chief Richard Simmers ordered American Water’s two injection wells in Weathersfield Township be shut down in the aftermath of a small earthquake recorded near the deeper well. American Water appealed to the Oil and Gas Commission, which in August sided with ODNR, affirming the agency’s authority to shut down the wells.

Last year, the moratorium was lifted for the shallower of the two wells.

American Water then appealed to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court last September, asking that the court to overrule the commission’s decision ordering the shutdown the deeper well. However, the court dismissed the pleading on a procedural matter, noting that while the company correctly filed a notice of appeal with the court, it did not file the notice in time with the Oil and Gas commission as mandated by state law.

Meanwhile, both wells remain shut down, reports Ron Klingle, chairman of Avalon Holdings Corp., parent of American Water.

“It’s going on a year and a half now” since the wells were shut down, Klingle said, noting that the company can’t restart the shallow well when the deeper well is shut down. “We can’t afford to operate that [the shallow well] right now. Everything is shut down, and everybody there is out of work.”

Five years ago, the state shut down an injection well operation in Youngstown that D&L Energy operated. The well – just off Division Street near the Ohio Works Business Park – was tied to several earthquakes that rattled the Mahoning Valley in 2011, especially a New Year’s Eve trembler that registered 4.0 on the Richter scale.

Class II injection wells are used to store wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing, a practice that injects water, sand and chemicals under high pressure into wells to break apart tightly packed shale formations and release oil and gas deep in the earth.

Klingle has said before that any seismicity near his company’s wells was minimal – one measured 2.1 on the Richter scale — and he has taken every precaution to ensure the operation was safe.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.