On March 9, 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (“ODNR”) announced new standards for the transportation and disposal of brine generated from oil and gas activities. According to the ODNR, the new regulatory framework makes Ohio’s rules for brine monitoring and disposal among the nation’s toughest.

The new standards come at the heels of the ODNR’s research regarding the alleged link between seismic events and brine disposal wells.  The standards will apply to new Class II disposal well permit applications and existing disposal wells, if applicable.

The safeguards “prohibit any new wells to be drilled into the Precambrian basement rock formation; mandate operators submit extensive geological data before drilling; and implement state-of-the-art pressure and volume monitoring devices including automatic shut-off switches and electronic data recorders.”

In addition, brine haulers must now install electronic transponders to ensure that shipments are monitored from “cradle to grave.”

The EPA delegated regulatory authority over underground disposal wells under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to Ohio in 1983.  The proposed new standards range from requiring a complete set of geophysical logs to requiring actual installation of pressure monitoring systems, automatic shut-off systems, and data recording systems.

All of the new requirements will be considered in the Class II disposal well permitting process and “will be implemented as attached permit conditions until they are either codified in law or written into administrative rule, which carries the weight of law.”

This article was prepared by Heather M. Corken (hcorken@fulbright.com or 713 651 8386) and Kristen Roche (kroche@fulbright.com or 713 651 5303) from Fulbright’s Environmental Law Practice Group.