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The Utica shale play covers central, northeastern, and eastern Ohio, including the cities of Columbus and Cleveland; the Marcellus shale play covers Ohio's eastern border and extends into West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York.1 The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated that the Utica shale contains 38 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, while the Marcellus shale may contain 84 trillion cubic feet.2 The Ohio Oil and Gas Association estimated that horizontal wells in the state produced 21.9 million barrels of oil and 954 billion cubic feet of gas in 2015.3 These figures are significantly higher than in 2014, when horizontal wells in Ohio produced 11 million barrels of oil and 452 billion cubic feet of gas.4

Statutory and Regulatory Framework

The primary regulatory authority over oil and gas development in Ohio is the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (DOGRM),5 which issues rules for well siting, design, construction, and operation.6 In 2012, the Ohio legislature passed S.B. 315, which modified Ohio’s regulatory structure applicable to oil and gas operations to better address fracking operations.7

The law requires well operators to disclose to FracFocus.org the trade name, supplier, and total amount of each product, fluid, substance, or additive used to facilitate well drilling, and a brief description of its purpose.8 Well operators must also include a list of all chemicals added to those products, fluids, substances, and additives, including their Chemical Abstracts Service numbers and maximum concentrations.9 If an operator designates a product, fluid, or substance as a trade secret, the operator may withhold from disclosure its identity, amount, concentration, and purpose.10 These trade secret protections do not apply where a medical professional needs the information in order to assist the diagnosis or treatment of an individual who was affected by an incident associated with a well’s production operations.11

S.B. 315 also increases liability insurance requirements for well operators12 and requires well operators to conduct pre-drill baseline water quality sampling of all water wells within 1,500 feet of a proposed horizontal well in accordance with DOGRM’s “Best Management Practices For Pre-Drilling Water Sampling,” disclosing the results (or proof of denial of access to wells) in permit applications.13

In April 2014, the Ohio EPA’s Division of Air Pollution Control (DAPC) issued revised Model General Permits for oil and gas well sites.14 Under the revisions, DAPC offers two kinds of General Permits (GPs) for oil and gas well-site production operations, GP 12.1 and GP 12.2.15 The GPs address, among other things, the size of a site’s flare and the total horsepower of its natural gas engines.16 GP 12.1 limits a site’s flare to 10 mmBtu/hr and its natural gas engines to 1,800 total horsepower.17 GP 12.2, which the April 2014 revisions created, limits a site’s flare to 32 mmBtu/hr and its natural gas engines to 1,000 total horsepower.18
When DAPC revised the GPs, it also changed its leak detection and control program. First, well operators must check for leaks quarterly, rather than annually.19 If very few leaks are found, the DAPC may allow operators to check for leaks semi-annually or annually.20 Second, the revised GPs allow operators to use infrared cameras or portable sampling instruments to detect leaks.21 Third, the GPs require operators to first attempt to repair detected leaks within five days of detection and to complete repairing the equipment within 30 days.22 Fourth, the GPs integrate portions of U.S. EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production, Transmission, and Distribution, which EPA amended in September 2013 (40 C.F.R. Part 60, Subpart OOOO).23

In July 2015, DOGRM implemented rules regarding the construction of horizontal well pad sites.24 The regulations require operators to submit detailed horizontal well pad site plans to DOGRM for its review prior to well pad construction.25 Those plans must include a geotechnical report, sediment and erosion control plan, emergency release conveyance map, and detailed drawings of well pad features.26 Operators may not begin construction of a well site without a permit, may not materially modify an application without submitting a modification summary form to DOGRM, and may not materially modify a well site without DOGRM’s prior approval.27

Following the passage of S.B 315, Ohio published a list of 20 topics related to fracking that it intended to address through new regulations.28 The July 2015 well pad construction rules address one of the listed topics. Ohio has not issued new regulations regarding the other topics, which topics include recycling waste from fracking wells, tracking wastewater, and more.29 In January 2016, a bill was introduced to the Ohio Legislature that would impose additional regulations on injection wells. H.B. 422 would require companies to track shipments of wastewater, require a 2,000-foot setback between disposal wells and occupied building, and levy a 5-cent fee on ever barrel of waste.30 H.B. 422 has yet to come up for vote.31

Recent News and Developments

Local Bans

Some Ohio cities have prohibited or attempted to prohibit fracking. Youngstown, for example, has rejected fracking bans four times, most recently on November 4, 2014, when Gates Mills and Kent, two other northeastern Ohio towns, voted down similar ballot issues.32 Bowling Green rejected a similar measure in November 2013.33 The cities of Oberlin, Mansfield, Athens, and Yellow Springs, on the other hand, voted to prohibit any type of oil and gas development, including fracking.34

In February 2015, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that the city of Munroe Falls lacked the power to enforce a municipal permitting scheme, which would have restricted oil and gas operations, atop the state system.35 A concurring opinion in that decision emphasized that the holding was limited to the particular municipal ordinances at issue.36

In March 2015, Cuyahoga County courts overturned the Akron suburb of Broadview Heights’ fracking ban, ruling that state law pre-empted it.37 Cuyahoga County courts also dismissed a related private suit in July 2015.38 Those decisions relied in part on the Ohio Supreme Court’s February 2015 decision regarding Munroe Falls.39

In the fall of 2015 residents of Athens, Medina, and Fulton counties proposed amendments to the counties’ charters that would have prohibited oil and gas or pipeline development.40 In September 2015, the Supreme Court of Ohio declined to allow county residents to vote on the proposed amendments because, according to the court, they did not seek a bona fide change in county government.41 The decision upheld an order Secretary of State Jon Husted issued in August 2015, which asserted that local governments in Ohio cannot control energy development and, as a result, the proposed amendments were invalid.42 

In 2016, a Pennsylvania-based public interest group again advanced new charter amendments in three Ohio counties that, if approved, would have prohibited various aspects of oil and gas development.43 In August 2016, Secretary Husted again rejected efforts to have these measures appear on ballots in November, reasoning that, despite having gathered the requisite signatures, the proposals were invalid because they “fail[ed] to provide for the performance of all duties imposed upon county officers by general law as the Ohio Constitution requires.”44 The Ohio Supreme Court issued an opinion in September 2016 agreeing with Secretary Husted’s reasoning, and declining to force him to place the charter amendments on November ballots.45

In Youngstown, Ohio, a “Community Bill of Rights” banning hydraulic fracturing will appear on the ballot for a sixth time in November 2016, after failing to pass in five previous elections.46 There is no current hydraulic fracturing activity within the City of Youngstown.47

See Geography: Maps: Oil and Gas Related Exploration, Resources, and Production: Shale Gas and Oil Play, Lower 48 States, U.S. ENERGY INFO. ADMIN. [“USEIA”] (June 30, 2016), https://www.eia.gov/maps/images/shale_gas_lower48.pdf.

USGS Releases First Assessment of Shale Gas Resources in the Utica Shale, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (Oct. 4, 2012), https://archive.usgs.gov/archive/sites/www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp-ID=3419.html.

3 Marty Shumway, Bill Arnholt & Tim Knobloch, The Debrosse Memorial Report: 2015 Oil and Gas Activity in Ohio 35-36, Presentation at 69th Annual Winter Meeting of the Ohio Oil and Gas Assocation (Mar. 17, 2016), http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.ooga.org/resource/resmgr/Files/The_Debrosse_Memorial_Report.pdf.


See ODNR Division of Oil & Gas Resources website, http://oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/.

See generally ODNR Division of Oil & Gas Resources: Laws and Regulations: Oil & Gas Law Summary http://oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/laws-regulations/oil-gas-law-summary (last visited Sept. 23, 2016).

7 OHIO REV. CODE §§ 1509 et seq.

Id. § 1509.10; ODNR Division of Oil & Gas Resources: Laws & Regulations: Senate Bill 315, http://oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/laws-regulations/senate-bill-315#CHEM.

Id. § 1509.10.

10 Id.

11 Id.

12 Id. § 1509.07.

13 Id. § 1509.06(A)(8)(c); OHIO ADMIN. CODE § 1501:9-2.

14 Ohio Environmental Protection Agency: Division of Air Pollution Control: Shale Oil and Gas General Permits: Available Permits: Oil and Gas Well-site Production Operations, http://epa.ohio.gov/dapc/genpermit/oilandgaswellsiteproduction.aspx (last visited Sept. 23, 2016).

15 Id.

16 Id.

17 Ohio Environmental Protection Agency: Division of Air Pollution Control: Shale Oil and Gas General Permits: Available Permits: Oil and Gas Well-site Production Operations: Oil and Gas Well-site Production Operation GP with a Small Flare (GP 12.1), http://epa.ohio.gov/dapc/genpermit/Oil_Gas_GP121.aspx (last visited Sept. 23, 2016).

18 Ohio Environmental Protection Agency: Division of Air Pollution Control: Shale Oil and Gas General Permits: Available Permits: Oil and Gas Well-site Production Operations: Oil and Gas Well-site Production Operation GP with a Large Flare (GP 12.2), http://epa.ohio.gov/dapc/genpermit/Oil_Gas_GP122.aspx (last visited Sept. 23, 2016).

19 Ohio Envtl. Prot. Agency, Model General Permit (GP12.1) (effective Apr. 4, 2014), http://epa.ohio.gov/dapc/genpermit/Oil_Gas_GP121.aspx; Model General Permit (GP12.1) (effective Apr. 4, 2014), http://epa.ohio.gov/dapc/genpermit/Oil_Gas_GP122.aspx.

20 Id.

21 Id.


23 See General Permits, supra notes 17, 18.

24 OHIO EPA, PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO OHIO ADMINISTRATIVE CODE CH. 1501, July 6, 2015, http://oilandgas.ohiodnr.gov/portals/oilgas/pdf/rules/Oil-and-Gas-Well-Site-Construction-Rules_071515.pdf.

25 OHIO ADMIN. CODE § 1501:9-2-02.

26 Id.

27 Id.

28 Laura Arenschield, Ohio Has Yet to Write Rules for Fracking Industry, COLUMBUS DISPATCH (Jan. 24, 2016), http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2016/01/24/1-state-has-yet-to-write-rules-for-fracking-industry.html.

29 Id.

30 H.R. 422, 131st Gen. Assembly (Ohio 2015-2016), http://search-prod.lis.state.oh.us/solarapi/v1/general_assembly_131/bills/hb422/IN/00?format=pdf.

31The Ohio Legislature 131st General Assembly: Legislation: Status: House Bill 422, https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-status?id=GA131-HB-422 (last visited Sept. 23, 2016).

32 Laura Arenschield, Fracking Industry Suing Over Drilling Bans, COLUMBUS DISPATCH (Nov. 21, 2014), http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/11/21/industry-suing-over-drilling-bans.html.

33 Joe Eaton, Results Mixed on Colorado and Ohio Fracking Ban Initiatives, NAT’L GEOGRAPHIC (Nov. 7, 2013), http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/11/131105-colorado-ohio-fracking-ban-election-results/.

34 Laura Arenschield, supra note 32.

35 Robert Higgs, Ohio Supreme Court Rules Munroe Falls Regulations on Oil and Gas Drilling Are Improper, CLEVELAND.COM (Feb. 18, 2015), http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2015/02/ohio_supreme_court_rules_munro.html.

36 Ohio ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., 143 Ohio St. 3d 271 (Ohio 2015) (O’Donnell, J., concurring), http://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/rod/docs/pdf/0/2015/2015-Ohio-485.pdf.

37 Bob Sandrick, Judge Shoots Down Broadview Heights Ban on Future Oil and Gas Wells, CLEVELAND.COM (Mar. 16, 2015), http://www.cleveland.com/broadview-heights/index.ssf/2015/03/judge_shoots_down_broadview_he.html.

38 Judge Tosses Drilling Suit, Moms Say ‘Not Giving Up,’ COLUMBUS DISPATCH (July 5, 2015), http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/07/05/judge-tosses-drilling-suit-moms-say-not-giving-up.html.

39 Morrison, 143 Ohio St. 3d 271.

40 Mike Lee, Ohio Supreme Court Blocks Anti-Fracking Ballot Initiatives, E&E NEWS (Sept. 16, 2015), http://www.eenews.net/eenewspm/2015/09/16/stories/1060024810.

41 Id.

42 Ohio ex rel. Walker v. Husted, Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-3749 (Ohio 2015), http://www.eenews.net/assets/2015/09/17/document_ew_01.pdf.

43 Terry Smith, Supreme Court Flushes County Charters Yet Again, THE ATHENS NEWS (Sept. 14, 2016), http://www.athensnews.com/news/local/supreme-court-flushes-county-charters-yet-again/article_cdf6fa7a-7a95-11e6-bc8d-dfa973b981b2.html.

44 David DeWitt, Husted Nixes Anti-fracking Charter; Group Will Appeal, THE ATHENS NEWS (Aug. 17, 2016), http://www.athensnews.com/news/local/husted-nixes-anti-fracking-charter-group-will-appeal/article_88798c24-6483-11e6-93d5-a7400e55b36c.html (emphasis in original).

45 Michael Johnson, Supreme Court Nixes Meigs 2016 Charter Proposal, THE DAILY SENTINEL (Sept. 13, 2016), http://mydailysentinel.com/news/8578/supreme-court-nixes-meigs-2016-charter-propsal; Ohio ex rel. Coover v. Husted, Slip Opinion No. 2016-Ohio-5794 (Ohio 2016), http://www.eenews.net/assets/2016/09/14/document_ew_02.pdf.

46 David Skolnick, Coalition Again Calls on City Residents to Vote No on Anti-Fracking in Youngstown, VINDY.COM (Sept. 14, 2016), http://www.vindy.com/news/2016/sep/14/group-again-calls-on-city-residents-to-v/?newswatch.

47 Id.

Last updated September 2016.

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