MANSFIELD — Preferred Fluids Management has withdrawn its proposed site plan for two 5,000-foot injection wells, and the project’s fate is uncertain.
The proposal was under consideration by the City Planning Commission.
On June 12, the company purchased for $34,230 the 4.9-acre parcel where it had announced last fall it would build those wells. Before that, it only had an option on the property, off Knight Parkway.
On Tuesday, company owner Steve Mobley would not say whether he will pursue construction of injection wells here, or whether he is dropping the project.
“I can’t comment on anything about that,” he said.
The company is based in Austin, Texas.
Mansfield building and codes manager J.R. Rice received a letter Tuesday from Harry E. Winfrey of Richland Engineering, notifying the city that Mobley had asked that site and stormwater management plans for the two wells be withdrawn. Preferred Fluids Management has had state permits since spring 2011 to build two wells on the city’s north side.
Last fall, Winfrey appeared before the planning commission to describe the proposed project. Mayor Tim Theaker said the company never followed up with answers to questions posed by the city engineering department.
The commission then voted unanimously to accept withdrawal of the pending site and stormwater plans.
“We haven’t won the war yet. We have won a battle,” Theaker said.
Other companies may still be interested in constructing injection wells within the city, he said.
The mayor and city Law Director John Spon met immediately after learning of the withdrawal letter to discuss what it meant. Theaker said he had a short phone conversation with Mobley, but could not discern the company’s plans.
“It would now appear, at least with respect to Mr. Mobley and his company, that they are no longer proceeding with their project,” the mayor and law director said in a joint news release. “While this withdrawal appears to be a city victory over a company that sought to inject toxic poison into our soil, the city must remain vigilant against other companies.”
Preferred Fluids Management obtained its permits from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Mobley told the News Journal last fall he hoped to have hydraulic fracturing wastewater shipped to the site from Pennsylvania. No construction has taken place.
“You can’t start drilling unless you have the roads — and the roads have to be approved by the planning commission,” Spon said Tuesday.
Heidi Hetzel-Evans, spokeswoman for ODNR, said Preferred Fluids Management has two years — until April 18 or 19, 2013 — to get its well in operation or have its permit lapse.
“So he’s got (nearly) another year to go,” she said.
ODNR officials were aware Preferred Fluids now owns the five-acre property, but there has been no recent change in the status of its well permits, Hetzel-Evans said.
City council has approved putting a charter amendment before Mansfield voters this fall to establish an environmental bill of rights designed to allow the city to veto construction of injection wells. Spon has said he’d fight construction of the well all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, if necessary.
The mayor and law director asked other local government agencies to consider contributing to a “war chest” to hire expert legal help.
Trustees from at least two neighboring townships have approved resolutions calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, pending a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on whether the technology is safe.
Permits for injection wells already in operation can be transferred to new owners, Hetzel-Evans said. But since the two Mansfield wells have not been built, Mobley can not turn his state permits over if he sells the property as it is now, she said.
“Neither well is active. The old owner would have to cancel the permits, and then the new owner would have to apply for permits,” she said.
A new owner might have a bit of a head start, in some areas — “obviously some of the legwork has been done” — but a new application would trigger a new public notice, Hetzel-Evans said.
“My guess is some of the tests would have to be new tests, because they haven’t been recent,” she said.
Future construction by any operator could be affected by more stringent regulations put into effect since Mobley first applied.
New rules for well construction will go into effect Aug. 1, affecting the Mansfield wells if they are built, Hetzel-Evans said.
A wider-ranging slate of new standards will go into effect in early September.
“There is quite a bit of strengthening the department has done for regulation of injection wells, much of which will be applied (if the Mansfield wells are built) because these wells haven’t been dug yet,” Hetzel-Evans said.
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