Background: Oil and Gas Development in Kentucky
The first commercial gas wells were drilled in Kentucky in the mid-1800s in Meade County. The majority of oil and gas production in the western coalfield areas of the state and south-central regions. The Eastern coalfield region produces natural gas.
While Kentucky still gets the majority of its energy from coal, natural gas is ramping up as many coal plants are either retiring or converting to natural gas.
Our laws on the books for regulating natural gas in Kentucky are outdated on the whole, and as a result there have been several bills in the state legislature in the past few years that have attempted to address some of the more urgent issues. In the 2015 legislative session, there were bills such as SB 186, signed into law, that attempted to introduce much needed oil and gas production and reclamation protections.
In February, 2015, Kentucky considered its first permit for a deep horizontal natural gas well. Story HERE.
In addition to production issues for natural gas, there has been controversy over the by-products from gas production, particularly Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) which are commonly used in the commercial production of plastics.
Latest tests on the Rogersville Shale formation are still, as of 2019, showing poor results. See article here.
Wells that are no longer in production are required to be properly plugged and abandoned, however many are improperly plugged, illegally abandoned or orphaned.
Drilling, production, and abandonment of wells and leases generate a variety of oil field wastes, in particular, low-level radioactive wastes known as technically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive materials (TENORM or NORM).
No national standard
Oil and gas companies dredge up radioactive materials when they drill and when they collect wastewater from their wells. No federal regulations exist for such TENORM materials, and oil and gas states have struggled to keep pace with the needs of the industry.