Lawmaker's bill to allow drilling on public lands
Rep. John Hagan said drilling could bring more money to the state.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- A state lawmaker says he'll introduce legislation in the coming weeks to open some public lands to natural-gas drilling.
"If the United States is going to continue to be a viable force in the world, we have to look at all of our abilities and resources to maintain that status," state Rep. John P. Hagan, an Alliance-area Republican, said Thursday.
"I think there's a benefit," said Hagan, the chairman of the House Public Utilities & amp; Energy Committee, which has been holding hearings on the potential of spikes in natural-gas home heating bills in Ohio this year.
The Energy Information Administration, an arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, forecasts a 71 percent increase this winter in the Midwest in natural-gas, home-heating bills from last winter.
Disruption of gas supplies from the hurricane-stricken Gulf Coast, which produces 19 percent of U.S. gas supplies, could also add to the price pressures, state and federal officials say.
All the more reason to consider exploring more local sources of natural gas, Hagan said.
Hagan said he hopes to have a bill ready in the next two to three weeks.
He declined to talk about specifics, saying he was "open to opening everything that is practical to do without damaging the environment."
"It's going to take some work to reel it in as to what's a practical package," Hagan added.
Hagan said opening up state-owned lands to natural-gas drilling, if approved, could bring revenue into the state as well.
Natural-gas and oil interests have supported the potential expansion of natural gas in Ohio.
Jack Shaner, a spokesman for the Ohio Environmental Council, an association of more than 100 environmental advocacy groups around the state, has said his group would oppose bringing natural-gas and oil exploration into state-owned "nature preserves and any sensitive biologically significant areas."
"Otherwise, we need to have very high standards and significant state compensation for considering any other state-owned lands," Shaner said in a previous interview.
Karen Tabor, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Jon A. Husted, a Dayton-area Republican, said the speaker will likely discuss with Hagan his plans for legislation in the coming weeks.