Panel OKs funds for fracking inspectors


By Marc Kovac

news@vindy.com

COLUMBUS

A lawmaker panel approved $2 million in additional spending Monday for a state agency to hire more inspectors to handle Ohio’s increasing fracking activities.

The State Controlling Board appropriation will fund about 14 new full-time employees, plus equipment and other costs related to the regulation of oil and gas production.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Oil and Gas Program expects to hire about 70 people by the end of fiscal year 2013 to cover the expanding industry, according to documents.

ODNR oversees oil and gas drilling and production activities in the state, including inspecting new wells and capping abandoned ones.

Tom Johnston, representing ODNR, told board members the inspections are completed to ensure “when [drillers] say they cemented a well, put a casing in or ... they drilled to a certain depth that we know that they really did that. There’s no other party between us, as the regulatory agency, and the director [of ODNR] under the Ohio Revised Code to make things right.”

Of the total appropriation approved, $852,270 will go to new employees, $404,634 will be used for supplies and maintenance and $744,716 will be used for equipment. The latter includes vehicles, seismic equipment, gas detectors, GPS units and computers, according to documents.

The outlay initially will be covered by a loan from the state’s general-revenue funds, which the ODNR will pay back using brine- disposal fees, severance taxes and other fees paid by drillers in coming years.

According to ODNR estimates, the number of oil and gas wells drilled using horizontal hydraulic fracturing will increase to 2,250 by the end of 2015 from fewer than 50 that now exist in the state.

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