By Marc Kovac
Counties, townships and other local governments would have the power to regulate the locations of oil and gas wells and enforce health and safety standards under legislation offered in the Ohio House.
State Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, offered House Bill 537 to restore local control rather than rely on statewide standards and regulations under the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The switch in state law to the latter was made about eight years ago.
“Numerous localities across the state have requested local control be restored due to the increasingly inappropriate placement of drill sites — many in highly populated areas,” Hagan told the House’s agriculture committee Tuesday. “... This legislation will provide freedom to communities, not unelected bureaucrats, to decide what is best for them and their families.”
Hagan offered sponsor testimony on the legislation Tuesday, though the bill is not expected to pass before the end of the session in a couple of weeks.
Under existing law, the ODNR’s Division of Oil and Gas Resources and Management “has sole and exclusive authority to regulate the permitting, location and spacing of oil and gas wells and production operations within Ohio,” according to an analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
Hagan’s bill would enable local governments to adopt standards for oil and gas wells, as long as “those standards are not less restrictive” than state laws and rules.
The legislation also would require a 1,000-foot setback for new oil and gas wells and apparatus.
That would be more than triple the current requirement.