By Marc Kovac
An update on lawmaker action and other activities at the Ohio Statehouse related to horizontal hydraulic fracturing:
Training: On Sept. 10, the state Controlling Board released $1 million for Zane State College’s Energy Training and Education Center in Cambridge.
The funds will be used for architecture, engineering and construction management for the project and were earmarked for capital projects in past budgets. Another $6 million was set aside for the project by the state earlier this year, with another $3 million coming from private sources.
The new building is needed to accommodate the college’s expanding local presence, particularly in energy-related degree and certificate programs. Among other offerings, the college has an introductory course that prepares workers heading toward careers in the oil and gas industry, including the emerging use of horizontal hydraulic fracturing.
Call to Action: On Sept. 12, state Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, voiced support for those participating in a “national call to action to ban fracking.”
In a released statement, he said, “Legitimate concerns remain about an industry that has the potential to devastate our communities and environment, and from which there has been a staggering lack of transparency. This call to action day is an opportunity for the public to put pressure on and demand answers from these companies that have so far shown blatant disregard for anything other than their bottom line.”
Taxes: Gov. John Kasich continued his push for an increase in taxes on oil and gas produced via horizontal hydraulic fracturing, with comments to reporters after a speech at the Farm Science Review near London, Ohio, on Sept. 18.
But Kasich isn’t sure whether his proposal, with a corresponding income tax cut, would move during lame duck or next year’s legislative session.
“We’re pushing everyday,” he said. “The sooner we can get it done, the better. I can’t make a prediction now as to when it’s going to happen, but it will happen.”
Republicans who control the Ohio House have given no indications that they will act on the governor’s proposal before the end of the year.
Mineral Rights: On Sept. 19, Hagan attended a Youngstown City Council meeting to urge members to refrain from selling mineral rights on city-owned land for fracking activities until the completion of an Environmental Protection Agency report on the potential dangers.
In a letter to city officials, he wrote, “The report will be wholly comprehensive, studying the chemical makeup of brine, the impact of the actual fracturing process and subsequent injection well disposal, the dangers of flowback and produced water, and the impact of inadequate wastewater treatment. The EPA will release its preliminary findings in late 2012, with the final report due out in 2014. Surely, the safety and health of our constituents takes precedence over the city’s search for additional revenue.”
Another Study: The Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center released a report on Sept. 20 called “The Cost of Fracking,” which purported that “millions of dollars of health costs related to everything from air pollution to ruined roads to contaminated property” were associated with horizontal hydraulic fracturing.
“Fracking’s environmental and health damage is bad enough, but it turns out that this dirty drilling imposes heavy dollar and cents costs as well,” Environment Ohio’s Julian Boggs said in a statement. “And in many cases, the public will be left holding the bag for those costs.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email
him at email@example.com or on Twitter at