An update on lawmaker action and other activities at the Ohio Statehouse related to horizontal hydraulic fracturing:
Penalties: In June, state Sens. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) and Frank LaRose (R-Copley) offered sponsor testimony on legislation to increase criminal penalties and license revocations for individuals caught illegally dumping brine and other oil-field waste.
“The number of intentional incidents we have seen thus far this year are unacceptable, and we need to do more as a legislature to prevent additional issues in the future,” Schiavoni told the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It is my hope that we can work expeditiously to move this bipartisan legislation in a timely manner as we continue to see growth in the oil and gas industry.”
Four bills: State Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) offered sponsor testimony on four separate bills in June related to horizontal hydraulic fracturing.
One would ban injection wells used to dispose of brine and oil-field waste. Another would enable communities to set their own standards for the location and operation of wells. Hagan also continued to push for increased taxes on oil and gas produced via horizontal hydraulic fracturing, with a portion of the proceeds going to the communities affected by the activities.
“From the city of Cincinnati banning injection wells, up through Yellow Springs, Canton, Youngstown and even Medina township in the speaker’s backyard, local governments are responding to their constituents’ concerns, calling for the return of local control and, in some instances, passing ordinances and resolutions even though they are trumped by state law,” he said.
Disclosure: An environmental group threatened further legal action against the state if it didn’t step up chemical disclosure requirements for companies involved in fracking. In June, Teresa Mills from the Center for Health, Environment and Justice presented a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency backing up her position and noting the shortcomings of Ohio’s disclosure laws.
“State law should not block regular citizens from obtaining full access to information about chemicals that is guaranteed by federal environmental laws,” Mills said. “By petitioning the U.S. EPA, we have taken the steps to ensure that Ohio laws are not used as a means to hide facts about chemicals in our communities. Ohio citizens have the right to know the truth about chemicals in our environment.”
Gubernatorial challenger: Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald told reporters June 28 that he did not support provisions included in the $62 billion biennial budget passed by lawmakers.
But he said he did not yet have an opinion on whether the state should increase rates on oil and gas produced via fracking, saying instead that state officials should work with affected communities and the industry to negotiate a solution acceptable to both sides.
Housing issues: A series of reports released by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Affordable Housing Research and Strategic Planning found increasing rent prices and other pressure on affordable housing options for communities with increased oil- and gas-drilling activities.
“As this industry expands in eastern Ohio, we anticipate that additional housing shortages will take place throughout the region, with smaller communities being affected the most,” said Robin Stewart from Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. “Additional analysis will help develop a regional strategy that ensures affordable housing options remain available for the area’s most vulnerable citizens.”
“The good news is that most places with shale-energy development are able to address housing needs for the middle class without too much disruption, though there appears to be some issues for some lower-income households as the boom begins,” added Mark Partridge from OSU’s Department of Agricultural, Environment and Development Economics.
Signed: Gov. John Kasich signed the much-debated biennial budget June 30, hours before the start of the new fiscal year.
The two-year spending plan includes a number of fracking-related provisions, including increased monitoring and handling requirements for technologically enhanced, naturally occurring radio- active material, more frequent production reports from oil and gas companies drilling horizontally into eastern Ohio’s shale formations and country-of-origin disclosures for steel pipe used in wells.