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An update on lawmaker action and other activities at the Ohio Statehouse related to horizontal

Published: Sat, March 1, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

An update on lawmaker action and other activities at the Ohio Statehouse related to horizontal hydraulic fracturing:

Frack-tax disagreement: Gov. John Kasich reiterated his opposition to a plan offered by Republicans in the Ohio House to raise tax rates on oil and gas produced via horizontal hydraulic fracturing, lowering rates on existing conventional wells in the process, with excess proceeds devoted to plugging abandoned wells and potentially cutting income-tax rates.

But Kasich added he wasn’t trying to pick a fight with GOP lawmakers who oppose his frack-tax plan.

“I don’t want to be like [President Barack] Obama,” he said. “I don’t want to have executive orders because I can’t get anything through the Legislature.”

More support for Canton center: The state Controlling Board OK’d additional funding for work on a new oil and gas training facility in Canton. The lawmaker panel, without comment, signed off on $230,470 to cover certain design costs for Stark State’s Energy Industry Training Center. The college is consolidating its energy industry programs in one location in Canton to provide training for people working in oil and gas production and related industries in eastern Ohio.

Concerns: The new head of the Ohio Farmers Union officially voiced its concern about “the long-term effects of fracking and the disposal of toxic drilling wastewater.”

Joe Logan, from Trumbull County, said the group would focus on fracking-related issues in coming months.

The Ohio Farmers Union supports increasing the severance-tax rate, with proceeds directed to “environmental mitigation efforts, infrastructure and education in shale counties, restoration of the state’s local government fund to previous levels, funding additional state regulatory efforts ... and funding an enhanced ‘orphan well’ identification and plugging program.”

Still pushing: State Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, a vocal critic of the governor and Statehouse Republicans on fracking-related issues, offered sponsor testimony on legislation to increase severance-tax rates, with proceeds directed to job-training, local governments and conservation efforts.

“It is clear that Ohio needs to update its severance-tax rate to ensure that our precious natural resources are not extracted without the appropriate compensation seen in other states,” Hagan told members of the Ohio House’s agriculture committee. “The influx of oil and gas drilling in Ohio’s eastern counties is significantly impacting the roads, bridges and environment of the affected communities, and it is critical that we protect them from having to bear these costs brought on by the oil and gas industry on their own.”

ODNR marketing plan: Newly released documents outline plans developed in 2012 to market several state parks for oil and gas drilling by the same state agency that regulates such activities in eastern Ohio’s emerging shale oil fields.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ “draft outline for communication plan” and other records obtained by a liberal advocacy and environmentalist groups also show a senior adviser to the governor knew of the strategy, which included gaining support from industry and business groups to counter environmental concerns.

State officials say the plan was never implemented.

The documents prompted criticism from Hagan and Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, who were listed among environmental-activist opponents. The two asked House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, to schedule hearings to investigate.

No park drilling: Shortly after the ODNR draft marketing plan came to light, Kasich said he no longer supports fracking in state parks and forests.

“At this point, the governor doesn’t support fracking in state parks,” Rob Nichols, the governor’s spokesman, said in a released statement.

“We reserve the right to revisit that, but it’s not what he wants to do right now, and that’s been his position for the past year and a half.”

In June 2011, Kasich signed HB 133, creating a state oil- and gas-leasing commission to oversee the leasing of state-owned land for the exploration and production of oil and natural gas.

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