State Legislature Continues Fight for Fracking on Public Parks Land

click to enlarge The Utica (green) and Marcellus (red) shale plays, i.e. the targets of oil and gas execs the world over. - USGS
The Utica (green) and Marcellus (red) shale plays, i.e. the targets of oil and gas execs the world over.
Even after Gov. John Kasich unexpectedly reversed his position and threw down a de facto moratorium on fracking across Ohio's public parks land, the Republican-fronted state legislature is still pushing for that sweet drilling action.

HB 8 would reroute the permitting process for new drilling wells, essentially diluting the regulatory power of the Oil and Gas Commission (which would otherwise demand an environmental study and public input) and opening the portcullis for horizontal drilling in and around public land.

Here's the word from the committee shepherding this thing through, per the Columbus Dispatch:

Rep. Al Landis, a Dover Republican who leads the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the focus of the bill is to help private landowners.

“Sometimes state land can get in the way,” he said.

Landis said park land would see “no surface disruption” because no wellheads would be drilled on state property, just horizontal wells more than a mile underground. The chairman said the Ohio Department of Transportation owns more land that could be subject to fracking than does the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

It's not clear in the legislation where an outright ban on state property drilling is written. And, the thing is, it's those horizontal drilling wells, anyway — the high-pressure webs deep underground — that drive environmental concerns. But Landis is saying that the private property owners surrounding a tract of public land will now be able to sign leases with drilling operators without all that public land ownership getting in the way.

The bill would also expedite operators' requests for drilling permits. The chief of the Ohio Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management would oversee the process, essentially placing ODNR in charge of opening up revenue streams from the department's own land. 

Read the full bill below.

Meantime, Kasich is still urging positive debate and eventual passage of his budget plan, which includes a severance tax hike on fracking operators (a 236-percent increase from 2.75 percent to 6.5 percent). 

Ohio: HB 8

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Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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