We're now in June, with the release of children from school, the advent of summer, and road construction season. As I write this, I've just completed my fifth month in the Ohio House of Representatives.
It has been a very productive session for the House. One of the most recent bills passed that I co-sponsored was Substitute House Bill 133, regarding permitting oil and gas exploration on state lands. As a member of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, I heard many hours of testimony, with one session lasting from 7 p.m. to 2:15 a.m.
Those of us voting in favor of the bill do so with several key factors in mind:
First, in the last session, the House and Senate passed Senate Bill 165, to put an appropriate regulatory structure in place to govern oil and gas exploration in Ohio. This bill had bi-partisan support, as well as industry support and the support of many in the environmental community. It is a forward-looking structure designed to punish those who disregard the law and to protect those who play by the rules.
Second, drilling on public property in Ohio is not without precedent. Many townships, counties, schools, and municipalities permit drilling on their land as a way to generate revenue and an inexpensive source of gas for their operations.
Third, our state parks have many pressing needs in terms of capital projects. Revenues generated by drilling on state property would go to a fund dedicated to such projects, as well as providing the parks with inexpensive energy.
Here in southeastern Ohio, we're well-acquainted with the oil and gas industry. Noble County was the site of the first oil well in Ohio. Independent oil and gas operators are our neighbors and friends, employing many of our citizens. Marietta College has for years produced the petroleum engineers and geologists who are leading the industry. The sight of oil wells is not a blemish on our landscape, but is something we're accustomed to. We can explore safely, and our parks, including Salt Fork (which is built on the site of a reclaimed strip mine), can provide a vital new supply of energy, without having a detrimental effect on the environment or tourism.
Many other states have set up such programs, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arkansas. This bill has the support of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Our part of the state is about to undergo a huge expansion of oil and gas drilling due to the potential of finding oil in the Utica Shale, a formation which covers much of the eastern half of Ohio. Shale exploration is proving to be a tremendous source of energy in Wyoming, Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. All of this has implications for our nation's energy security, but also for creating jobs, and ultimately driving lower prices for our consumers who are suffering the effects of sticker shock at the pump.
I support oil and gas exploration because it provides tremendous economic benefits. Those benefits aren't something Ohio can pass up as we try to restore economic vitality to our great state.
Rep. Thompson may be reached by calling (614) 644-8728, e-mailing District93@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Andy Thompson, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.