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Natural Gas Has Friend, Ohio Gubernatorial Candidate DeWine Says

Ohio Attorney General (AG) Mike DeWine heaped praises on an Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) audience at its annual winter meeting, saying that if he’s elected governor, his administration would value the natural gas industry as an “essential part” of the state’s future.

DeWine, who is serving his second term as AG, delivered his remarks on the stump for the Republican nomination for governor. Running mate Jon Husted is Ohio’s secretary of state.

“My commitment to you is that I will always keep the lines of communication open. People who know me will tell you that I’m a pretty good listener,” DeWine told the crowd. “I’m not guaranteeing you that we’ll agree about everything, but we will listen and be very, very open about your concerns as you help explain to those of us in government what really is needed for this industry to move forward in the state.”

Since DeWine took office as AG in 2011, the first year commercial production was reported from the state’s Utica Shale, he’s had a front row seat for the industry’s resurrection and ascent in Ohio. Conventional and unconventional production increased about 23% last year to 1.8 Tcf, according to OOGA’s annual Debrosse Memorial Report. The Utica Shale accounted for about 1.7 Tcf of that.

DeWine noted that unconventional development has helped to boost the economy in historically low-income counties in the eastern and southeastern part of the state. He added that the abundance of Appalachian natural gas has helped sharpen the state’s competitive edge and attract more manufacturers.

“But it goes beyond these individual counties where this is currently occuring,” he said of shale production. “It gives us, I think, a competitive advantage. If we do what we should do, if government does what it should do in the years ahead, we have a great future and part of that future is brought about by what’s going on with regard to natural gas.”

DeWine pledged to work closely with the industry if he wins the nomination and eventually the governor’s office. His stance on energy at this point in the race is taking shape. While the Democratic field is crowded, DeWine faces just one other candidate in the Republican primary, Lieutenant Gov. Mary Taylor. Gov. John Kasich, whose second term ends this year, has endorsed Taylor.

But DeWine has so far appeared to mimic some of Kasich’s approach, resembling more of a moderate as Taylor has moved further to the right on some issues. During his time in office, Kasich, who is still popular among voters, has generally aligned with the industry, touting its success and economic benefits. But he has at times sparred with it, most notably in his push to increase the state’s severance tax.

In the early days of the Utica, DeWine directed his office to strengthen state oil and gas laws. He also pushed for full disclosure of the additives used in high volume hydraulic fracturing and was a general proponent of environmental protection.

DeWine indicated in his address that he would continue to champion the industry’s role in the state, saying that “no matter what group I’m speaking to, natural gas is something that I include in every speech, because I think it portends very well for our future.”

A poll released earlier this year by the 1984 Society, a bipartisan group founded by former state Senate members, showed DeWine with a wide lead over Taylor, carrying 54% of the 801 respondents polled.

Taylor also supports the industry’s work and has joined Kasich in touting its economic benefits. She spoke on the second day of the industry’s meeting, posting on social media after her address that “a sound energy policy is crucial for a healthy economy and as governor I will ensure that we responsibly harness the abundant resources Ohio has to offer.”

In the Democratic primary, the poll showed former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray leading over four other candidates with 23%. Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich trailed him with 16%. Kucinich has said that if he’s elected, then he would put an end to all oil and natural gas drilling in the state.

Cordray has called Kucinich’s position “too extreme,” saying he wouldn’t move to ban drilling. He’s also acknowledged the economic opportunities shale gas development has created in the state, but recognizes that renewable energy is gaining market share and has said the governor’s office should support those technologies more.

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