Ohio Gov. John Kasich said the state should be prudent in developing the Marcellus and Utica shales, maintaining tough environmental regulations while looking to attract jobs and investment.
“We cannot let our fears outweigh the potential,” Kasich said in his state of the state address last week. “Let’s take our time. We’ve only had 36 wells drilled, but the good news is [it] looks pretty good. [We have already had] billions of dollars worth of investment in this state and that’s all good as well.” The Republican governor’s speech was delivered to a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly.
“You cannot degrade the environment at the same time you’re producing this industry,” Kasich said. “It is not acceptable and it’s not a false choice. The biggest companies know that you need to have tough environmental rules. They can’t be complicated, they can’t be over the top, but we need to have them.
“We can’t have some yahoo come into this state and damage this whole industry because they’re irresponsible. The biggest companies understand that we need to take care of things like high-pressure pipelines. We don’t want a high-pressure pipeline explosion in our state. We have to take care of the gathering lines. We have to make sure that the wellhead is not going to contribute to contamination of the groundwater.”
Meanwhile, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is urging state lawmakers to enact tougher regulations on the energy industry, including higher penalties for violations and requiring operators to not only disclose what chemicals are used for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) but also their precise formulations. In an interview with the Associated Press, DeWine said violations should be increased to $10,000 per day, up from the current maximum of $20,000 per incident. He said the higher fines would bring Ohio up to par with other states that have significant oil and gas resources.
“The attorney general’s environmental enforcement section reviewed Ohio’s laws versus laws in other states,” Dan Tierney, a spokesman for DeWine, told NGI. “He’s done the review, and he basically had some recommendations to bring Ohio’s laws more consistent with other states.” Other states with fracking rules in place include Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming.
“Ohio’s laws simply are not adequate today,” DeWine said. “If something happens six months from now, three months from now, and we look up and say, ‘Gee, our penalties aren’t adequate,’ it’s going to be too late.”
DeWine, a former U.S. senator, said he is advocating for the full disclosure of fracking chemicals and their formulations because he is concerned for the environment and the safety of emergency first responders. He also said he wants his office or another state agency empowered to help landowners involved in leasing disputes.
Trent Dougherty, an attorney for the Ohio Environmental Council, said full disclosure and higher penalties were long overdue. “Disclosure has been an issue all around the country, not just to be transparent but for a really substantive reason, to protect first responders,” Dougherty told NGI. He added that “strong penalties that don’t give ‘bad actors’ an incentive to violate the law are better for the environment and the industry.”
DeWine’s recommendations would need to come from members of the Ohio General Assembly, said Tierney. However, Dougherty said he wasn’t aware of any legislators currently working on such a bill.
In related news, Tierney said an investigation by the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation into the “lost landman’s handbook” was inconclusive. The probe centered on a five-page document, “Talking Points for Selling Oil and Gas Lease Rights,” which lists deceptive practices for landmen to use when trying to persuade people to sign an oil or natural gas lease. It was allegedly found outside a home in Yellow Springs, OH.
Although the investigation led to a dead end, DeWine called on state legislators to address concerns from the public that some landmen may be using deceptive practices. “[For] most people who are selling their mineral rights, this is a once-in-a-lifetime transaction,” DeWine said. “The people who are buying, the landmen who are coming in, do it every day. So there’s a little inequity there about knowledge.”
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