Johnson proposes new bill
MARTINS FERRY — Congressman Bill Johnson introduced legislation last week that, if passed, would allow oil and gas producing counties in Ohio to keep more revenue generated from production on federal lands.
The bill, titled Providing Opportunities With Energy Revenues (or POWER) Counties Act, is similar to previous legislation introduced by Johnson in 2015 that was not enacted. The proposed legislation seeks to “amend the Mineral Leasing Act to require payment to counties of a portion of certain revenues received by the United States under Federal oil and gas leases, and for other purposes,” according to congress.gov.
The Mineral Leasing Act, first enacted by Congress in 1920, regulates the leasing of public lands for the development of several mineral resources, including coal, oil, natural gas, other hydrocarbons and other minerals.
“There is little doubt that Eastern and Southeastern Ohio are at the center of America’s energy renaissance,” Johnson said. “Energy development is having a positive impact on virtually every sector of our economy, including education. Our students are learning about the many job opportunities that have arrived — and will continue to arrive — resulting from the oil and gas boom. Schools are expanding their programs to help prepare students for new and exciting careers here at home, where they have been raised and educated.”
Johnson said his legislation is hopeful that the House of Representatives will debate the bill and pass it, because the “hardworking taxpayers” of oil and gas producing counties in Ohio “deserve to share the benefits derived from energy development on local lands.”
“As it stands now, the federal government, and some states, receive revenue in the form of royalties and permit fees from energy companies that develop energy on federally owned land, such as the Wayne National Forest,” Johnson noted.
“However, Ohio counties do not directly receive any of this revenue. This is wrong, and the POWER Act … would remedy this. My legislation calls for 20 percent of this revenue to be redirected back to the counties where those federal lands are located, where the funding can be used to support education initiatives and infrastructure improvements. This is a simple issue of fairness, and there would be no additional expense to the taxpayer.”
Johnson’s Congressional District is made up of 18 counties in Eastern and Southeastern Ohio, many of which are oil and gas producing and situated in parts of the Wayne National Forest. The 13 full counties that make up the 6th Congressional District include Belmont, Columbiana, Carroll, Gallia, Guernsey, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Noble and Washington. The district also includes portions of five counties: Athens, Mahoning, Muskingum, Scioto and Tuscarawas.
According to analysis by Jackie Stewart of Energy In Depth Ohio, a research arm of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, sales tax revenue generated from Monroe County and Harrison County increased 130 and 215 percent, respectively, since the beginning of the shale boom in 2007. Stewart noted that the “boost in sales tax revenue found in these top shale counties is in fact a boost to the entire state, because the state of Ohio keeps the vast majority of the tax collected, with only a small fraction returned to individual counties.”
The POWER Act was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources to be debated at a future date.