Approve House Bill 105

The oil and natural gas industry has brought a wide variety of things to the local region.

Many of those have been positive for individuals and communities. They include jobs, lease and royalty payments and grants made by companies that are operating here.

But some negatives have come as well. Among the negatives are increased traffic and noise, damage to roads and bridges, and strains on other aspects of infrastructure.

Because local residents have had to take the good with the bad, some state lawmakers believe they should receive more of the tax proceeds that result from production. The Ohio House Ways and Means Committee is considering House Bill 106, introduced by Reps. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, and Brian Hill, R-Zanesville.

HB 105 would limit the amount of severance tax revenue going to the state’s Oil and Gas Well Fund to no more than $18 million per year. The remainder, an estimated $38 million, would be returned to oil- and gas-producing counties to be used for local infrastructure, government and schools.

In fiscal 2016, about $40.7 million in oil and gas tax revenue was credited to the Oil and Gas Well Fund. Only $14.4 million was used for Ohio Department of Natural Resources regulatory and well-plugging activities, leaving a surplus of $26.3 million in the fund.

Several local officials and business leaders either testified before the committee this week or submitted written statements in support of the proposed bill. Monroe County Commissioner Carl Davis enumerated many reasons why the region needs the tax revenue from oil and gas activity. He cited the closing of Ormet, state-mandated sewerage upgrades, construction of a new Monroe County Jail, the opioid epidemic, and the ongoing need for road and bridge repairs.

Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas said, “Our roads and bridges were not built to handle this heavy equipment … we have increased water and sewerage costs for water and sewer line maintenance, repair, and upgrades.”

State lawmakers should approve HB 105 and return more of the proceeds from oil and gas production to our region.