Keep tax provision in budget

It is high time more tax proceeds from natural gas and oil production are used to benefit the local area.

State Rep. Jack Cera recently introduced an amendment to the state’s next transportation budget that would make that possible, and we believe lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should support that provision.

Cera voted in favor of House Bill 62 after introducing several amendments, including one that would redirect $10 million over two years to the counties where gas and oil production are occurring. The money is generated by a severance tax on those resources.

Proceeds from that tax jumped 10-fold between 2010 and 2015 as the industry became entrenched in our region. Between 2014 and 2015, proceeds climbed from $5.9 million to $21.3 million. Production has not slowed down, and tax revenue has continued to add up.

Meanwhile, here in Belmont, Harrison and Monroe counties, heavy trucks travel to and from well pads all day and night. Residents complain of noise from those trucks, increased traffic, noise from drilling and fracking operations at well sites and more. Pipelines now crisscross the area, causing delays for construction and worrying many about the increased potential for an accident.

And accidents already have happened. Explosions and fires have occurred at well pads and pipelines in the region. Residents have been evacuated, and they have worried about contamination of our air and water.

In addition, our roads are falling apart. Evidence that gas and oil trucks are contributing to the problem can be seen everywhere.

Heavy trucks are traveling roads and streets that weren’t built to support them, and they are also running over lawns and sidewalks when drivers fail to take approved routes. At times, traffic has been blocked for hours when a truck has been stuck at an intersection it was never meant to enter.

Local township trustees and county commissioners have long sought to have more severance tax money returned to the counties of origin to repair damaged infrastructure. Now, Cera has succeeded in including such a provision in HB 62.

The Senate will now consider the bill. We urge lawmakers, especially those from our region, to retain the amendment. Local residents deserve to benefit from more of the money that is being drawn from beneath our feet.