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Sen. Portman concludes tour of southern Ohio

Visits gas rig in Bowerston

T-L Photo/CARRI GRAHAM and Photo Provided ABOVE: Encino Energy employees pause with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and local elected officials during a tour of a drilling site in Bowerston on Friday. Centered from left are Harrison County Commissioner Dale Norris, Portman and Encino Energy CEO Hardy Murchison flanked by two Encino employees.

BOWERSTON — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman continued a three-day tour of southern Ohio on Friday by visiting an Encino Energy natural gas drilling rig in Bowerston.

His JOBS Act and Workforce Tour spanned over 750 miles across 12 counties. Portman, R-Ohio, is addressing a skills gap by authoring the JOBS Act, bipartisan legislation that aims to make high-quality and rigorous short-term job training programs more affordable by expanding access to Pell Grants for low-income students. President Donald Trump included the JOBS Act in his Fiscal 2020 budget request, and Portman is working to include the measure in broader legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act this year.

The stop in Bowerston occurred on the third day of the tour and was the only well site the senator visited. The tour was meant to highlight workforce development, tax reform, energy production, agriculture and how small Ohio businesses are helping secure the borders.

Prior to the senator’s stop at the well pad, he visited Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville.

“It’s essential that our workforce has the skills and tools needed to fill today’s in-demand jobs as our economy continues to see growth. I had a productive discussion today with staff from Eastern Gateway Community College and local business leaders on how we can better close the skills gap,” Portman said. “Across Ohio, we have tens of thousands of job openings that are going unfilled, and part of that is because those seeking work do not have the training necessary to be hired for the jobs available today. I look forward to continuing my work in Washington to get this important issue the attention and resources it deserves.”

Hardy Murchison, CEO of Encino Energy, led the senator, local elected officials and fellow Encino employees through the facility to highlight the advantages of having the natural gas and oil industry in the state of Ohio. Encino has spent about $500 million in drilling and completing activities annually for several years and another $5 million on road and infrastructure improvements in the state, he said.

“We employ hundreds of people directly and thousands of people indirectly on well sites like this. Senator Portman has been a long supporter of the industry here at the Utica Shale, but also Encino specifically. He is obviously really serious about trade, economic development and about the environment, so this is a great opportunity for us to showcase what we’re doing — manufacturing clean-running natural gas on a big scale here in Ohio with big economic benefits for the state,” Murchison said.

The CEO added that the drilling pad is a great example of just how efficient and environmentally friendly these operations have become. Jackie Stewart, director of external affairs for Encino Energy, said the senator’s visit occurred because millions of dollars have been added to Ohio’s economy by the industry since 2011, and it has created hundreds of thousand jobs.

“He’s on a jobs tour of Ohio. Obviously coming out here to talk about what’s been going on in Harrison County and the surrounding counties, from a jobs perspective, this is really where it’s at,” Stewart said.

Murchison said the operation soon will have 12 producing wells and only a “tiny footprint on the surface.”

“That’s even while the rig is drilling,” he said. “Once the rig is done and the final wells are done drilling, it will shrink down to something that’s basically not visible unless you’re standing within 100 yards from it.”

The well pad, built in 2015, takes up only 1 acre of land and employs hundreds of contractors per year.

“We really try to think through all of those things early on. These wells produce for 40 years, so at the end of the day we’re very cognizant of the fact that our business partners are landowners, surface owners,” he said. “We’re going to be working together for a long time.”

Such operations create a large positive impact financially for the community and the state, while also minimizing the surface impact, Murchison said.

“There’s often a public perception that there’s going to be big disruptions and we’ve been able to avoid that,” he said.

“It was really impressive, I have been on a platform before, but never one that had so many wells,” Portman said following the tour. “They have eight wells on this one platform, and they’re going to have another three. … If you think about it, 1 acre here and yet 100 acres being drilled underneath — it’s a small footprint for what’s being drilled. That’s what’s good about the new technology. It has a lot less of an impact on the countryside, the environment. It was also impressive that they made a big investment in Ohio. This company is the one that came in and bought wells and rights.”

Portman said he asked Harrison County Commissioner Dale Norris how Encino has been working with the local communities. Norris told him the relationship has been a positive one.

“I was impressed by what they are doing environmentally to avoid getting into fresh water,” Portman added. “They have steel, concrete, steel, concrete to avoid having any fresh water be affected by the mud they’re using, the drilling that they’re doing.”

“Mud” is a term the industry uses for what drillers put down into the well, the senator explained.

“I was glad to see it. Ohio used to be a state that imported a lot of our energy. We had coal, but we really didn’t have anything else,” he said.

Now Ohio is an exporter, because of natural gas, Portman said.

Portman also mentioned the proposed PTT Global Chemical/Daelim Industrial Co. ethane cracker plant that may be built at Dilles Bottom in Belmont County. He said it will potentially create 800 long-term jobs.

“It’s all about a chain of jobs and economic development,” Portman said. “This region needs it. It still is an area of high unemployment and a lot of poverty, so we want the good jobs and the good benefits.”

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