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Local officials discuss benefits of oil and gas industry in the region

T-L Photo/CARRI GRAHAM Local officials discuss the benefits the oil and natural gas industry has brought to local communities during a meeting Friday at the Hannibal Industrial Park in Monroe County. Pictured, from left, are Mick Romick, career readiness coordinator for the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District; Monroe County Commissioner Bill Bolon; Monroe County Commissioner Mick Schumacher; Monroe County Commissioner Diane Burkhart; and Jim Milleson, member of the National Association of Royalty Owners.

CLARINGTON — Local officials met Friday to discuss the benefits the oil and natural gas industry has brought to local communities, including providing funding for community projects, schools and road repairs, among others.

In response to a recently published report by the Ohio River Valley Institute that found a lack of economic impact on the region by the industry, the National Association of Royalty Owners and Mike Chadsey, director of public relations for the Ohio Oil & Gas Association, hosted the event Friday at the Hannibal Industrial Park.

The institute report states that some of the largest natural gas producing counties in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have seen declines in their share of jobs, income and population. The study states that while the national number of jobs increased by 10 percent, jobs in the 22 counties in the three states that produce more than 90 percent of the region’s natural gas only increased by 1.7 percent. The full report can be viewed at OhioRiverValleyInstitue.org.

Taylor Abbott, board member of NARO and Monroe County treasurer, said the meeting was a conversation between officials to discuss the many ways local communities have benefited from the oil and gas industry. He said they are not disputing the report’s statistics, but believe it did not paint a “full picture” of what the industry has done for the region and the impact that it has made.

More than a dozen local officials and representatives from Monroe, Harrison, Belmont, Muskingum and Guernsey counties attended the “informal discussion,” both in person and via teleconference. Abbott said those at the meeting live in the area and have witnessed the benefits the industry has provided.

“We just want to get out there that there has been significant benefits to the area. Contrary to what this report says there have been benefits to private landowners, for the people of this area, for businesses and our school districts,” he said.

Monroe County Commissioner Diane Burkart said the oil and gas industry has provided funding opportunities for various programs in local school district. She said because of the industry, she was able to obtain funding for numerous art programs and help fund a program that sends students home with backpacks filled with food and necessities.

“They (oil and gas industry) have always been very, very generous for our people and our needs, other than just supplying jobs,” she added.

Mick Romick, career readiness coordinator for the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District, said the district has benefited greatly from the industry.

“We’ve had so many upgrades to facilities that we would have never had. … We’ve had the ability to put in a lot of new programs that we would have never had before,” he said. “The oil and gas industry has given us the opportunity to basically change our whole outlook and do a lot of things in our district.”

Romick said the district was able to perform renovations to Swiss Hills Career Center, an addition was built onto Skyview Elementary, new fieldhouses were built, along with a new softball and baseball field and more. None of these facility upgrades would have been possible without the local oil and gas industry, he said.

The district also is eyeing future additions to some of its elementary and middle schools thanks to the oil and gas industry funds, he said.

Monroe County Commissioner Mick Schumacher said the county has been able to fund its road improvements due to the industry. Last year, 70 percent of the county’s paving and road stabilization projects were paid for from oil and gas funds, he said.

Chadsey said oil and gas royalties have provided funding for many residents, businesses and the county.

“It’s had a positive impact on county budgets and family farms,” he said.

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