04 December 2007

Ohio Has an Oil & Gas Lobby?

Sure does. The Post has a piece titled "Energy Drilling Surges in Ohio" that had this little surprise:

The General Assembly passed a bill in 2004 (HB 278) that removed the legal authority of municipalities to regulate drilling in their towns. According to the Ohio Oil & Gas Association, the bill

...provided that the Ohio Division of Mineral Resources Management was the sole permitting authority for wells drilled in Ohio, and eliminated the need to obtain separate drilling permits from cities and townships.

...to assure consistent regulation based on sound regulatory principles and the orderly development of the state’s oil and gas resources, H.B. 278 in effect repeals the statutory authority local governments asserted over oil and gas wells.

The result is the effective elimination of township and municipal regulation that has disrupted orderly oil and gas development.

A cynic might think the industry just wants to maximize its profit margin, local democracy be damned. But that would be wrong, possibly even liberal. This wasn't about profits, it was about preserving corporate individual freedom:

H.B. 278 was needed because too often local regulations, when combined with the NIBY [I assume they meant NIMBY] effect, were intended not to regulate oil and gas drilling but rather were designed to prohibit it. Legislators, sympathetic to landowners who consented to drilling only to have local regulators deny them the opportunity, soon came to view the legislation as not only much-needed energy policy but a critical property rights issue as well.

Fortunately for Ohioans the industry is still championing property rights. Specifically, rights to drill on state property. That's what it wants in another bill,SB 193, which removes state agencies' authority for leasing state lands and puts the authority in a new entity called the Oil, Gas, and Timber Leasing Board.

SB 193 is currently in the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee which is chaired by Tom Niehaus... the same Tom Niehaus who sponsored HB 278. The Ohio Oil & Gas Association has given him $5500 this year, part of the $39,150 total he has received from energy interests.

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