Drillers won't press Kasich to open state lands for leases
Columbus Dispatch (OH), 2014-02-20
Feb. 20--While disappointed, Ohio's oil and gas industry does not plan to lobby Gov. John Kasich to comply with state law and open state parks and forests to fracking.
The industry will not pressure Kasich, or go to court, in a bid to force him to appoint members to a commission that would grant drilling leases for state land, said Tom Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil & Gas Association.
"It is what it is. At this time, it is not a ripe issue. That is an issue for the governor," Stewart said yesterday.
"We would never compromise our position on the severance tax simply to get concessions on state land," Stewart said.
Kasich's announced change of heart on fracking on state-owned land comes as the governor, lawmakers and the industry struggle to forge agreement on a new taxation plan for oil and gas drilling.
Tuesday's announcement that the governor now opposes fracking on state lands surprised environmental groups, but not drillers.
Stewart learned the state was wary of drilling last spring. Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer made a little-noticed comment in budget testimony that the state "was not interested in going forward at this time," he said.
Stewart does not know why Kasich reversed his stance. "We think it should go forward. The state of Ohio is missing a grand opportunity" to reap revenue from drilling leases, he said.
Kasich faced a Nov. 2, 2011, deadline under state law to appoint five members to a commission that would grant fracking leases on state land, but he never acted.
Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said, "We noticed a long time ago the governor hasn't taken action on the legislature's instructions.
"The governor had a difference of agreement. That's one of the things the executive has discretion to do. We have the discretion to come back and take away that discretion. We may consider that."
Faber said the option of drilling in state parks, and of using that money for upkeep, was a key reason he persuaded the governor to agree to a new 10-year, $50 million-a-year effort to address the backlog of infrastructure needs at state parks. The funding should be part of the upcoming capital budget.
The administration says that Kasich's position change is a stance he has held for 18 months and is unrelated to a flap over a never-implemented ODNR plan to promote fracking.
An August 2012 memo surfaced late last week that disclosed that ODNR, the fracking regulator, had developed a marketing plan to promote the practice in state parks. Stewart said the memo never was shared with him.
Kasich's likely Democratic opponent, Ed FitzGerald, said Kasich is "running scared on that issue because it looks like some people on his staff weren't honest about what they knew and when they knew it. I think he has a lot of explaining to do."
Dispatch Reporter Jim Siegel and Public Affairs Editor Darrel Rowland contributed to this story.
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