A new study suggests that oil and gas drilling could mean as many as 65,000 jobs and a roughly $4.9 billion increase in the state's economy by 2014.
Eric Planey, vice president of International Business Attraction for the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, said the study was more realistic than previous research that suggested an increase of 200,000 jobs.
But this study's main focus was on drilling and supply chain jobs, and all the researchers emphasized to him in a Tuesday meeting that their methods and numbers were conservative, he said.
The eight-month study commissioned by the Ohio Shale Coalition, a partnership of energy interests spearheaded by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, was released Tuesday. Economics, energy and geology experts from Cleveland State University, The Ohio State University and Marietta College's Department of Petroleum contributed to the research.
The employment projection includes both new and retained jobs, 16,000 of them in the service sector. That sector includes hotels, restaurants, doctors and other personal services.
"One stat I thought was particularly interesting was that $4.9 billion is 1 percent of Ohio's annual (gross domestic product)," said Planey, who also sits on the Chamber's steering committee for the Ohio Shale Coalition.
Ohio's economy has grown 0.6 percent per year for the past three years, he said. "This industry alone could move Ohio's economy up by 1 percent, and that's pretty significant."
State Sen. Capri Cafaro said she has seen varying reports that show job growth of anywhere from 20,000 to 200,000 jobs, but said any growth is good.
"I think it remains to be seen. The thing is that there is an assumption and projection that jobs will be created as a result of this industry, and anytime there is a potential for economic growth, it's a positive thing," she said.
Cafaro also said that such growth needs to be balanced with protections for property owners and the environment.
"I know the Legislature is currently working on some laws regarding the oil and gas industry, and that's something I'm looking at as well," she said.
In another news release, state Reps. Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown, and Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, announced legislation Tuesday that would adjust the severance tax to ensure that Ohioans are receiving "a fair share of profits from drilling."
The new law would establish the Local Impact Protection Fund, a permanent fund to aid local communities impacted by hydraulic fracturing, with a continued source of sustainable financial resources "once the wells have dried up."
The new proposal would raise Ohio's severance tax on high cost recovery gas wells to 7 percent, with 1.5 percent going to the Local Impact Protection Fund, and 0.5 percent into a reestablished Advanced Energy Fund.
"Gas companies will be making billions off of Ohio's natural resources," Foley said. "Ohioans need a fair shake and a place to turn when those natural resources are gone."
He said the bill would give impacted communities funding for road and bridge repairs and jump-start a new energy industry to offset the used natural gas.
"We have to remember something: This shale oil and gas is owned collectively," Hagan said. "It's not owned by the governor or the Oil and Gas Association. The people of Ohio own it, and this publicly held resource is being exploited for enormous profit by private companies."