I believe a big part of Ohio's continued economic recovery will be in the oil and natural gas industry, an area that has sparked a lot of optimism in the eastern part of the state, especially in Columbiana County. As recently reported in an area newspaper, the increase in shale activity has helped boost sales-tax revenue by more than 10 percent in March, April and May of this year.
This is obviously exciting news for the people of the county, but also a good sign that energy exploration has the potential of becoming a huge economic advantage for our state. Ohio's unemployment rate has already dropped to a full percentage point below the national average since the beginning of last year. As we move further along in the process to drill for oil and natural gas, we can expect even more jobs to be created.
Growth in the energy sector is good for other industries as well. Attracting new workers to the area will also attract new spending for other businesses. It also expands the opportunity for businesses who can manufacture products needed in the process of drilling through the Utica shale, simplifying the transport of these goods because they are so close to the actual site.
Concerted efforts must be made to protect the environment during this process. But some people, including politicians, inflate any potential dangers of fracking in order to push an anti-energy agenda. While claiming to be proponents of an "all-of-the-above" energy policy, they ignore the vast opportunities and benefits that drilling beneath our own feet can present for the people of the state.
Ohio has in place some of the strictest environmental regulations in the country on gas and oil drilling. Understanding the need to establish common-sense regulations for this soon-booming industry, the Legislature passed a set of rules earlier this year that, among other things, requires companies to disclose the chemicals they use during the fracking process. It also puts in place a provision requiring gas producers to collect water samples within 1,500 feet of any proposed well and to publish the results in permit applications to provide for safe groundwater.
Proper regulations are in place. Ohio will benefit from oil and natural gas drilling. Columbiana County already is proof of that.
Rep. Newbold may be reached by calling 614-466-8022 or by writing to State Representative Craig Newbold, 77 S. High Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43215. He may also be reached through email at District1@ohr.state.oh.us.