STEUBENVILLE - An extensive energy bill passed this week in the Ohio Senate includes language written by state Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, to promote the use of Ohio workers and businesses by out-of-state oil and gas drilling companies.
Gentile said his amendment to the energy bill won bi-partisan support in the Senate.
"The bill is major regulatory legislation for the shale industry now in Ohio. But I also wanted to include language to determine how many skilled Ohio construction trades and qualified contractors are working in the industry," Gentile explained during a telephone interview.
"We can't require the shale industry to hire Ohio workers and to use Ohio businesses for the drilling needs. But this language will require an annual report from the Office of Workforce Development that will review the direct and indirect economic impact of businesses engaged in the production of horizontal wells in Ohio," continued Gentile.
"The annual report will be posted on the office's website.
"Our intent is to bring about a new transparency to the oil and gas industry operating in Ohio," said Gentile.
"Another provision in the bill requires the drilling contractors to disclose what country produced the steel used at the well site or the pipelines. And of course I want to see Ohio steel used in this industry," Gentile said.
"Ohio has a skilled and well-trained work force ready to meet the needs of the oil and gas industry. Our leaders have an obligation to support Ohio's work force. This amendment will give us a clear understanding of how many Ohioans and Ohio based firms are being employed by the oil and gas industry," stated Gentile.
Gentile said Senate Bill 315, the Energy portion of the mid-term budget review, had seven hearings including revisions and testimony before the Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee.
The mid-term budget review bill now moves to the Ohio House to undergo the committee process, Gentile said.
"My proposed amendment that was adopted and included in the energy bill was in direct response to the many telephone calls, letters and e-mails as well as one-on-one conversations with my constituents in Eastern Ohio. We are seeing the oil and gas industry grow in our region and we would like a fair share of the jobs and business connections with the industry," noted Gentile.
"These drilling companies are not native to Ohio. But we need jobs in Eastern Ohio and have a very skilled work force ready to do these jobs. I believe Ohioans should have every opportunity to work in the oil and gas industry," Gentile remarked.
He explained his amendment language is very similar to legislation already passed into law in West Virginia.
"We want to know how many workers are employed by the oil and gas industry and how many of those workers are Ohioans. We also want to know how many Ohio firms are doing business with the oil and gas industry," continued Gentile.
The detailed energy bill cleared the chamber, 27-6, with backing from both Republicans and Democrats. It also adjusts Ohio's renewable energy standard, which sets a timetable for utilities to meet usage thresholds, to include waste heat such as that generated from factory smokestacks.
Supporters said the bill balances environment, public health and safety and commerce by expanding chemical disclosure and water testing requirements.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said the bill ensures that "Ohio approaches energy production and consumption in a safe and responsible way, while also giving families and job creators access to more affordable energy."
The bill requires well operators to disclose the location they'll draw water from for blasting into the well to release oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids, as well as the rate and volume at which they'll withdraw it.
The legislation also requires well operators to disclose all chemicals that will come into contact with human water supplies during the drilling operation, though not the specific recipe. Water samples also must be taken at all wells within 1,500 feet of any proposed horizontal well.