Gov. Kasich’s new budget plan includes fracking tax hike

By: Roger Hoke – News Editor

Gov. John Kasich of Ohio will likely try to pass a law to permit fracking on public lands in the state, though he passed a bill banning this same action in parks not long ago, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

According to the Ohio Environmental Council, fracking is “relatively new drilling technology – high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) – now makes it possible to reach natural gas reserves that underlie much of the eastern part of Ohio.”

Leading up to this proposed bill, there has been a significant amount of turmoil surrounding the idea of fracking in Ohio.

According to The Huffington Post, in early February, the Ohio Supreme Court decided with a 4-3 vote that municipalities cannot override state legislature when it comes to fracking in their jurisdiction. In May 2013, Kasich passed a bill that allows minimal oversight on fracking waste coming into Ohio from other states. This waste is then disposed of in old gas wells.

Not only has fracking been blamed for adding toxicity to water supplies, apparently it may be triggering tiny earthquakes in Ohio, Time Magazine reported.

Fracking wells that were placed too close to fault lines have been the catalysts for around 400 mini earthquakes over the past few years.

In the wake of these events, Kasich and the rest of the Ohio legislators are ready to consider new  fracking legislation.

Kasich is looking to pass a new budget plan that would significantly raise the tax rate on fracking in the state. This plan, announced in early February, calls for a 6.5 percent severance tax on fracking, reported Jeremy Pelzer of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

Projections released with the budget claimed that the taxes would gain Ohio more than $260 million over the next two years.

MSNBC claims that Kasich and his team were lying about dropping their fracking bill back in August of 2012.

“New emails show that the Kasich administration did not end its consideration of a plan to sell Ohioans on the benefits of fracking in state parks in August 2012 as previously indicated,” Steve Benen wrote. “Meetings between high-level officials of the governor’s office and Department of Natural Resources continued for months afterward – even though Gov. John Kasich supposedly had already decided against fracking on state-owned lands – according to 1,572 pages of material given to The Dispatch in response to a public records request almost three months ago.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that Kasich is proposing these tax hikes at the worst time. People from the oil fracking industry are calling this the “absolute worst time” for the governor to be making these decisions.

“With a plunge in oil and natural gas prices of more than 60 percent in the past year, Ohio’s fracking boom is turning bust, Shawn Bennett said, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association,” Randy Ludlow wrote for the Columbus Dispatch Feb. 9.

At this point, Kasich has been struggling to find support from both sides of the aisle. Not even his fellow Republicans seem to have his back on this subject.

The Columbus Dispatch has given names of numerous fracking opposition groups and individuals, including The Sierra Club, The Ohio Environmental Council, OhioFracktion, Rep. Robert Hagan, Rep. Nickie Antonio, EcoWatch, WaterKeeper Alliance, OMB Watch, Marcellus Earth First, Marcellus Shale Protest and The Natural Resource Defense Council.The Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA), however, agrees with Kasich’s plans.

“Not a single case of drinking water contamination has ever been recorded. Not one,” the OOGA website said. “Hydraulic fracturing has been aggressively regulated by the states. In that time, a staggering record of safety has been amassed. Several groups, including the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER), the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC), have issued reports to support these claims.”

Kasich’s “Blueprint for a New Ohio” can be viewed at www.blueprint.ohio.gov/doc/budget/State_of_Ohio_Budget_Recommendations_FY-16-17.pdf. The budget highlights can be viewed at www.blueprint.ohio.gov/doc/budget/State_of_Ohio_Budget_Highlights_FY-16-17.pdf.