The communities in eastern and southeastern Ohio where the Marcellus and Utica plays extend are already struggling, noted Melanie Houston at the Ohio Environmental Council.
“Ohio’s existing severance tax on oil and gas production is among the lowest of all oil and gas producing states, yet shale development has come with escalating costs for local communities,” she said. “There are increased road maintenance needs, new demands for emergency services, negative impacts to air and water quality, and greater need for oversight and regulation of the industry. Residents of impacted communities also complain of increased traffic, destruction of the landscape and concern over potential lasting damage to their water supply.”
Because of those factors, Houston does not think funds from an increased severance tax should support an income tax cut.
Instead, increased severance tax revenue should “support the cost of increased oversight for the industry” by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Oil and Gas, she said. “Additionally, we want to see this funding used to make communities whole from the local impacts from the shale gas boom.”
“At least $170 million in immediate needs have been presented by local community leaders in past testimony to state legislators,” Houston continued. “These needs include infrastructure (water, sewer, roads and bridges), emergency response needs, affordable housing, and planning to ameliorate expected negative impacts, and protect public health and safety.”