By JANELL HUNTER
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of road improvements have occurred in Eastern Ohio since 2011, thanks to investments by natural gas and oil producers.
The study found that the major upstream oil and gas exploration and production companies spent more than $300 million in eight Ohio counties from 2011 to the first quarter or 2017, improving more than 630 miles of roads with those investments. The report examines road use maintenance agreements across Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Jefferson, Harrison, Monroe and Noble counties.
Earlier this year the first report found that Ohio’s oil and gas operators contributed more than $43 million in six counties over five years as a result of property taxes paid on crude oil and natural gas production. OOGA Executive Vice President Shawn Bennett said he expects the industry to provide an estimated $250 million more in property taxes over the next 10 years in Utica Shale counties.
“The oil and gas industry is providing tremendous benefits, and we are very happy to provide them,” Bennett said.
Jackie Stewart of Energy In Depth Ohio conducted the research for the report and said it is a first of its kind because previous research only used estimates to calculate the cost associated with road repairs by oil and gas companies under RUMA agreements. Stewart said gathering the data was challenging due to lack of a central clearinghouse for this type of information.
“This report was tough. God bless the county engineers that collected the data about the number of miles that were repaired, but they were not able to tell us how much money was actually spent by the oil and gas companies. That number had never been quantified until now,” Stewart said.
Stewart said Energy In Depth Ohio and OOGA used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain all of the pertinent data. She also pointed out that a recent Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs study found that “almost all interviewees stated that county roads under the purview of a road use maintenance agreement were left in better condition than they were before the introduction of the industry.”
Stewart said Ohio has a “unique” history with RUMA development, and that it began to develop in the eastern part of the state after the industry started to spread from Marcellus Shale development in Pennsylvania in 2011 and 2012. She noted that after 2012 when the Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 315, RUMAs were required for all permits issued for oil and gas exploration, drilling and production by upstream companies. Shortly after that, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a 20-page set of guidelines for communities to use to interpret and enforce RUMAs with specific upstream producers.
See more from The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register