GOP Lawmakers Reject Proposals To Assist Eastern Ohio Communities
Rep. Cera offers plans to return severance tax revenue to local communities, assist abandoned mine reclamation
May 25, 2016
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State Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) yesterday offered several amendments to House Bill 547, the Ohio Budget and Management review bill, aimed at supporting eastern Ohio communities affected by the coal and oil and gas industries. 

Both measures – one to return a portion of severance tax revenue to the communities impacted by oil and gas drilling, another to support abandoned mine reclamation, promote mine safety, and encourage the employment of laid-off mine workers – were rejected by the Republican members on the House Finance Committee. 

“Eastern Ohio is disproportionately impacted by the increase in oil and gas drilling activity, so it is only fair to direct a portion of the severance tax back to the communities whose road and bridges are deteriorating under the weight of increased truck traffic,” said Cera. “I can’t stand by while the state continues to neglect our Appalachian communities.”  

Ohio’s severance tax is on pace to generate more than $30 million in the current fiscal year. Under Cera’s proposal, Ohio’s Division of Oil and Gas would keep the first $20 million in severance tax revenue each year for its regulatory program and to plug idled and orphaned wells, but any additional revenue would be distributed to Ohio communities bearing the brunt of oil and gas drilling activity to help them rebuild crumbling roadways and provide fire and emergency services. 

The Bellaire lawmaker also asked the committee to consider an amendment aimed at putting displaced coal miners back to work and reclaiming abandoned mines. 

“For many years, most electric generation in Ohio came from coal, so it makes sense to direct a small percentage of utility tax revenue to help reclaim and restore abandoned coal mines,” said Cera. “By cleaning up these sites, we can help restore the natural resources that were harmed by past pre-law coal mining practices.” 

Cera’s proposal would allocate three percent of funds from the Kilowatt Hour Tax Receipts Fund to abandoned mine reclamation and acid mine drainage (AMD) abatement and treatment. The amendment also calls for earmarking an additional .75 percent of the Kilowatt Hour Tax to the Mine Safety Fund to help with safety training for existing coal miners and for the operation of the Mine Training Center. Finally, the amendment would require the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to develop a bidding process that encourages the hiring of dislocated coal miners by companies contracted to complete mine reclamation work.  

“I cannot understand why any lawmaker would reject a win-win proposal to address some of the critical economic and environmental challenges faced by coal-producing communities in our state,” said Cera.

Cera has previously introduced both amendments in bill form as House Bill 540 and House Bill 489. Both pieces of legislation are still under committee consideration. 

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