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It's the missing link

House Bill 685 can solve natural gas issues
Published By The People's Defender on September 15, 2022
Jon Cross In The News

Holly Johnson, Adams County Economic and Development Director, said, “House Bill 685 is monumental for Adams County. We could potentially apply for up to 14 or 15 million dollars from a grant of this magnitude.”

Adams County has been designated a “distressed” county for quite some time. This House Bill will allow the Governor to put monies into a fund that will permit Adams County to apply for funding for a gas line. “Lack of natural gas has hindered our ability to recruit commerce to our county,” said Johnson. “Natural gas infrastructure is the last piece of the puzzle regarding development and job creation in the county. We need it at the Winchester Industrial Park, the Adams County Regional Medical Center, local school facilities, the villages of Winchester, Seaman, and Peebles, and even at our largest manufacturing employer – the General Electric testing site.”

Johnson and her predecessors have attempted to get natural gas to businesses and communities in Adams County for decades. Johnson explained, “When you look at a gas map, most of Adams County is white. We are in a gas desert. We have a small gas line that comes up 52 and into the power plants and comes into West Union, but it’s nothing that can support the manufacturing industry. The northern part of the county is completely void of gas.” She continued, “It’s always been the first thing on the economic development radar.”

The bill’s sponsors, State Representatives Jon Cross (R-Kenton) and Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), introduced HB 685, the ENERGIZEOhio bill, to promote the use of Ohio’s abundant natural gas energy resource. The bill, modeled after successful economic development programs currently used in Ohio, will create programs and incentives geared toward lowering energy costs and growing energy infrastructure in the state.

HB685 would permit the creation of locally led “ENERGIZEOhio Zones,” which will serve as designated areas in need of investment. Within the ENERGIZEOhio Zone, natural gas infrastructure projects would receive tax abatement and accelerated depreciation to lower the overall cost of development. In addition, the bill would permit the State of Ohio to offer low-cost financing to support projects and provide a revolving loan fund allowing local officials to facilitate pipeline easements. Finally, the bill provides financial incentives to gas companies to encourage the development of natural gas pipelines in ENERGIZEOhio zones.

The Ohio Gas Association Partnership (OGAP) members are attempting to achieve this natural gas infrastructure piece. Johnson reported, “We have multiple businesses looking for site selection. We cannot apply for the site selection because we do not have the gas.” Adams, Union, Logan, Washington, and Ross are some counties trying to get and increase their natural gas.

Written and verbal testimony will begin following the November election. Adams County representatives will have the chance to tell our story and why we need natural gas. Johnson encourages community members to reach out to Ohio representatives sharing the great need for this bill to pass. She stated, “I applaud the bill’s sponsors for putting together a robust package of policies that will positively impact so many communities that are being left behind when trying to access this abundant Ohio resource. These incentives will help the county leverage the nearly one-billion-dollar investment in the Clermont County Purina Plant. We see this as an opportunity to attract satellite companies that will provide goods and services to the Purina plant or others like it.”

Johnson concluded, “This is what you work for all these years – to get this funding source. We can’t market the county because we don’t have the gas. To be able to have the slightest bit of a chance to apply for funding is huge. It’s the missing link.”

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