Newly signed Ohio law defines natural gas as green energy

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Vinton County, Ohio forest
A mixed forest of oaks, suagar maple, yellow poplar and beech in Zaleski State Forest.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law Jan. 6 that defines natural gas as a “green energy” source and requires state agencies to open public lands to oil and gas leasing. 

The oil and gas industry is celebrating the new legislation, while at least one environmental group called it unconstitutional.

House Bill 507 began its life as a bill to address poultry sales. It decreased the minimum number of poultry chicks that can be sold in a lot from six to three. Provisions around food safety were added in the House. 

The Ohio Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee tacked on a variety of unrelated amendments, including defining green energy, allowing oil and gas leasing on state public lands, internet sales exemptions from auction laws, local preemption of pesticide use and vehicle towing and storage authorization for law enforcement. 

That’s what makes it unconstitutional, according to the Ohio Environmental Council. The Ohio Environmental Council’s Law Center sent a letter to DeWine in December, requesting a veto. 

“The Ohio General Assembly knew Ohioans would oppose defining natural gas as green energy and mandating oil and gas leasing on public lands, so legislators rushed HB 507 through at the last minute, logrolling wildly disparate subjects together,” said Nathan Johnson, public lands directors for the Ohio Environmental Council, in a statement. “Yet Article II, Section 15 of the Ohio Constitution prohibits precisely these types of bills.”

What it does

The newly signed legislation changed one word and added three words in Sec. 155.33 of the Ohio Revised Code to require state agencies to allow oil and gas drilling. Before, it said state agencies “may lease a formation within a parcel of land that is owned or controlled by the state agency for the exploration for and development and production of oil or natural gas.” Now, it says state agencies “shall lease in good faith.”

All the person seeking a lease has to do is submit proof of insurance, financial assurance and proof of registration with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

It also defines green energy as an energy resource that “releases reduced air pollutants, thereby reducing cumulative air emissions; is more sustainable and reliable relative to some fossil fuels. Green energy includes energy generated by using natural gas as a resource.” It excludes natural gas from receiving renewable energy credits, with the exception of natural gas from “biologically derived methane gas.”

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association’s President Rob Brundrett said the legislation will help Ohio maintain and expand its position as a national leader in oil and gas development.

“In turn, the legislature’s passage and governor’s signing of this bill will make a positive difference in providing safe, clean and affordable energy for Ohio families and businesses,” Brundrett said, in a statement.

House Bill 507 is the latest in a series of attempts to label natural gas as a “green source” of energy. U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, introduced a resolution to the U.S. House of Representatives in May to recognize American natural gas as a clean and green energy source.

Ohio state Sen. Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario, told the Energy News Network in December that he added the language around “green energy” to HB 507 in hopes that it would allow companies to meet ESG investing standards, or environmental, social and governance practices.

What else it does

In addition to the poultry sales and oil and gas changes, the legislation also:

• Prohibits a political subdivision from regulating or banning the use, of a pesticide registered with the Ohio Department of Agriculture on private property;

• Exempts from auctioneer and auction firm licensure requirements a person who, in any calendar year, sells no more than $10,000 of personal property via an auction mediation company, like eBay;

• Requires the Directors of Agriculture and Health to adopt rules establishing a method for evaluating a registered environmental health specialist’s knowledge of the law governing food safety, including the Ohio Uniform Food Safety Code;

• Redefines the word “food” to conform to the definition within the Pure Food and Drug Law for the purposes of law governing canning, bottling and cold storage;

• And authorizes a conservancy district police department to tow and store a motor vehicle in certain circumstances.

(Reporter Rachel Wagoner can be reached at rachel@farmanddairy.com or 724-201-1544.)

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Rachel is a reporter with Farm and Dairy and a graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She married a fourth-generation beef and sheep farmer and settled down in her hometown in Beaver County. Before coming to Farm and Dairy, she worked at several daily and weekly newspapers throughout Western Pennsylvania covering everything from education and community news to police and courts.

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