Senator worries about rules impact

CADIZ – In Harrison County to tour MarkWest’s new cryogenic natural gas processing facility, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, told the Ohio Mid-East Governments Association on Wednesday that Washington’s penchant for over-regulating could easily derail the economic lifeline oil and gas is bringing to the nation’s heartland.

“Government tends to do one-size-fits-all regulations,” Portman told state and local leaders at OMEGA’s luncheon meeting held at Sally Buffalo Park. “Our population, our geography, our densities are all very different” than shale-rich North Dakota or Oklahoma. “We don’t want government to come in and say it knows what is best. We don’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg – we want that goose to deliver.”

Portman said oil and gas has the potential to be a “real jobs creator” for Ohio.

“But we’ve got to be sure it’s sustainable,” he said. “And we’ve got to have good regulations in place. Really, Ohio has been regulating oil and gas since the ’70s, so we’re ahead of other states, and we’ve refined (our regulations) in a good way.”

Portman said having good, common-sense regulations that protect the public safety is essential.

“I’m for regulations,” he said. “I think (the industry) needs to be safe: I don’t want ground water to be contaminated. I think communities need to be taken care of and we should go after anybody who doesn’t (follow the rules). But let’s not over-regulate, let’s not squander this opportunity.”

He said oil and gas, though still in its infancy locally, is giving companies that had looked to expand overseas a reason to come stateside instead.

“If they get a sense that we have a sure, steady energy supply and it’s local, and if they get the sense that it will be stable and relatively low-cost energy … I see a lot of jobs coming back,” he said.

He told OMEGA members the federal government needs to reign in the regulatory environment and at the same time, streamline its permitting process to make it easier for businesses to open or expand. “The U.S. has so many permits, it’s hard to create jobs,” he said, noting that there can be “34 different permits you have to go through for energy projects.”

“It’s not rocket science,” he added. “There’s common-sense stuff we can do in Washington that should be and is bi-partisan … just smarter ways to do it.”

After the meeting Portman and other OMEGA leaders took a bus tour of MarkWest’s $500 million cryogenics plant, located across from the park. To accommodate its customers, MarkWest has been operating out of a temporary facility in Cadiz that can process 60 million standard cubic feet of natural gas a day.

When their plant is fully operations, MarkWest’s Greg Sullivan said the temporary structure will be disassembled.

OMEGA serves Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Coshocton, Guernsey, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Muskingum, and Tuscarawas counties in Ohio, serving as go-between for state and federal government agencies and local entities to foster economic and community development.