COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday ordered creation of a single-call notification system for oil-and-gas emergencies and authorized two state departments to start setting it up.
The Republican governor's executive order followed his veto last year of budget language he found inadequate that sought to streamline reporting of spills of oil, brine and other hazardous substances, fires, explosions and other emergencies. Among other things, Ohio had not previously called for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to be alerted in cases of emergency — though it regulates the industry.
State oil and gas chief Rick Simmers said the new system will allow multiple state entities to coordinate better and respond more quickly. The Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Commerce are authorized under Kasich's order to begin making the system's rules.
Simmers said the rules are ready to go and they're tougher than federal requirements and what the oil-and-gas industry had negotiated with the Legislature.
In his July 2015 veto message, Kasich said budget language "would potentially limit essential notifications" and several provisions were "ambiguous and could result in unnecessary disputes regarding compliance." Kasich pledged to present an executive order improving the language "given the importance of protecting public health."
The veto followed a successful push by the industry to remove Kasich's proposed tax increase on large-scale oil and gas drilling from the budget. A severance tax increase had been a priority of Kasich's for years. He contended Ohio's tax on oil and gas drillers is too low, and he's wanted to use proceeds of a tax hike on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to help cut the state's income-tax rate.
Simmers said the new hotline will put other involved agencies — including the Division of State Fire Marshal, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Public Utilities Commission — in direct contact with Department of Natural Resources technical experts.
The toll-free hotline is 1-844-OHCALL1, or 1-844-642-2551.