Prove your humanity

An Ohio commission approved two bids by out-of-state companies to drill for oil and gas under state-owned lands Monday. Colorado-based Antero Resources was the sole bidder to drill under a Department of Transportation property in Noble County. SWN Production LLC of Texas won its bid to drill the DOT land in Monroe County along the Ohio River.

The Oil and Gas Land Management Commission also advanced five other nominations to drill under state-owned properties to the bidding process. One approved nomination is to drill under the 84-acre Keen Wildlife Area in Harrison County. Citizens opposed to selling state lands for drilling yelled, “Listen to the people!” during the meeting as the four commission members voted. The state received numerous public comments against the nomination.

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The commission also disapproved five drilling nominations at the meeting, including four under DOT properties and one under the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area, which covers 14,300 acres in Belmont and Guernsey counties. 

“Much of the land in Egypt Valley is encumbered by federal funding, and so there is a federal process that would have to be gone through and ultimately federal approval obtained,” Commission Chair Ryan Richardson explained before the vote. “And there’s a question really about who bears the responsibility for paying for that.” 

However, she recommended that the commission deny the drilling nomination at Egypt Valley for a different reason: the economics of the proposal. “A provision in this nomination that essentially would significantly reduce the bonus that would be supplied [to the state] if a particular time frame is not satisfied,” Richardson said. 

Since it began this process last fall, the commission has advanced 14 drilling nominations on Ohio state-owned lands. Once approved, the nominations are put up for public bid. The process is confidential until a bid is approved. Keen is the third wildlife area where a drilling bid has been approved so far. 

At its February meeting, the commission awarded two bids to Infinity Natural Resources to drill under Salt Fork State Park, Ohio’s largest state park. The company will pay Ohio more than $58 million and a 12.5% royalty on the gas it produces there.

Richardson also noted that Matthew Warnock, an attorney who was listed on the commission’s website as a representative of the oil and gas industry, resigned. According to his LinkedIn page, Warnock is currently working for a Findlay, Ohio-based company focused on bringing wind energy to the electric grid.

Richardson said the governor’s office is searching for a replacement.