The idea of a severance tax for oil and gas drilling isn't exactly new. West Virginia for years has had a coal severance tax. But to some area lawmakers, the idea of any new taxes, at a time when states like Ohio are still recovering from the great recession, has potential to halt a promising economic tool.
"That's the most positive thing we have going right now in the state of Ohio, and for our area and for West Virginia and Pennsylvania," says Ohio House Representative Andy Thompson, (R-95th District). "We want to see that grow and expand, not contract."
The coal severance revenues are distributed among all of West Virginia's counties. Ohio Governor John Kasich has a similar idea for the oil and gas severance. But Senator Lou Gentile (D-30th District), in whose district much of the marcellus and utica shale drilling is going on, believes the revenues should go to drilling regions.
"I believe a lot of those revenues should go to our infrastructure," Gentile said while visiting Marietta Friday. "I believe our roads are going to have a lot of stress, because of the truck traffic and the industry demands. So we want to see a majority of the revenue from this oil and gas development stay in the Southeast Ohio counties."
On the controversial issue of fracking, Gentile believes in a balanced approach: one good for the environment, but one which will also ensure the anticipated economic benefits of drilling.
"To make sure were developing this in a responsible way, that's considerate of our environment and health and safety. But we can't turn our backs on the enormous economic opportunity that lays ahead."
The age-old question of the economy versus the environment: some who support one hope there are benefits for the other.