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By: Rob Brundrett, President, Ohio Oil & Gas Association - This op-ed was printed in the Toledo Blade October 14, 2023.

From John D. Rockefeller to the first off shore oil well to the shale renaissance in the 21st century, Ohio has played a major role in our country’s oil and gas history. 

Western Ohio, in particular, has long been at the forefront of Ohio’s oil and gas story. Today the region remains critically important to the industry, and is home to numerous oil refineries and the headquarters of Marathon Petroleum Corp., the country’s largest refiner. Maintaining refining capacity is not just a local issue, but truly a national security issue. If we have learned anything from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is that America’s and the world’s energy supply chains are vulnerable to rash decisions of despots far away from the Buckeye State. 

Recent data from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources shows crude oil extraction and production in Ohio might be starting to see its own renaissance of sorts. Crude oil production in Ohio increased more than 10 percent just from the end of last year to the first quarter of 2023. Ohio ranks 12th nationally in crude oil production. 

With this increase in production, it is now more important than ever to preserve and grow Ohio’s refining capabilities, which ranks sixth in the country. The steep costs associated with transporting crude oil makes it especially important to maintain a strong refining industry close to the extraction location. 

Having a network of local refineries helps keep the costs of gasoline and household products in check and reduces our reliance on the rest of the world for refined products that help make the building blocks of modern society. Ohio should be doing all it can to ensure that our state’s refineries have the support and ability to operate and expand when necessary. 

Unfortunately, legislation recently passed by the Ohio House of Representatives has the potential to stifle one of Ohio’s great energy advantages. House Bill 205 would require Ohio’s refineries to employ only certain qualified union workers for all defined maintenance jobs at a refinery. This includes not only the workers needed for large refinery turnaround projects, but even for anyone who cuts the grass, paints the offices, and services the copy machines. 

This will only lead to tedious and burdensome regulations, potential losses of Ohio jobs, and unnecessary economic headwinds that will increase costs on refineries at a time when we are already seeing capacity being strained and refineries close all across the country. We haven’t seen a brand new large-scale capacity refinery come online since the 1970s because of the steep costs and regulatory red tape required to bring a new large facility to operation. 

In a globally competitive market where refineries compete against each other inside their parent companies for capital dollars, Ohio shouldn’t be passing laws that put our local refineries at a further disadvantage. House Bill 205 is an anti-free market mandate and troublesome piece of legislation that threatens Ohio’s long-term refining capacity with no real apparent gains in production, efficiency, or safety. 

Ohio has been a leader in the oil and gas space for well over 100 years. We did this with an entrepreneurial spirit led by smart Ohioans who realized what it takes to build thriving businesses that play the most impactful role in the lives of all Americans. Let’s not follow the lead of several other states and countries that have seen refining capacity eliminated. 

Ohio is on the cusp of a crude oil renaissance and our refiners need our support to meet the energy demands of Ohioans.

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