Report: Ohio Counties Have Received More Than $300 Million For Road Improvements From Utica Shale Operators

A new report by Energy In Depth and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) finds that oil and gas operators have paid more than $302.6 million for road, bridge and culvert improvements via the Road Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA), which is used by Ohio counties to ensure road damages by heavy equipment being moved for shale drilling and pipeline work are either prevented or repaired.

The report finds that RUMA funds were used to improve more than 639 miles of roadways from 2011-2017 in Ohio’s eight Utica Shale counties: Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe and Noble. Columbiana County Engineer Bert Dawson explained to EID,

“Besides being an economic boom for eastern Ohio, the recent oil and gas activity has fostered millions of dollars of road improvements that have been much needed but unaffordable to cost strapped local government.”

The report, entitled “The Utica Shale Local Support Series: Ohio’s Oil and Gas Industry Road Improvement Payments,” also finds that the oil and gas industry is leaving Ohio infrastructure in “better condition than they were before the introduction of the industry.” In fact, an Ohio University Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs study released earlier this year found that,

[A]lmost all interviewees stated that county roads under the purview of a Road-Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) were left in better condition than they were before the introduction of the industry. Increases in tax revenue from the industry led to infrastructure expansion like water and sewer upgrades, railroad revitalization, and new police vehicles. And, a majority of interviewees stated that the industry was good to work with; private industry often paid up-front costs for infrastructure improvements that benefited both their own industry operations and the local community.” (Emphasis added)

Below are the report’s key findings, by the numbers:

Key Findings for Ohio Shale Counties:

  • Total Investment Made in Ohio Infrastructure: More than $300 Million
  • Total Number of Road Miles Improved: More than 630 Miles
  • Amount of Investment Directly to Local Communities: 100 Percent

This report is a first of its kind – previous research only used estimates to calculate the cost associated with the Road Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA), at least partially due to the lack of a central clearinghouse for information, making it challenging to collect this data.  EID and OOGA used the Freedom of Information Act, worked with county engineers from all eight counties, and collected data from the majority of Ohio’s oil and gas operators to arrive at these findings.

The report also provides a robust history of the RUMA process in Ohio – something EID has been tracking and reporting on for years. In fact, Ed Looman, then Executive Director or Progress Alliance said in a 2012 EID guest blog post,

“Local efforts began when the Jefferson County commissioners stepped forward and created a road use maintenance agreement. The agreement is working here and already a major drilling company has invested millions to repair county and township roads.”

In the years since that statement, and up until this report was released, it has remained unclear how many “millions” have been realized or how many miles have been improved. For some of these eight counties, the numbers are staggering.

In Carroll County, for example, $12 million was spent in just one year, which is about three times the amount of their entire county engineer’s budget!

Similar to the last report in this Utica Shale Local Support Series that looked at actual numbers and data on property taxes paid on production of oil and natural gas, this latest report does not use “estimates” or “predictions” of things to come. The data show real money already invested in local communities in Ohio, where 100 percent of the investment stays within the local community where shale development is occurring — at no cost to the taxpayer. Together, these two reports in the Utica Shale Local Support Series have collectively found that Ohio communities have realized a benefit of $343 million in taxes and road improvements thus far.

RUMAs are just another example of how the natural gas industry is a good neighbor and is providing support (along with jobs & revenue) to our local governments.

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