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Natural gas closed at a 17-year price low today. And low prices have raised reservations from lawmakers about the strength of Ohio’s oil and gas industry. But one group is still calling for an increase to the drilling tax.

A struggling market for natural gas has led top Republican and Democratic leaders to hold back on increasing the so-called fracking tax. But the liberal-leaning think tank, Policy Matters Ohio, says data shows companies pumped more natural gas from the state’s shale last year than the year before.

ceramic beads proppant

Even as the region’s natural gas boom is driven toward bust by depressed world energy markets, drillers have had a production breakthrough at a Utica Shale well. 

Fracking forces apart rock layers. And a ‘proppant’ in the fracking fluid, usually sand, keeps the cracks open.  But for deep wells, as in the Utica Shale, the weight of 2 miles of earth can squash sand grains and limit output.  For a new well in Pennsylvania, drillers used man-made, ceramic beads that won’t crush. The well ‘came in’ last week with record production. 

fracking well

The issue of oil and gas drilling has been one that usually divides state lawmakers along party lines.

But Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, there is one aspect that seems to have consensus among Republican and Democratic leaders. 

The majority and minority leaders of the Ohio House and Senate agree that they shouldn’t raise the so-called severance tax on oil and gas drilling because the market conditions are too tough -- especially with the dropping price of gas.

Diagram of a compressor

The Ohio EPA has scheduled a public information meeting and hearing in Wadsworth to examine an especially controversial part of the NEXUS pipeline project. 

The session has to do with plans for a natural-gas compressor station near Wadsworth to boost flow in the proposed NEXUS pipeline across northern Ohio. Such stations typically occupy 20 acres or more and raise concerns about emissions and environmental impact on nearby areas.