As the state chapter for the American Petroleum Institute, the Ohio Petroleum Council's purpose is to address legislative and regulatory issues impacting the oil and natural gas industry. With so much talk about shale exploration locally, executive director Terry Fleming, a Marietta native now living in Columbus, expects that many folks will have questions and seek guidance from the council.
"We can provide a lot of information on getting involved in shale play," he said. "Basically, anyone who wants more information on what hydraulic fracturing is, we can offer it."
API represents oil refiners, such as BP, Exxon and Shell, and has a network of offices in 33 states and the District of Columbia. One of the purposes of having state offices is to ensure the staff is familiar with the political scene and local industry issues, according to the Institute's website.
Another organization that is available to help its members of independent producers, or even the general public who just have questions about the oil and gas industry, is the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA). According to the group's website, OOGA is a trade association with more than 2,200 members involved in the exploration, production and development of crude oil and natural gas resources in the state of Ohio.
Among the members is Artex Oil, an independent producer based in Marietta.
"Washington, Monroe and Noble counties, that's the birthplace of oil exploration in southeast Ohio," said OOGA executive vice president Tom Stewart. The first oil well in North America was actually drilled in Noble County in 1865, Stewart explained.
"What is happening in Ohio is similar to other states - there is a fundamental, dynamic seismic shift in our thinking on how to explore these areas," he added.
The focus and attention might be on other areas of Ohio at the moment, but southeast Ohio is certainly gearing up to get noticed, according to Fleming.
"There is not a lot of activity in Washington County right now," he said. "The production is mostly up north in Carroll and Harrison counties. But I suspect that Washington, Noble, Monroe will not be far behind."
Fleming, who has lived in the Columbus area for more than three decades and has been with the Ohio Petroleum Council for 26 years, said that he has been invited back by groups to speak locally and has taken a fair share of criticism.
"When you go out to public meetings, you are going to get haters," he said. "I don't mind opposition. People have a right to be concerned and should be concerned about their future."
The criticism almost always comes out of environmental concern, Fleming added.
"The vast majority of people, though, really just want to hear what we have to say," he said.
Stewart added that OOGA's mission is to promote and advocate on behalf of the crude oil and natural gas industry, to educate and inform the public and to advocate in the policy sector.
"We are the price takers, not price makers. We get paid what the market says our commodity is worth," he said. "Things are moving along in Ohio ... people are investing, we're getting large, well-capitalized companies that are becoming members and are interested in Ohio ... but there are regulatory and tax policies that are scaring people."
Gov. John Kasich has proposed legislation that would include a higher tax on drillers to pay for an income tax cut, updating standards for well construction, disclosing chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and new regulations for natural gas gathering lines.
For Fleming, there is a definite upside to continued shale exploration, though nothing is guaranteed.
"It will be beneficial for the economic development of southeast Ohio," he said "An area of the state that has been neglected for so long finally has some hope."