By Kristy Meyer, Ohio Environmental Council
The Ohio General Assembly wants to open up Ohio’s public lands to oil and gas drilling (Ohio Senate Bill 193 and a separate not-yet-introduced House proposal). Many conservationists fear that these activities will ruin the character and integrity of pristine Ohio wilderness, as well as weaken Ohio’s chances for Great Lakes restoration funding. Despite the claims of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, drilling activities can be incredibly destructive to the natural environment. If allowed within our state parks, nature preserves, or even Lake Erie these activities will destroy fragile woodland ecosystems, threaten water quality and Ohio’s economy.
In Ohio’s portion of the Lake Erie basin there are 46 state parks and nature preserves and 14 of those are targeted by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association to be tapped, including oil fields in Lake Erie itself. Currently Ohio Senate Bill 193 does not include drilling in Lake Erie, however the House version to be introduced by Representative John Hagan is reported to include drilling in Lake Erie.
Lake Erie is one of Ohio’s most valuable treasures. It is an important resource for Ohio’s residents, industries, agriculture, municipalities, and ecosystems-making its’ 312 miles of shoreline a great source of wealth and vitality for its residents and visitors. The Lake supplies drinking water to roughly 3 million Ohioans and supports more than 240,000 jobs, equaling a total of $5.8 billion in wages. Furthermore, it contributes $9.75 billion a year to Ohio’s economy from the tourism, travel and fishing industries.
Drilling in Lake Erie and the parks within the Lake Erie basin poses unavoidable impacts and potential safety and environmental risks during and even long after the drilling begins, from tree removal, road building, stream crossings, brine disposal, pipeline construction and maintenance, compressor noise, air pollution, and oily brines. These actions threaten wildlife habitat, water quality and Ohio’s economy.
We cannot allow Ohio’s Elected Officials to use the public’s fear about rising heating costs to leverage supply-side extraction opportunities. Ohio Senate hearings have been predicated on the false notion that drilling for oil and gas on public lands will relieve rising natural gas prices. Unfortunately, it won’t be the public who benefits from drilling, it will be the drillers. According to ODNR, in 2005 the value of gas production in Ohio reached $759,738,281 up 31% from 2004 at $577,123,783 while the value of oil production settled in at $299,709,916 up 26% from 2004 at $219,858,464.
Ohioans support Lake Erie protection and restoration. Currently there is bi-partisan support at the local, state and federal level for protecting Lake Erie and all of the Great Lakes from drilling. The Ohio Environmental Council is working in coalition with federal, state, and local officials, organizations, citizens and elected officials, including U.S. Senators DeWine and Voinovich and Representatives Brown, Kaptur, Kucinich, LaTourette, Ryan and Strickland, to secure billions of dollars in federal funding to restore Lake Erie and all of the Great Lakes. “By opening up Lake Erie for drilling, and/or by proposing any weakening of protections for the lake, we could stand to lose out on an historic opportunity to obtain funding for Lake Erie restoration projects such as sewer infrastructure upgrades which would stop sewer overflows that dump raw, untreated human waste into our waterways.”
If the General Assembly truly wants to equip Ohioans with the tools and resources for future winters, then they should be committed to energy efficiency and consumer conservation. According to a 2004 study commissioned by the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, Ohio can achieve $3 billion in natural gas and electric savings in 10 years, create 5,300 new jobs, and add $100 million in payroll through an aggressive statewide energy efficiency program, having a much bigger impact on heating costs than through increases in the gas supply. Ohio can’t drill its way out of rising natural gas prices.
Together we can ensure the health of Ohio’s natural heritage, health, and economy.
To get involved please contact:
Kristy Meyer, Ohio Environmental Council
1207 Grandview Ave., Ste. 201, Columbus, OH 43212
PH: 614 487 7506 • F: 614 487 7510