From The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
Gov. John Kasich has not done a great deal to endear himself to Ohio environmentalists and sportsmen and women. Yet he deserves credit for his new executive order that prohibits oil and gas companies from drilling through or beneath the parts of Lake Erie that are under Ohio’s control.
For a decade, Congress has forbidden states from permitting Great Lakes drilling, other than a half-dozen or so remaining shoreline wells in Michigan. But Washington’s shifting political winds have left that ban vulnerable.
“Drill, baby, drill” was the mantra of the 2008 Republican National Convention, when the ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin announced that no place would be off limits to drilling if they were elected. Mr. McCain was one of only five Republican senators who voted against the permanent Great Lakes ban.
Canada has allowed hundreds of wells beneath Lake Erie since 1913; dozens of them still operate. Most of the oil and natural gas extracted from that side of the lake has come up since the 1960s. Ontario’s association with Great Lakes drilling has been a sore spot with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, which sees the lack of drilling on the Ohio side of Lake Erie as a lost economic opportunity.
In 2003, then-Ohio Gov. Bob Taft issued an executive order that banned all Lake Erie drilling along Ohio’s border. It expired when he left office in early 2007.
At the same time, the Taft administration considered a public-relations campaign to sell Ohioans on the idea of extracting oil and natural gas from our side of the lake. That idea mercifully fizzled.
Lake Erie provides fresh water to millions of people from southeast Michigan to Ashtabula. It is the lifeblood of the Great Lakes region’s $7 billion fishery, the basis of Ohio’s recreation and tourism industries. The lake needs both state and federal bans on drilling.
It was disappointing when Mr. Kasich signed a recent bill that fails to give Lake Erie the protection it needs from excessive water withdrawals. The lake also needs greater protection from such threats as toxic algae, invasive species such as Asian carp, and pollution caused by farm runoff.
But the governor’s executive order that bans drilling is a vital safeguard for Lake Erie, and Ohioans owe him their thanks for making it happen.
Reprint of editorial of July 16, 2012, with permission of The Blade, Toledo, Ohio.
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