Ohio Legislators Weigh In On Future Of Fracking

By
Fred Kight

Dateline
Updated Sat, Jan 28, 2012 3:30 pm

Is fracking a dangerous way of getting oil and gas? Or is it the start of an economic resurgence in Ohio? Arguments are being made on both sides.

Fracking is a controversial drilling technique that environmentalists contend could poison our air and water. Governor John Kasich says his administration will act to keep that from happening.
 
"We have to be very concerned about what happens at the wellhead. The fracking that occurs 8,000 feet underground with the pipe the fluid goes through, that's not my great concern.  My greatest concern is the wellhead, my concern is also the high-pressure lines that we're going to see and we're going to have to have very tough regulations and I think you will see those come out here they'll either be part of some legislation we'll be introducing in a couple of months or many we'll even do it sooner."     
 
Kasich says it's possible to have both "economic success"  and preserve the environment. "It cannot be a choice of one or the other, and I've made it clear to the big companies, almost all of whom I've met with: you get this right. And what I worry about more than anything else, some firms that come in and want to take advantage of things," said Kasich.  "That's why we have to have the proper permitting process but we don't want to become so extreme that we drive them away because I believe it could involve tens of tens of thousands of jobs."
 
Kasich stresses the importance of handling things correctly.  He adds, the whole state can benefit.
 
"And when I see a bad article in The Economist or in The New York Times, I get it to my folks and say I want to know the answers to these questions. We've looked at Pennsylvania, we've looked at North Dakota, we've scoured the country to come up with best practices to do this the right way. Now, there will be some people who will yell, well, are they over-regulating? Well, we're going to make sure that the environment is protected. We're not going to make a choice, well come in and get it out of the ground and it's okay what you do. It's not acceptable. The leaders, they feel this way.  Senator Niehaus and Bill Batchelder we're going to do what needs to be done to make sure this industry develops," said Kasich.
 
WOUB News asked Kasich - a Republican - about fracking at an Associated Press forum in Columbus on Thursday. And the question was repeated for legislative leaders who appeared at the forum later in the day.
 
"In the last general assembly, we passed Senate Bill 165 which I was a prime sponsor of," said Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus. "Which tightened the regulations, increased fees and made sure we had the regulators in place and had specific requirements for the disposal of waste water from wells. So, we were trying to get ahead of a curve.  We knew that there was a potential development coming and we wanted to make sure that our regulations in Ohio were some of the most stringent in the country."
 
Ohio House Minority Leader Armond Budish - a Democrat - says state regulations are not sufficient protection from the harmful affects of fracking. "I do agree with President Niehaus that developing our natural resources and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive, however, I disagree that our regulations are sufficient.  We have become, in Ohio, the dumping ground for contaminated brine for not only Ohio, but for Pennsylvania and I believe other states." he said. "The fact is we do not yet have sufficient knowledge as to the potential environmental hazards. We didn't adequately prepare for the potential for earthquakes and other environmental problems. We are seeing a rush to the fracking without adequate preparation on the environmental side. They are not mutually exclusive, but unfortunately in Ohio, the leadership has not adequately prepared yet for the environmental potential problems."
 
Democratic State Senator Eric Kearney is soon to become the Minority Leader in the Senate. He says this is not an either-or situation.
 
"I want to echo some of the comments that have already been made. I mean, it is a balancing act, there was a a Quinnepiac poll from earlier this month where 72 percent of Ohioans said that they wanted a halt in all fracking and then 64 percent said they want more oil and gas exploration in Ohio because of the jobs. So, people are divided on it," said Kearney. "I think the safer path for us to take is to analyze the issue and find out more about the safety concerns. One of my colleagues, Senator Skindell, has introduced a bill on the fracking issue.  Perhaps that bill will get some hearing in the Senate. But overall, we have to do a better job of understanding the safety concerns that are involved. The outlook, or the potential, for jobs is very enticing and very attractive, particularly in this environment, but we have to do something about balancing the safety concerns along with the potential economic upside." 
 
According to some reports, industry officials believe oil and natural gas producers will spend many billions of dollars for exploration and development across Ohio.
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