LAKE ERIE Groups seek ban on oil drilling
Among the bill's co-sponsors are three area legislators.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- Environmental groups are sounding the alarm over any potential oil and natural gas drilling on Lake Erie and are pushing for a permanent ban on the activity in Ohio.
"Ohio needs permanent protection for Lake Erie," Bryan M. Clark, legislative advocate for the Ohio Public Interest Research Group. "Permanent protection from oil and gas drilling can only come from a permanent ban."Environmentalists are also urging the federal government to permanently protect all of the Great Lakes from oil and gas drilling in or under the lakes.
Report: Ohio PIRG and other environmental groups presented a report Thursday on the effects of drilling on the Canadian side of Lake Erie that showed:
Between 1997 and 2001, there were 51 natural gas spills directly associated with gas drilling in Canada's portion of Lake Erie.
Between 1990 and 1995, there were 83 petroleum spills from all sectors on the Canadian side of Lake Erie.
Only 45 percent of the spill contaminants were cleaned up, on average.
Direct discharges of drilling waste into Lake Erie have subjected aquatic organisms to health risks, ranging from death to developmental problems.
The data came from the Canadian government, environmentalists said.
The report, entitled "Dirty Drilling: The Threat of Oil and Gas Drilling in Lake Erie," shows the need for a permanent ban on oil and natural gas drilling in Lake Erie, environmentalists say.
"Canada's drilling experience is a warning for Ohio, not a model," Clark said.
Bill supported: Clark and other environmental advocates are urging the Legislature to pass a bill that would prohibit the director of the Department of Natural Resources from issuing any permit or making any lease to take or remove oil or natural gas from under Lake Erie.
According to a legislative analysis of the bill, sponsored by state Sen. Dan Brady, a Cleveland Democrat, current law authorizes the director of Natural Resources, with the approval of the Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the attorney general and the governor and subject to certain requirements, to issue permits to remove sand, gravel, stone and other minerals from under Lake Erie.
The bill would create an exception to this, the bill analysis said.
Among the bill's co-sponsors are state Sen. Gregory L. DiDonato of Dennison, D-30th; state Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd; and state Sen. Timothy J. Ryan of Warren, D-32nd.
Progress: Marc Conte, legislative coordinator for the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the state has made progress on cleaning up the waters of Lake Erie. Any introduction of oil or natural gas drilling would set the health of Lake Erie back years, Conte said.
"We've made true progress, even there's more to do," Conte said.
"This is simply a dirty business," said Conte of oil and gas drilling.
The bill that the enviromentalists are pushing is pending in the Senate Energy and Environment Committee. A spokeswoman for state Sen. Robert Spada, a Parma Heights Republican and the chairman of the committee, said the senator was still gauging support for the bill.
Republican Gov. Bob Taft is opposed to oil and gas drilling in Lake Erie, said Joe Andrews, a Taft spokesman. Taft is president of the Great Lakes Governors Association.