There's no way to tell how much fuel is on state land, they argue.
By MICHELE C. HLADIK
COLUMBUS -- Ohio should not allow drilling of oil and gas on state lands, several environmental and public interest groups told the Ohio House of Representatives Public Utilities and Energy Committee.
"We are in a real challenging time here," said Jack Shaner, public affairs director of the Ohio Environmental Council. "It's probably here for the long haul."
The committee is looking into the issue of allowing natural gas and oil drilling on state lands as a way of combating expected high costs of both gasoline and home heating bills.
The Ohio Environmental Council, The Ohio Public Interest Research Group, the Buckeye Forest Council and the Medina Summit Land Conservancy urged lawmakers Wednesday to look at other ways to make Ohio more energy efficient and to leave Ohio's wildlife alone.
"The big bang for the buck is in efficiency," Shaner said. He added lawmakers and Ohioans could find other ways to still be comfortable without paying the high prices.
"There are opportunities for using energy more efficiently," said Amy Gomberg, environmental associate with Ohio PIRG.
Calling for alternatives
Chris Crews, campaign coordinator for the Buckeye Forest Council, said he believes Ohio consumers need to be more energy efficient. He also called for energy management plans, community and industrial efficiency plans and road maps for nonpolluting technologies.
"We're in the driver's seat, not the industry," he said.
At the minimum, the groups urged lawmakers to investigate the issue further before making any decisions.
Chris Bunch, executive director of the Medina Summit Land Conservancy, encouraged lawmakers to be leaders and look at every angle before making a decision.
He said part of the problem with skyrocketing prices stems from ia complete voidi of good policy on the matter.
"I urge you to look at this very, very closely before you make any decision," he said.
He added there are serious challenges to overcome and no decision needed to be made right away.
No surefire method
He said his group doesn't believe it is possible to produce enough natural gas or oil to help this winter because there aren't enough resources.
Shaner said there also is no good estimate on how much natural gas or oil is found under state-owned or operated lands.
Drilling opponents maintain it would cost Ohio more in tourism and wildlife than it would benefit the state and its residents.
Shaner said Salt Fork State Park in Guernsey County is used by drilling proponents as an example of the large windfall the state could find because it is expected to contain large amounts of oil and gas reserves.
Shaner said the state park is more of an exception than the rule, however.
He said unlike other state parks, Salt Fork is sitting in an area with known oil and gas reserves. It is one of the largest state parks and is in an area with transmission pipelines.
Drilling opponents said there is no way to tell how much oil and gas reserves can be found on state land, and drilling for them could lead to a loss of environmental, entertainment and economical resources for Ohio.