In a surprising but welcome victory for the environment, the Republican Governor of Ohio, John Kasich, signed an executive order this past Wednesday banning oil and gas companies from drilling in or under Lake Erie.
The order is another layer of protection for the huge body of water that is part of the Great Lakes system. Federal law already prohibits drilling in or under Lake Erie, but the Ohio Environmental Council notes that the executive order is important because there is no telling which party could be in control after the November elections.
According to the Columbus Dispatch ,
“Kasich signed the order in Port Clinton, where he attended the Fish Ohio Day luncheon and earlier in the day cast a line in the water with anglers. His order prohibits the Department of Natural Resources from “issuing any permit, license or lease allowing” drilling in or under Lake Erie.”
Kasich’s decision should be praised by everyone who loves the environment and seeks to protect it. His decision certainly runs counter to the Republican theory that we have unlimited amounts of oil and gas and that we should drill anywhere and everywhere to find it. It’s hard to believe that any Republican these days would care to keep this nation’s freshwater pristine and untouched by the oil and gas companies who irresponsibly ignore safety regulations and use chemicals that poison water supplies. After all, is there any Republican who isn’t bought and paid for by that industry? The order of course could be just a business decision to protect Ohio’s billion dollar sport fishing industry, which would most certainly disappear if the fish population were to perish because of pollution.
Nevertheless, a Republican Governor has done something good for the environment for once and he should get credit for that. But even as we give Kasich praise, we should be aware that Kasich has refused to sign a bill that would ban fracking across the entire state of Ohio, except for in or under Lake Erie. The problem is that fracking chemicals are poisonous to water supplies and can easily end up in rivers and streams, some of which empty into Lake Erie. So it is pointless to ban drilling in and under Lake Erie and not pass a statewide ban on fracking that could poison the lake anyway.
That’s why Kasich’s decision seems to be more about business than it is about the environment and safety of our water and food supplies. The fact is, Americans can’t live without water, and seeing as how a great portion of our food supply comes from the water, Republicans must think about the critical resources we could lose by allowing the oil and gas industry to drill wherever they please for a small amount of gas or oil still left in the ground. It’s a risk no state or country can afford to take. If Kasich truly cares about the fish and freshwater provided by Lake Erie, he should grow a spine and stand against his party and the oil industry and sign the ban on fracking. That action alone could turn Kasich into a champion for the environment and would be perhaps the one good thing he’s done for Ohio.