Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Ohio gov. wants to open parks to oil, gas drilling

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) – Ohio has moved closer to joining neighboring
states in the debate over natural gas drilling, a shift that could
bring jobs and more money along with worries over the impact on
drinking water and the environment.

Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan released this week includes a
proposal to open up state parks to drilling for natural gas and
oil, along with expanding timber sales.

Much of eastern Ohio sits on top of a lucrative shale deposit
that also stretches beneath most of West Virginia and Pennsylvania,
but Ohio has yet to cash-in on the natural gas reserve like the
other states.

It’s not known yet how much of Ohio’s park land would be
suitable for drilling or how much money leasing the land would
bring, said David Mustine, head of the state’s Department of
Natural Resources.

A state committee that looked at the idea two years ago put
Ohio’s estimated take as high as $5 million a year.

The state will spend the next three to six months determining
where natural gas exploration might take place, he said Wednesday,
ruling out any drilling in Ohio’s nature preserves, where there are
rare and endangered species.

To tap into the underground rock formation, drillers inject
millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals into each
well to break apart the shale and release trapped gas. Opponents
say the method called fracking could poison water supplies and harm
the parks.

“Opening our parks to drilling and logging is like robbing
Peter to pay Paul,” Jen Miller of the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter
said. “It will likely reduce visitors and result in less money
spent at convenience stores, sporting goods stores, campgrounds and
restaurants. It just doesn’t make economic sense.”

The natural gas industry contends the method has been used
safely for decades.

Among large gas-producing states, Pennsylvania is the only one
that allows large amounts of wastewater produced by gas drilling to
be discharged into rivers. Other states don’t allow the practice
because of environmental concerns, and most require the water to be
injected into rock formations far underground.

Kasich made it clear even before taking office in January that
opening Ohio up to drilling would be a priority. He thinks drilling
would create jobs and attract businesses looking for energy
sources.

Money from leasing the state land will go toward maintaining and
improving the state’s parks, which have a backlog of repairs
totaling $500 million, Mustine said. “It’s one of the reasons why
we’re so positive about exploring park lands,” he said.

There are no plans, though, to implement a fee for visiting
Ohio’s state parks or increase the cost of hunting and fishing
licenses over the next two years to help with the budget, Mustine
said.

Not all of the state’s land will be cleared for drilling. That’s
because it doesn’t own mineral rights for much of its land, said
Scott Zody, an assistant director with the natural resources
department.

Ohio receives federal land and water conservation grants for
much of the land in state parks and would need to permission from
the federal government to allow drilling.

“This is going to be a very deliberate process,” Zody
said.

 

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