By B.N. Frank
Fracking has been and continues to be associated with causing significant biological and environmental harm in the U.S. (see 1, 2, 3). Despite growing American opposition to it as well as legal disputes, this controversial practice isn’t going away at least in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Ohio legislature passes bill opening all state land to fracking, labeling natural gas ‘green energy’
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Legislation to spur fracking in state parks and on other state-owned land, define natural gas as a “green energy,” and prohibit local pesticide bans is on its way to Gov. Mike DeWine after clearing a final legislative vote on Tuesday.
The Ohio House voted 59-33 to pass House Bill 507, which was initially introduced as a bill to reduce the number of poultry chicks that can be sold in lots before the Ohio Senate added the natural gas, drilling and pesticide provisions.
The legislation, brought by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, seeks to push the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission to stop dragging its feet on approving rules for oil and gas drilling on state lands by requiring all state agencies to open up land they control to drilling until the commission puts such rules in place.
In 2011, state lawmakers opened state parks to oil and natural gas drilling and set up the commission to handle drilling applications. However, the commission has been slow to approve projects and missed a deadline last January to put leasing rules in place.
Ohio’s production of natural gas has soared in recent years thanks to fracking activity in Eastern Ohio.
It’s not yet clear exactly what the full effect will be of designating natural gas – a fossil fuel that is mostly methane, a powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas – as a “green energy,” a term that’s typically used for renewable power sources such as sun, wind and water.
State Sen. Mark Romanchuk, a Richland County Republican who successfully added the energy-related provisions to the bill, told the Energy News Network that he hoped the designation would help Ohio companies meet “ESG” investing practices. ESG standards are used by investors to identify companies that have socially conscious environmental, social and governance policies.
“I don’t know if it will work,” Romanchuk told the outlet.
The bill specifically states that natural gas projects aren’t eligible for renewable energy credits.
Stephanie O’Grady, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said the department didn’t request the amendment regarding drilling at state parks but has no position on its merits.
She said in the last four years, ODNR hasn’t signed any new leases for oil and gas drilling on its lands, though other state agencies may have done so. She did not offer data for previous years.
However, she noted that some of the oil and gas beneath state lands could be reached via surface interruptions at an adjacent property – meaning the ore could be gathered, in theory, without surface interruptions in state parks.
Pete Bucher, interim president for the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, said in a statement that the Senate amendments to the bill are “nothing but political cronyism added at the last minute” by the oil and gas industry.
“These fossil fuel interest groups know major employers, public institutions and the public support moving to clean energy and protecting our public lands, so they hid from a public debate and snuck these amendments in,” Bucher said.
Another Senate-added amendment to HB507 would prevent local governments in Ohio from banning the sale or use of state-registered pesticides on private property.
Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp, a Lima Republican, told reporters that the measure was a “property-rights issue.”
DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney, when asked Tuesday if the governor intends to sign HB507, said the governor’s office is reviewing the legislation.
Jeremy Pelzer covers politics and state government for Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer. Read more of his work here.
Additionally, a growing number Americans (including in Ohio) are trying to stop radioactive fracking waste from being used to de-ice roads and/or being dumped in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere.
Activist Post reports regularly about energy and toxins. For more information, visit our archives.
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