Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest Column: Ohio’s Natural Resources Present Economic Opportunities

Guest post from State Rep. Barbara Sears:

Ohio’s Natural Resources Present Economic Opportunities

There has been a great deal of attention directed toward the development of Ohio’s natural gas and oil through a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” A recent editorial in the Toledo Blade expressed the need for caution and government oversight before pursuing these interests because a misstep in the fracking process can harm our environment and threaten public safety.

One of the most common concerns about fracking is the potential for chemicals used during the process to leak into neighboring water sources, including drinking water. Though certainly a legitimate concern, the facts of past drilling show that the possibility for groundwater contamination is extremely uncommon. In fact, according to the Ohio Engineers Association, since the early 1950s, more than 80,000 wells of varying depths have been drilled in Ohio using this process with no confirmed incidents of groundwater contamination.

Obviously, an adequate level of supervision and oversight is necessary in order to protect the environment and the lives of Ohio citizens. But where should this oversight come from? A distant, centralized authority in Washington? Or a more localized governing body that knows the unique attributes of the state’s land and people?

Just last year, the previous Ohio General Assembly passed one of the strictest laws in the country pertaining to oil, gas and shale development. This law enacted oversight on a wide range of issues and concerns dealing with the process, including hydraulic fracturing. Therefore, I think the claims that Ohio’s laws on this topic are too lenient are either disingenuous or absent of fact.

There is no question that Ohio’s primary concern is jobs. Our state’s economy has been struggling over the past few years, which has resulted in businesses, and subsequently large numbers of citizens, leaving our state to pursue greener economic pastures. The most prominent example proving this point is the fact that Ohio will be losing two members of Congress beginning in 2013 because of slowing population growth.

Our success at attracting business and investment in the state depends on our ability—and ultimately our willingness—to act upon economic opportunities when they present themselves. The development of Ohio’s natural resources has the potential to pump billions of dollars into our local economies and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Environmental concerns regarding this process are genuine and must be considered. But the technology required to extract these resources has an extensive track record of being safe and effective. Furthermore, the techniques in hydraulic fracturing are forever being improved.

In order for Ohio to once again be competitive with other states, we must prove to industries that we are willing to invest in economic opportunities and to show our citizens that we are willing to fight to keep them in the state.

Rep. Sears may be reached by calling (614) 466-1731, e-mailing, or writing to State Rep. Barbara Sears, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215

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