CG Column: Ohio Gov. Kasich is bad news for state’s environment
By CG Commentary Editor Lane Robbins
Although it may appear Ohio’s new governor, John Kasich, has not done much regarding the environment, he’s done enough to warrant concern about Ohio’s ecological future. His plans include gas drilling and possible cuts to regulatory agencies.
Kasich plans to allow drilling for natural gas in the shale formations of Southeast Ohio. This process, known as “fracking,” poses pollution risks for water and land. Although Kasich does not plan on using state funds to drill, the process is bad enough.
College Green Magazine recently reported on the issue. Fracking, officially known as hydraulic fracturing, releases natural gas deposits in shale, but also produces millions of gallons of wastewater containing suspended solids, soluble salts, and minerals such as barium and sulfur. There are also potentially small amounts of radium, a radioactive element.
Treatment of the wastewater produces volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, according to “Gasland,” a documentary about fracking released last year.
Yes, fracking could mean money and jobs for Ohio, but at what cost to public health and the environment?
Kasich has also eliminated plans for a $400 million state-wide passenger rail project that would have connected Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Cleveland. The project was known as the “3 Cs” rail because of the cities it would have connected. The federal government, which provided the money for the project, has taken it back because of Kasich’s refusal.
In an Aug. 26 article on Recordpub.com, Kasich said “We don’t have the money to operate it, we don’t have the money long-term to fund it … I’m still trying to find somebody in Ohio that wants to get on that train. No, no, we have to shut it down before it gets too far.”
It’s about priorities, and Kasich apparently would rather everyone drive a car than take a train. Former Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who lost to Kasich in November, would have carried on with the project. In fact, he actively campaigned in favor of it and was quoted in the Columbus Dispatch asking Kasich not to let the project die.
Ohio has the fourth highest greenhouse gas emissions of any state in the U.S., and the transportation sector produces about one-third of that pollution. Despite that, Ohio spends less than 1 percent of its transportation dollars on public transit, according to data from the Sierra Club.
Kasich was looking at the “3 Cs” rail line from a purely “economic” standpoint, said constituent aid Michael Duchesne. The environment was not considered.
Budget cuts and environmental deregulation is another issue. Kasich has promised to cut taxes and the size of state government, and environmental organizations are concerned about budget cuts to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Kasich’s budget plans are “not on the radar,” according to Jen Miller, conservation manager at the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club. The governor has yet to announce an environmental budget.
“Right now everybody is doing a lot of hand-wringing,” said Catherine Turcer, legislative director of the Money in Politics Project at the Ohio Citizen Action, an environmental advocacy group.
The ODNR was already hit with major budget cuts in 2007 (courtesy of Strickland). Most environmental regulatory functions in Ohio are split between the Ohio EPA and the ODNR so that no organization has clear environmental authority. The two organizations split the management of brownfield cleanup, water pollution issues, litter and recycling, wetlands management and diesel emission reduction programs just to name a few.
The Ohio EPA has not been affected by budget cuts so far, but there is a chance that it will be. If its projects are not properly funded, they cannot be properly regulated. That lack of oversight would likely lead to environmental degradation.
Things are not looking good for the environment in Ohio. We are looking at possible shale destruction and water pollution in eastern Ohio, we are losing our statewide passenger rail line, and the Ohio EPA and ODNR are fretting budget cuts.
It’s all thanks to our new governor.
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