After over 400,000 people were without safe drinking water for over two days in one of Ohio’s largest cities, did anyone feel any better after Governor Kasich’s statement during his obligatory visit to Toledo: “What’s more important than water? Water’s about life.”

Plain, simple, true, and grossly misleading. Because those who know the facts of what is happening in Ohio can clearly see that Governor Kasich does not care about the water. What Kasich cares about is Kasich, getting re-elected, and pleasing his corporate sponsors to fulfill his political aspirations.

One doesn’t have to look too deeply to find the truth about how little the Governor cares about Ohio’s water. Instead of slowing the onslaught of the destructive, temporary and toxic industry of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that is destroying millions of gallons a day of Ohio’s freshwater, Governor Kasich has allowed Ohio to become the dumping ground of choice for the fracking industry operating in Ohio and other states, which can pollute and radioactively poison even larger amounts of Ohio’s surface and ground water.

In a startling regressive move, Kasich allowed SB310 to pass into law to “freeze” renewable energy standards. This put Ohio on the skids for necessary measures to promote the state’s renewable energy industry, showing potential investors that Ohio is not the place to invest for the growing renewable energy market. Such industries create permanent jobs rather than the touted temporary, toxic frack jobs that have yet to substantially materialize.

By discouraging renewables and encouraging fracking, Kasich has put Ohio on the fast track to economic and environmental stagnation if not degradation. With the encouragement of the fracking frenzy and the complete dismantling of regulations to encourage frack waste to come to Ohio from other states for cheap disposal, it is evident Kasich does not care about protecting water at all. Combine this with the growth of the factory farm industry and increasing agricultural runoff that continues to proliferate throughout the state despite the fact that it’s the leading contributor to phosphorus loads, algae’s favorite food. Even though token legislation was passed earlier this year, supposedly to address this issue, it was glaringly short of regulatory authority or meaningful oversight and even ignored other major contributors to the problem, such as spreading of manure, especially on frozen ground. With extreme weather conditions predicted to increase due to global climate change, torrential downpours cause toxic run-offs from farms and storm water and sewage overflows. Deforestation and clear-cutting for farming and fracking have removed trees that cool the soil for better rain absorption and lessen flooding.

When Kasich went fishing on Lake Erie last month to showcase the lake and take credit for token agreements to deal with invasive species, he avoided the toxic algae problem that is perhaps even more detrimental to the lucrative fishing and recreational industries in the area. Add to that the potential for decrease in property values on Lake Erie, Ohio’s crown jewel of commerce, recreation and specialty agriculture. What becomes apparent is that safe water is necessary to increase property values, attract future investment and grow the state’s net worth. Instead, Governor Kasich is gambling with Ohio’s future, serving short-term corporate interests over Ohio’s long-term economic health.

After looking at just some of the facts, now let’s look at the rhetoric that downplays and deflects the truth of this defining moment for Ohio. Unlike years ago when the Cuyahoga River caught fire, Ohioans cannot expect that any meaningful regulation or significant legislation will actually be enacted to deal directly with this issue. Instead, now we have a new meme – the “algal bloom season,” priming people with some expectation that this will happen again. In fact, Toledo’s Mayor Collins said, “Let’s be realistic; we know it’s going to intensify.” Despite the fact that it costs local water rate payers and Ohio taxpayers millions of dollars in additional cost to test, treat and remove the algae from drinking water, we are being told that we may just have to accept it and adapt. This is a way to “normalize” an unacceptable situation and even leads people to expect it to happen again. This rhetoric takes the heat off the corporations and allows politicians to escape accountability. What becomes apparent is that if the water is to be protected, the people will have to do it for themselves. If we do not hold corporations and elected officials accountable by exercising our vote, then our water will continue to be exploited for private profit at our personal cost.

 

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Leatra Harper is the Managing Director at the FreshWater Accountabiity Project

 

 

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