Cast Your Vote for Clean Water and Clean, Affordable Energy
by Eric Britton

The last few years have been rough on Ohio’s environment.  If you’re like us, you are shocked and even furious about the constant attacks on clean air, clean water, and public health in Ohio.  Our state government should be protecting Ohio citizens. We need clean water, should be moving towards a clean energy economy, and should be preserving our public lands for future generations.  Instead, Governor Kasich’s administration and the Ohio General Assembly clearly have a different idea – that Ohio should be “open for business” for industry at the expense of everyday Ohioans.

Here are just a few examples of why we need to make some changes at the Ohio Statehouse:

  • Attacks on Clean, Affordable Energy. Until this year, Ohio was moving forward with solid energy policies.  We had enacted strong renewable energy and energy efficiency portfolio standards for Ohio’s monopoly electric utilities, and done so with near unanimous bipartisan support. The Public Utility Commission of Ohio was using these standards to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and bill-payer protections, which resulted in lower bills, job creation, and a cleaner environment.

Just a few months back, however, Ohio took a major step backwards.   Governor Kasich claims to embrace an “all-of-the-above” energy policy.  However, that “all” seems to consist mainly of coal, natural gas and nuclear power not renewable energy and energy efficiency. Ohio’s General Assembly, with Governor Kasich’s signature, gutted the consumer and environmental protections provided in the renewable energy end energy efficiency portfolio standards. States like Kansas have defeated such rollbacks, proving that Ohio is ground zero for attacks on clean energy progress, and that our leaders are clearly out of touch.

The Ohio legislature then took steps to stop development of commercial wind power.  Language was slipped into the Mid-biennium Budget Review that created harsh new setback requirements for commercial wind turbines that will severely limit where these can be built.  An existing wind project in Ohio that has 50 – 70 turbines would now only be able to site a mere 3 – 5 under the new law, and the Ohio Farm Bureau estimates that these setbacks will prevent as much as 90% of Ohio’s s farmland from being to site wind turbines. Ohio, which has more people employed in wind manufacturing that in the coal industry, has essentially closed its doors to billions of dollars of out of state investments, which would have put more people to work, provided revenue to farmers, helped fund schools and roads, and lowered our energy bills.

  • Who Needs Drinkable Water Anyway? You don’t need to be a scientist to know that Ohio has a problem with clean water – look no further than Lake Erie or Grand Lake St Mary. Ohio Senate Bill 150 should have granted state agencies new regulatory powers to require reductions in the amount of manure and fertilizer runoff from farms into streams and ditches, to help stunt the spread of toxic algae in Lake Erie and other inland lakes and reservoirs. Unfortunately, the legislation that passed the General Assembly and was signed by Governor Kasich calls for voluntary (not mandatory) compliance plans by farmers, and completely exempts farm applications of manure from regulation. By August, the toxic algae crisis in Western Lake Erie led to a drinking water ban for more than 400,000 Ohioans in Toledo. This problem will continue until we elect officials who care about clean water enough to have the political courage to develop common-sense limits on how much animal waste and fertilizer flows into our streams and lakes from farm run-off.
  • Unchecked Power & Political Influence of Drillers Under Governor Kasich, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has demonstrated again and again that it sees its mission as promoting more drilling for natural gas in Ohio. Early in 2014, we learned that the ODNR had planned to use public funds for a massive public relations campaign to promote drilling in state parks.  As part of this plan, ODNR even created an enemies list of environmental organizations and state legislators who would resist this publicity campaign – with a goal of discrediting proponents of public lands protections in the media.

Fracking requires large volumes of water and toxic chemical compounds that are disposed of by injecting them underground. This practice has been linked to earthquakes and groundwater contamination, and Ohio’s poor regulation of these activities is currently under investigation by the federal government. Sadly, Ohio takes the fracking wastewater that other states deem unsafe for disposal in their own lands; roughly half the fracking wastewater that goes into Ohio’s injection wells comes from out of state.   Pennsylvania alone sends millions of gallons of its wastewater to Ohio, because it has looser regulations. Without stronger watchdogs at the Statehouse, Ohio citizens are at risk for more events like the earthquakes in the Youngstown area or the Monroe County fire along the Ohio River.

Ohio’s state government can and must do much better.  All Ohioans, especially our children, deserve clean air, clean water, and beautiful places to recreate. If we want to see a better future, we need to start by electing public officials and legislators who have a real interest in protecting Ohio citizens and Ohio’s environment, not just catering to the public utilities, natural gas drillers and other special interests.

When you cast your ballot, consider these examples. Make sure you elect champions of everyday Ohioans, rather than those who merely serve to make polluters and corporations happy.

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Eric Britton is Chair of the Political Committee for Sierra Club Ohio Chapter

 

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