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Published: Thursday, 4/21/2011

Environmental group speaks out against state park drilling


One of Ohio’s largest environmental groups is using the one-year anniversary of BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster to demand a show of hands from legislators who plan to vote for the Kasich administration’s controversial plan to open Ohio state parks to oil drilling.

Saying the public has a right to know if their elected officials will “protect state parks or plunder them,” the the Ohio Environmental Council’s chief attorney told reporters Thursday morning at Maumee Bay State Park why he believes it’s a foolhardy plan.

“People come to places like this to relax, not be in an industrial park,” Trent Dougherty, the council’s legal affairs director, said near the park’s Lake Erie beach. “Do you want to risk places like this that are gateways to Lake Erie?”

Although the environmental council has a grasp on voting records, it does not know how Ohio General Assembly members plan to vote on this particular issue, Mr. Dougherty said.

Bills were submitted just before the assembly’s spring recess, which ends in early May.

State Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Twp.) is a co-sponsor of the proposed House legislation, Mr. Dougherty said.

The Maumee Bay State Park news conference was one of eight hosted across the state Thursday by the Ohio Environmental Council, the Sierra Club, and the National Wildlife Federation.

The groups said they want the parks off limits from hydraulic fracturing, a process known as “fracking,” which involves blasting chemical-laced water into the ground to get to gas deposits.

Kasich wore hiking shoes, a bomber jacket and jeans to an unrelated news conference Thursday. He said he was headed to visit a possible fracking site in northern Ohio.

Proposed legislation would open state forests, parks and wildlife areas to drilling, reaping an estimated $9 million in lease revenue for the state.

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