COLUMBUS - Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich said that, if he wins Tuesday's election, he will sign an executive order banning drilling for oil or natural gas under Lake Erie.
"Both onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling are banned in the Great Lakes by federal law and have been for years,'' said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols. "John supports the ban, will support the ban as governor, and will issue an executive order in support of the ban as well."
When asked if Mr. Kasich would stick by an Ohio drilling ban even if federal policy should change, Mr. Nichols said, "John supports the ban, and that position isn't going to change."
In 2003, then Republican Gov. Bob Taft signed an executive order that put Ohio territory within Lake Erie off limits to drilling in the event that the federal government should lift its current ban. That order expired with his administration in early 2007.
With polls suggesting a change may be in the offing in control of the U.S. House in this election and with Republicans already looking to make Ohio the 2012 "firewall'' against Mr. Obama's re-election, it remains unclear whether the federal ban would remain in place in the long term.
Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, whom Mr. Kasich hopes to defeat on Tuesday, proposed placing the Ohio drilling ban in state law in his first budget in 2007, but the language was removed by a then Republican-controlled General Assembly. His campaign said the governor would sign a new executive order if Congress should lift the federal ban.
"Ohio needs a governor with the long-term vision to develop growing industries, like renewable energy, but also someone who will protect our natural treasures like Lake Erie,'' Mr. Strickland said.
"The more we learn about where Congressman Kasich stands on the issues that matter to Ohio, the more it's clear that he would take our state backward," he said.
In a recent debate in Columbus, the two major party candidates for U.S. Senate, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Lee Fisher, both voiced support for maintaining the current federal ban on drilling to protect Lake Erie.
The Blade first asked Mr. Kasich about his position on Lake Erie drilling on Saturday, but the candidate said he hadn't thought about it. By Monday afternoon, he indicated his support for the ban.
Mr. Kasich, however, had been critical of a plan to build the nation's largest fresh-water wind farm on the Cleveland side of the lake, voicing concern for its impact on the sports fishing industry. Mr. Strickland again voiced support for the wind farm on the campaign trail Tuesday and has criticized Mr. Kasich for his opposition of it.
During last year's budget stand-off, a Republican-backed bill in Ohio would have authorized drilling for oil in stateparks and forests. The language did not apply to Lake Erie, but it could have applied to state park land on lake islands in Ohio. The bill has not passed.
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