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Published: Wednesday, 6/15/2011

Ohio Senate passes bill allowing oil, gas drilling in state-owned lands

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — A bill allowing drilling for oil and natural gas in parks, forests, and other state-owned lands passed the Ohio Senate Wednesday after the chamber again rejected an attempt to place Lake Erie off limits.

In separate action, the Senate voted 25-7 to forward to Gov. John Kasich a bill that would allow the carrying of concealed handguns into bars, night clubs, and alcohol-serving restaurants.

The drilling bill, however, must return to the House for approval of changes made in the upper chamber.

“There’s close to half a billion dollars — half a billion dollars — in unmet capital needs in our state parks…,’’ said Sen. Keith Faber (R., Celina). “The reality is that around almost all of the state parks where oil and gas drilling is contemplated, there is already drilling, and some of that drilling is taking the gas that is under our state parks.

“Frankly, I’m not opposed to the profit motive, but I would rather have those revenues used to help pay for the unmet capital needs for state parks,’’ he said.

The chamber voted 22-10 in favor of House Bill 133 with one Democrat joining Republicans in support. One Republican joined the remaining Democrats in opposition.

Three Republicans, however, joined all 10 Democrats in support of an amendment that would have exempted Lake Erie from the bill. That amendment failed 19-13. The majority argued that the amendment was unnecessary because Lake Erie is already protected by a federal ban.

“However, those federal regulations can be removed at any time.’’ said Rep. Mike Skindell (D., Lakewood). “... It would be an incredible ecological disaster should there be a leakage similar to what we saw in the Gulf of Mexico in Lake Erie.’’

Among northwest Ohio lawmakers, Sen. Mark Wagoner (R., Ottawa Hills) was among the three Republicans to support exempting Lake Erie. But he joined his fellow Republicans, including Sens. Cliff Hite (R., Findlay) and Karen Gillmor (R., Tiffin), in support of the drilling bill once the Lake Erie amendment failed.

Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) opposed the bill.

Later, the Senate rubber-stamped Senate Bill 17, the bill easing some restrictions on the carrying of concealed firearms and storing of guns in cars, and sent it to the governor. A short time earlier, the House had voted 56-39 in favor of the bill. In both cases, support crossed party lines.

“We do indeed have the right to defend ourselves and our families anywhere we go. Anywhere we go,’’ said Rep. Terry Johnson (R., McDermott), one of the sponsors of a House variation of the same bill.

“If that happens to be a restaurant, so be it,’’ he said. “Going to guns in bars, well guess what? There’s already guns in bars, and the criminals have them.’’

The bill retains current law allowing restaurant, bar, and other private property owners to post signs declaring themselves to be off-limits to guns.

The chamber rejected a proposed amendment from Rep. Ted Celeste (D., Columbus), that would have imposed a mandatory one-year prison sentence on any concealed-carry permit-holder caught violating the bill’s prohibition on carrying while drinking or under the influence of alcohol.

“You say you’re not going to drink, but what do you go to a bar for?’’ he asked. “It’s OK now, but when something happens in your community, it’s going to be something different.’’

Voting for the bill from northwest Ohio were Reps. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township), Robert Sprague (R., Findlay), Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont), Lynn Wachtmann (R., Napoleon), and Bruce Goodwin (R., Defiance).

Voting “no’’ were Reps. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon), Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), and Dennis Murray (D., Sandusky). Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) was absent.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com,

or 614-221-0496.



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