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Great Lakes Article:

Effort to protect Lake Erie rates public review
Ohio News-Messenger


Rep. Chris Redfern's persistence in trying to protect Lake Erie should be appreciated by area residents whose quality of life is greatly affected by the quality of the lake.

And other area lawmakers, including Rep. Jeff Wagner, R-Sycamore, should work to see that Redfern's proposals get a fair hearing.

The Catawba Island Democrat tried again to get a legislative ban on Lake Erie drilling. His amendment to a Republican-sponsored bill on drilling regulations was tabled.

Redfern introduced a bill in February to ban Lake Erie drilling. Thus far, it has received one committee hearing and shows no signs of moving.

Ban supporters are concerned that drilling could pollute the lake and disrupt the scenic conditions that contribute $2.5 billion a year in travel and tourism revenue to Ohio's economy.

But the Ohio Oil and Gas Association has argued that natural gas exploration is safe, and Lake Erie has had no environmental disasters from previous drilling.

Redfern's proposed ban deserves a fair and very public hearing, and Wagner says he voted against the amendment because he believes that the idea should go through hearings and a vote in committee before it is brought to the full house.

There's nothing wrong with that argument, except that the plan doesn't seem headed for any hearing anytime soon.

Redfern has been pushing for years to ban drilling under the lake. Gov. Bob Taft last year signed an executive order outlawing such drilling.

While Redfern said he appreciated the governor's effort, the order only lasts until Taft leaves office in 2006. That's why he's pushing to get it into law.

A healthy Lake Erie is important to the quality of life and economy of Wagner's district, which reaches to Sandusky Bay, and countless individuals, businesses and organizations with direct ties to or interest in the lake.

We believe strongly that the lake needs to be protected but serious formal -- and very public -- hearings might prove that some forms of drilling would be safe. We don't know for sure. But we do know that we don't want to depend on the Oil and Gas Association to tell us that everything's OK.

Saying he knows it's the right thing to do, Redfern promises to continue offering these proposals.

Wagner and others all across northern Ohio should be as enthusiastic about protecting the lake and making sure that such a plan gets a fair hearing before being approved or rejected.

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