Taft quietly signs Lake Erie drilling
By Jim Siegel
COLUMBUS -- Gov. Bob Taft in July signed an executive
order banning all gas and oil drilling in Lake Erie for
the remainder of his term -- but he didn't tell anybody
Fulfilling a promise he made months earlier, Taft signed
the order on July 14. He released no public statement
and did not contact those pushing for the ban.
Why keep the signing a secret and miss out on praises
from environmental groups? His spokesman insists there
was no intentional effort to keep it quiet.
"He announced publicly he was going to put together
and sign an executive order banning drilling in Lake Erie,"
Orest Holubec said. "And he followed through on what
he said he would do."
Bryan Clark, conservation program coordinator for the
Ohio Sierra Club, has pushed hard for a drilling ban and
just found out about the executive order this week.
Sam Speck, director of the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources, was attending an unrelated event this week
and was questioned about when Taft would sign the drilling
ban. Much to the surprise of the media in attendance,
he said Taft had already signed it.
"Not everything becomes a publicity issue,"
Holubec said. "It's something the governor said he
would do, and he did it. It doesn't mean he feels less
strongly about it."
Ohio House Minority Leader Chris Redfern, D-Cawtaba Island,
who has sponsored a bill to put the drilling ban into
state law, was surprised to hear Taft kept the signing
"That guy sneezes and he puts out a press advisory,"
he said. "I would think this is something he would
be proud of."
Regardless of how it was done, Clark was delighted Taft
followed through on his promise.
"We feel this is the kind of protection Lake Erie
needs," he said.
Although the ban will stay in effect only until Taft's
term ends on Dec. 31, 2006, Clark thinks it sets precedent
for Taft's successors.
"Future governors will find it very difficult to
explain why he or she chose not to continue this precedent
set by a moderate Republican governor," he said.
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
But Tom Stewart, executive vice president of 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.
He has said any ban on drilling is keeping Ohio residents
from access to more affordable natural gas supplies just
off shore, he said.
Michigan passed legislation last year to prohibit all
petroleum and natural gas drilling in its portion of the
Great Lakes. Pennsylvania has not formally banned drilling
in Lake Erie, but none has taken place since the 1970s.
New York prohibits exploration and development of oil
under Lakes Erie and Ontario; it allows some limited gas
drilling under Lake Erie and has considered a ban.
"Not everything becomes a publicity issue. It's
something the governor said he would do, and he did it.
It doesn't mean he feels less strongly about it."