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Great Lakes Article:

Report: Ban Lake Erie drilling
By Jim Siegel
Port Clinton News Herald

COLUMBUS -- A state committee that spent 18 months studying Ohio's current energy resources has recommended that no oil or natural gas drilling take place in Lake Erie.

The House Energy Policy Committee, a 35-member group, issued a report this week on a variety of energy topics, including oil and gas drilling.

The lack of natural resources discovered in other parts of the country should not prompt the state to drill here, the report said.

"While the members heard testimony that natural gas and oil supplies in the Gulf of Mexico are not as abundant as experts previously thought, the committee agrees that Lake Erie should be protected from oil and gas exploration," the report said.

Bryan Clark, conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter, said he was pleasantly surprised to see the committee support a ban on drilling.

"The committee decided Lake Erie is too important to allow it to be threatened by oil and gas drilling," he said.

Clark said what's important now is the next step. He wants to see Ohio pass a law to ban drilling in Lake Erie -- a major source of drinking water.

Gov. Bob Taft signed an executive order in July banning all oil and gas drilling in Lake Erie. The order will remain in effect until his term ends on Dec. 31, 2006.

To make such an order permanent would require a state law. House Minority Leader Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, has tried to pass such a law for the past few years, but thus far the bill has seen little legislative action.

The Ohio Oil and Gas Association has opposed a drilling ban, saying exploration is safe and a ban keeps residents from gaining access to more affordable natural gas supplies just off shore.

The report also said Ohio needs a more coordinated statewide policy to regulate drilling activity, noting the "myriad of local ordinances has created some confusion."

It said the state should craft more specific language outlining what activities can be regulated at the local level.

"The members believe that such a new policy could help increase the exploration and drilling of natural resources and petroleum," the report said.

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