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Great Lakes Article:

Protect our water supply
Toledo Blade

GOVERNOR Taft has wisely declared his intent to sign an executive order banning oil and gas drilling in Lake Erie, but itís clear that the energy industry continues to covet whatever resources may lie beneath the lake bottom.

Maybe it is time, as state Rep. Chris Redfern of Port Clinton suggests, for the General Assembly to enshrine the executive ban more permanently by making it part of state law. In any event, Erie and the other Great Lakes must not be subjected to any activity that could pose a serious threat to the drinking water supply of some 35 million people.

The issue has come up periodically during the 30 years Ohio has maintained a moratorium against offshore drilling in Lake Erie, and each time the answer has been no. Of the eight states bordering the Great Lakes, only Michigan allows "slant" drilling under the lakebeds from onshore rigs. Canada permits offshore drilling in Lake Erie, fortunately without any reported adverse effects so far.

Ohio natural resources officials, while denying any bias in favor of drilling, say that private firms continue to show interest in the lake, interest that is renewed whenever energy prices spike. This has been the case even though the lakebed apparently holds comparatively small energy reserves.

But it is one thing to drill for new natural gas in, say, the sparsely populated state of Wyoming and quite another to prospect in the middle of the drinking water source for tens of millions of middle Americans.

Drilling technology may have reduced the chances of a catastrophic spill, but why take even small chances with a crucial natural resource?

The long-term public interest and safety will be best served by maintaining the drilling ban, not only in Lake Erie but in all of the Great Lakes.

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