drilling sparks heated argument
Leo Shane III
Mansfield News Journal Statehouse
COLUMBUS -- A bill banning oil and
gas drilling in Lake Erie sparked angry words Wednesday
between House Minority Leader Chris Redfern and Rep. Jim
The measure, identical to one introduced
by Redfern last session, mirrors an executive order being
drafted by Gov. Bob Taft that would permanently prohibit
drilling in the Lake.
Redfern, D-Catawba Island, said drilling's
potential harm to the state's tourist industry and shoreline
communities' drinking supply outweighs any potential gain
from oil and natural gas drilling
"I just don't believe we should look
to Lake Erie to quench our insatiable thirst for resources,"
Aslanides, who owns an oil and gas
company, took exception with Redfern's arguments, implying
the Democratic leader was exaggerating risks seen in Canadian
drilling operations and confusing oil drilling research
with natural gas studies.
"Some people have the perception
or fear of drilling, and we need to make sure the facts
are accurate," Aslanides said. "Let's stay with the facts
and make this a policy question, not a political one."
That drew an angry response from
Redfern, who chided Aslanides for the perceived personal
attack and said he "need not be lectured by anyone" in
the Statehouse about differences between politics and
Other Republicans at Wednesday's
hearing also expressed concern with the measure, saying
it limits potentially valuable resources for the state.
Rep. Tim Grendell, R-Chesterland,
said he supports the idea of a ban, but only if an exception
can be made if a national emergency arises.
Redfern dismissed that idea, saying
the expense and complexity of building the infrastructure
to drill makes the Lake an impractical short-term solution.
"And I don't know what kind of national
security need would risk the drinking water of millions
of Americans," he said. "A ban is the right step."
Environmental groups have pushed
for a ban -- either from the governor or legislature --
for several years, insisting that drilling and pipeline
spills could cause irreparable hard to the lake's ecosystem.
Last month the state's Department
of Natural Resources announced they would support a permanent
ban as well.
Redfern said his bill has bipartisan
support -- which he credits in part to the governor's
impending executive order -- but he still expects resistance
from some members of the House.
Aslanides said he will excuse himself
if the measure comes up for a vote, because of his ties
in the industry.