Ohioans want a Bridge Fuel, but don’t want ODNR to drive us over a Bridge to Nowhere
Hydrofracking in Ohio has become, if not a household term, then at the least a salient issue for Ohioans. Recently, Quinnipiac University released a survey indicating that 7 out of 10 Ohioans believe that hydro-fracking (deep shale gas drilling) should be stopped until studies of its effects are completed.
The poll shows people are convinced that hydro-fracking brings economic development with support by a 64-29 margin that the economic benefits outweigh the environmental risks, and 85-11 support for the notion that it will bring jobs to the state.
The remainder of the poll portrays folks as with cognitive dissonance. The poll showed Ohioans anxious about its impact on the environment. By a margin of 72-23, Ohioans say the practice should be stopped until further study.
Ohio wants the bridge-fuel, big bucks promise of the Ohio Oil and Gas Industry spins our way, but they want ODNR to take it slow and get it right. That is exactly what OEC and scores of other organizations have been saying for over a year.
Public polls not only take the pulse of how citizens feel about issues but also to predict in what ways citizens will act. And Ohioans recently demonstrated their willingness to organize and act with Senate Bill 5, putting a ballot initiative on the table. Further, swings in public opinion have occurred throughout history in response to environmental catastrophes such as the burning of the Cuyahoga River and the detrimental effects of DDT. These swings in public opinion have lead us to some of our strongest environmental protections.
The General Assembly should take heed of this voice of the people, and learn its lesson from Senate Bill 5 – the people govern. Such a swing shows that the people are worried.
And Ohioans have good reason to worry. High volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing, currently being used to tap into the deep shale formations all over the United States, is very different from conventional drilling. This technique involves more water in the fracturing process, more chemical additives to the fracturing fluid, more air emissions with a higher density of wells and large numbers of wells, and more toxic waste and waste fluids, along with community impacts such as damage to roads with more truck traffic. The take home message is that deep shale gas drilling will very clearly be industrial-scale development, with industrial scale pollution and industrial scale accidents.
In the state of New York, citizens have had more time to get educated on hydro-fracking (deep shale gas drilling). This is due, in part, to the state’s SEPA, or mini (National) Environmental Policy Act, which requires an environmental impact statement be completed before the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation issues permits for drilling. But in Ohio this is not the case. Our very own Department of Natural Resources has forged ahead with permitting 113 deep shale gas wells (with 34 of these wells already drilled) before the regulations that guide industry and protect public health and the environment are in place. Ohio legislators take note: by a margin of 72 to 23 Ohioans want fracking stopped until further study. Suffice it to say: public opinion has swung.
This poll shows that the people of Ohio are moving toward the NY model – full environmental review BEFORE there is a problem. The natural gas has been underground for millions of years. A few months to protect 11 million Ohioans is worth the deferred compensation.
* In 2010, respected public opinion polling analyst Nate Silver ranked the Quinnipiac University poll as most accurate among major polls conducting surveys in two states or more