Our guest blogger is Kiley Kroh, Associate Director for Ocean Communications at the Center for American Progress.
A gas derrick on the Canadian side of Lake Erie
The next target for the GOP’s “drill everywhere now” craze could very well be the Great Lakes. Earlier this month, both the U.S. House and Senate took up sweeping measures that would disregard lessons learned in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and open up enormous areas of the country to offshore drilling. Following suit, the Ohio state legislature is voting this week on a bill that would make state-owned lands available to the highest-bidding oil and gas companies — an area that includes Lake Erie.
In its original form, House Bill 133 included a provision stating the Ohio Department of Natural Resources may issue permits and leases for removal of stone, sand, and other minerals “other than oil or gas” from the lake bed. That key exemption was clandestinely removed last week.
As several studies have concluded, the risks of oil and gas exploration in Lake Erie far outweigh the benefits – but that hasn’t stopped the oil companies from circling for several years. There’s currently a federal ban in place that prohibits offshore drilling in the Great Lakes, but Congressional Republicans are hell-bent on opening up anything they can to be drilled. State Rep. Dennis Murray (D-Sandusky) sees the “oil above all” agenda at work in Ohio:
We still have the federal law for the time being that forbids drilling on or under Lake Erie, but that could be removed at some point … I suspect it is a more ideological statement of drill here, drill now, drill everywhere.
Murray said he will seek to reinsert the language protecting Lake Erie when the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee takes up amendments today. he bill could reach a full House vote as early as Wednesday.
As the Toledo Blade reported, State Rep. David Hall (R-Killbuck), chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, “said he’s willing to entertain a discussion about putting the lake language back into the bill on Tuesday, but he doesn’t believe that it’s necessary given the federal ban.”
The federal government has already issued more than 70 new deepwater drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico since the moratorium was lifted last October. The U.S. House of Representatives and 42 Senate Republicans voted to open vast swaths of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to drilling, without acting on a single piece of legislation to shore up safety requirements after the worst oil disaster in U.S. history. We have to think it’s only a matter of time before the GOP catches wind that there might be oil beneath the Great Lakes, too, and clearly nothing is off limits for the Grand Oil Party.