Monday, May 16, 2011

General Assembly, ODNR getting cold dose of drilling reality

With jobs and the opportunity to make money in their gun sights, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio General Assembly are getting a cold shower as it relates to drilling on state-owned recreational lands.

Among those partials are state forests, state parks and wildlife areas.

The heavy splash of reality is that in many cases - at least as it relates to state park lands - either the state does not own either the land or else does not own the mineral rights.

And when it comes to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, ordering drilling on wildlife areas with the money going into some pot fails the test of the federal government.
That is because a tax on firearms and fishing tackle and distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dictates that such money used now, before and ever-after be used solely for wildlife restoration, hunting- or fishing-related activities.

Anything more, says a 75-year-old federal law, constitutes a “diversion” of funds.

Fail this litmus test and a stet loses its federal-aid-in-restoration grant.

In fact, a failure to observe the federal government’s plain-speaking law language would even require reimbursing Washington for what’s already been spent.

Which isn’t sitting very pretty with the Kasich Administration that would like little more than to begin drilling, pocketing the revenue and saying “oops” when an environmental accident occurs.

“We have to protect for both enjoyment as well as (provide for) the wise use of our natural resources,” said David Mustine, the director for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Mustine addressed the topic last Saturday to the state’s outdoors writers who met at Mohican State Park for their annual conference.

Mustine acknowledged that in more than a few cases Ohio cannot grant the authority to drill, either conventionally or with the highly charged environmentally challenged use of hydro-fracturing, call “fracking.”

The trick is to drill and recover oil and natural gas with the least amount of friction between competing users and also to ensure that recreational advocates are not eye-balling an oil rig and at every turn of the hiking trail or camp site.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility,” he said.

But Mustine’s eyes are still on the money-making potential of drilling on state recreational lands. He said it could create “tens of thousands of job” and see an investment of $1 billion by fossil-fuel recovery companies.
fter all, Mustine says, the “economics have changed dramatically.”

Thus, Mustine noted also that balancing it all “is not an easy task.”

“My pledge is for all interested parties to have a voice,” Mustine said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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