Canton Repository

3-14-01

Voinovich renews fight against Lake Erie drilling 

By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent 

WASHINGTON — Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, has reacted strongly against the possibility of opening Lake Erie to drilling for natural gas, a key fuel used to heat homes.

“The potential risks are great and the benefits minimal,” he said Tuesday as he released a letter he sent to Gov. Bob Taft opposing any drilling in the lake.

Voinovich wrote to the Ohio governor after reading newspaper reports indicating “there is consideration being given to exploratory drilling for natural gas” in the lake. Taft is finishing up a trade mission in South America and was unavailable to discuss the issue.

The state House Public Utilities Committee plans to discuss a bill today introduced by state Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, which would create a panel to look for solutions to high heating bills.

“I have fought the battle to save Lake Erie since the late 1960s, and we are winning,” said Voinovich, who said he led a multistate effort to ban drilling in the lake when he was a state representative. “The dying lake of that era is now Ohio’s greatest natural resource.” In addition to being a major source of drinking water, Voinovich said the lake is a “recreational gem that has helped encourage growth and brought economic benefits. Drilling could undo everything and wind up wasting the billions of dollars that have been spent to clean up the lake.”

Voinovich said in the letter to Taft he is “dismayed” that drilling would even be discussed.

Drilling for oil or gas has never occurred on the American side of Lake Erie, according to Tom Tugend, deputy chief of the division of mineral resources management in the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

The agency does not even have a set of rules that would be needed to issue permits for offshore drilling, he said. But about 550 gas wells are operating on the Canadian side, out of some 2000 wells drilled on
that side since the 1950s, Tugend said.