All eyes were on Ohio for the Super Tuesday last week, as voters made their way to the polls to cast ballots for the presidential primaries. However, one issue that did not make headlines, but should have, was the overwhelming support for oil and natural gas development in Ohio. From the local level all the way up the ticket you can see obvious examples of key races where voters rejected anti-fracking rhetoric, instead voting in favor of pro-energy policies.
The most glaring examples of this reality played out in two key Democrat primaries, one in northeast Ohio, and another in southeast Ohio, where candidates attempted to run “ban-fracking” campaigns. Each ban-fracking candidate lost by double digits.
Northeast Ohio Continues to Support Oil and Natural Gas
After voters rejected the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s (CELDF) fifth attempt at a ban-fracking measure last fall, it was surprising that the vocal minority would attempt to stand up another referendum on drilling. But that didn’t deter them from doing just that in the 32nd Ohio Senate District, which represents Trumbull and Ashtabula counties and part of Geauga County.
The 32nd senate district is an open seat this year due to term limits and State Representative and Ranking Member on the Ohio House Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) ran for this seat this year. O’Brien ended up defeating Kristen Rock, who ran an anti-fracking campaign by a whopping 24 points.
Ms. Rock called Ohio’s regulations on the oil and natural gas industry “weak” and repeatedly attacked Rep. O’Brien for his support of natural gas. Most noteworthy, Rock targeted O’Brien’s support for natural gas, including O’Brien’s support of converting vehicles to natural gas. As he recently said,
“With the discovery of major shale plays in North America combined with advancements in drilling to harvest these vast stores of natural gas and oil, Ohio and our nation are experiencing a major energy revolution. Considering these shale plays have enough reserves to provide our nation’s needs for 100 years with cheap and reliable supplies, governments and the private sector must rethink their policies to capitalize on this energy boom.” (emphasis added)
Capitalizing on “this energy boom” includes the critical infrastructure projects coming to Ohio, some of which are squarely located in State Representative O’Brien’s district, such as an $800 million dollar natural gas plant, that is slated to create up to 700 local jobs. Don Crane, president of the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council, said,
“This is touted as the best labor agreement that anyone has ever seen on either side of the table in the oil and gas industry. It will be a model going forward that gets used often.”
Southeast Ohio Continues to Support Oil and Natural Gas
Another Super Tuesday noteworthy race is Ohio’s 94th State Representative District, also an open seat that had Sarah H. Grace facing off against anti-fracking Eddie Smith in the Democratic primary. The 94th district includes all of Athens and Meigs Counties, and parts of Vinton and Washington Counties. This race was particularly interesting given the extreme anti-fracking campaigning efforts of Eddie Smith, who said,
“I would sponsor co-sponsor, parade about, do everything possible to ban fracking in the 94th district and Ohio. Fracking offers very very little benefit to our communities…the job growth was largely a myth…I don’t see fracking playing any part in a progressive future here.”
No benefit to southeast Ohio? That’s probably news to the neighboring Appalachian County of Monroe, where sales tax revenues jumped 340 percent, thanks to shale. Mr. Smith failed to achieve his party’s nomination for the 94th Ohio house district, losing by 19 percent.
The bottom line is this, when it comes to domestically produced oil and natural gas, political and geographic differences are being set aside. In Ohio, that’s especially important given the fact that the state is commonly known as the “Nation’s Industrial Capital,” dating to its roots in the Rust Belt. Today, the “Rust Belt” is represented by Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan (OH-13), who explained how the oil and natural gas industry is starting to bring the region back:
“Growing up and watching the factories close and watching people lose their jobs, and watching it ripple throughout the community… the whole thing that we have seen in Northeast Ohio for the last 20-30 years, we are still trying to recover from some of that…so when we all started to learn about the shale play, which was not necessarily in our lexicon a few years back, and started to really understand what was happening with Utica and Marcellus Shale…I was so excited about what the possibilities were, because we haven’t seen this in so long… We got a break, we got an opportunity. We have a competitive advantage. We should be aggressively pursuing global manufacturing to come here. We’ve got the location, we’ve got the workforce, and we got our friends in the building trades who are ready-set-go. We have the culture of manufacturing, we got the location, two-thirds of North America is within 500 miles of this area, and we have the Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 suppliers all the way down the lines. We have the research and development. We have got the job training… what direction do you want to go? Things are happening around here. “ (emphasis added)
Bipartisan elected officials at all levels of government have agreed that growing the shale industry is vital and necessary for economic development, national security, and becoming energy independent. Ohio’s Super Tuesday election makes it abundantly clear, yet again, that the voters in the Buckeye State overwhelmingly support natural gas development and continue to reject anti-fracking campaigns.
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