Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican in his first term in office, delivered the annual State of the State address yesterday. He chose to do it from the auditorium of a high-performing elementary school in Steubenville. During the 90-minute speech he was briefly interrupted by several hecklers until state troopers removed them from the room. Who were the bad actors? You guessed it—anti-drillers.
Highway Patrol Lt. Anne Ralston said troopers helped escort out seven hecklers and two left on their own. There were no arrests or charges filed.
The ruckus came as Kasich was talking about drilling for natural gas in eastern Ohio.
He said large energy companies flocking to the state amid the Marcellus and Utica shale boom don’t want to leave the state harmed. "We can’t degrade the environment at the same time we’re developing this industry," Kasich said.
Outside the school, which shares Steubenville High School, more than 100 demonstrators gathered – some to oppose the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to reach Ohio’s oil and gas resources. One sign read, "Frack Off Kasich." Others demonstrated in support of the Occupy movement.
State Rep. Bob Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat whose area has experienced earthquakes a state seismologist says are tied to deep injection disposal of fracking wastewater, spent $800 in campaign money to bus in about 50 of the protesters.
But he said he wants to work with Kasich on the issue.
"Well, if he wants to do it safely then let’s get together," he said. "Let’s get to the Legislature where these bill are passed to make sure it’s safe." He noted that bills ordered a statewide drilling moratorium and disclosure of fracking chemicals are stalled.*
It’s interesting to note a year ago, when Kasich took office, Ohio’s budget was $8 billion in the hole and ranked 48th in the nation for job creation. Today, just one year later? There’s a budget surplus and the state is the number one jobs creator in the Midwest. Kasich can rightfully claim he’s made a big difference. But the credit must also be shared with the boom in Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling in the state.
*East Liverpool (OH) The Review (Feb 8, 2012) – Kasich touts education, broadband in speech