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Ohio Gubernatorial Hopeful Kucinich Calls for End to Oil, Natural Gas Drilling

In his first major policy announcement since joining the Ohio Democratic gubernatorial primary earlier this month, former Rep. Dennis Kucinich said if he’s elected he would put an end to all oil and natural gas drilling in the state and ban underground injection wells often used to dispose of industry waste.

In a speech delivered in Columbus, OH, on Thursday, Kucinich said the highest priority of the state should be protecting fresh water supplies, calling his policy proposal an “economic, social and human health imperative.”

Kucinich, who twice ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, said if elected as governor he would direct the Ohio Department of Natural Resources under the state constitution to stop issuing all drilling permits. He also would order a ban on state-wide injection wells “to protect public health and water supplies.”

The Ohio legislature now has an industry friendly Republican majority. While Kucinich’s remarks indicated that he would rely on the power of the governor’s office to achieve his policies, he told reporters that he has experience working across the aisle.

In a speech aimed largely at the perceived dangers of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, Kucinich said existing permits would be “carefully scrutinized for compliance and cancelled for any infraction.” He also said the power of eminent domain would be invoked to “acquire existing drilling sites, settle up royalties for locals, close the wells and levy a severance fee on the companies.” In addition, he threatened a “major class action lawsuit” against any producers or injection well operators that have caused injury to Ohioans or the environment.

Ohio has helped send the nation’s gas production soaring in Appalachia with Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Utica Shale drilling is underway throughout the eastern part of the state, with its current epicenter in the southeastern counties.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association spokesman Mike Chadsey called Kucinich’s speech a “throw away line from an establishment politician in front of a downtown crowd.” He said Kucinich “should come to southeast Ohio and say that when you are looking into the eyes of hard working folks relying on these opportunities to feed their kids.”

Republican Gov. John Kasich is term limited and will leave office in 2019. Most of the state’s shale boom has unfolded under his two terms in office. He took office in 2011, the same year the first commercial Utica production was reported.

The Ohio Democratic primary field includes the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray; state Sen. Joe Schiavoni; Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill, and former state Rep. Connie Pillich. 

Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov Mary Taylor are facing off in the Republican primary.

Kucinich in his presidential campaigns had advocated for universal healthcare, banning offshore drilling and increasing renewable energy. Cordray lead a recent poll conducted by the 1984 Society, a bipartisan group founded by former state senate members. Kucinich trailed him by seven points in the poll. On the Republican side DeWine lead Taylor by a wide margin, carrying 54% of the 801 respondents who were polled. 

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