Take care in choosing EPA director

Radical environmentalists probably will take advantage of an opening for a new Ohio government watchdog over air, water and ground quality to demand a change in state policy. A harsher standard for regulating industry should be adopted, they have maintained.

Business and government officials in the Mahoning Valley, however, probably want Ohio Gov. John Kasich to go in a different direction when he replaces former Ohio EPA director Scott Nally. That’s because at times, businesses and political figures here found Nally too strict with the rules and regulations.

Nally abruptly ended his Ohio EPA post after a tenure in which he was charged specifically with safeguarding the environment while avoiding action that would hamper businesses unreasonably. Kasich will have to appoint a successor.

A massive expansion of gas and oil drilling and processing in Ohio has occurred on Nally’s watch. During that time, the OEPA has regulated drillers strictly. Enforcement actions against those who dump drilling waste illegally are proof of that.

How the state responded to a 4.0 earthquake, for example, and how the EPA handled the D&L illegal dumping into a Mahoning River tributary are examples of Nally’s strength during his reign.

Some radicals insist ”fracking” – the hydraulic fracturing process used at most wells – harms the environment. Not enough is being done to limit fracking, they insist.

But during the past three years, state officials have confirmed six cases of water contamination related to drilling. Not one involved fracking.

Meanwhile, Nally’s dealings with Patriot Water in Warren, EPA rules regarding discharges into the Mahoning, and the agency’s handling of Trumbull County’s ongoing septic issues during Nally’s leadership left much to be desired. The Mahoning River discharge rules especially rankled some of the Valley largest employers.

Craig Butler, a senior policy adviser for Kasich on environmental, energy, public utility and agricultural issues, is Nally’s likely replacement. Butler previously served the Ohio EPA in its central and southeast district offices.

He has an entire state to worry about and the rapidly expanding oil and natural gas industry needs to be a primary focus. Still, we hope he doesn’t wait too long to visit the Mahoning Valley and address some of the ongoing concerns here.