STEUBENVILLE - Gov. John Kasich is calling for a cautious and smart approach to natural gas and oil well drilling in Ohio, saying safeguarding the environment must be as important as developing shale exploration.
In the heart of natural gas drilling country Tuesday, the Republican Kasich - in Steubenville to deliver his second State of the State address - said tough, but not overly complicated rules must be in place to protect against ''some yahoo'' damaging the industry in Ohio by acting irresponsibly.
''You cannot degrade the environment at the same time you are producing this industry,'' Kasich said. ''It is not acceptable and it's not a false choice.''
Mark Cleland, from Austintown, participates in a protest on Tuesday outside Wells Academy / Steubenville High School in Steubenville.
But he warned against letting fear gain control.
''We cannot let our fears outweigh the potential, and I'm always concerned about talking about the potential because the people in the Mahoning Valley, the people in Steubenville, the people in southern Ohio, how many promises have they heard that have only been shattered? So let's take our time,'' Kasich said.
The governor used only a few minutes of his 90-minute speech to discuss natural gas and oil drilling, leaving some lawmakers from the Mahoning Valley wanting to hear more.
''We didn't get a lot about fracking, we didn't get a lot of information about oil and gas drilling,'' said Democrat state Sen. Joe Schiavoni. ''He talked about we need to take our time and do it right, but let's get some explanation of what that means.
''He talked about you can't degrade the environment, you have to do it responsibly. Absolutely, but we need some facts, especially because of how sensitive it is at home for us,'' said Schiavoni of Austintown. ''We need to get these rules in place to make it safe and do it the right way. You can't just say it and not give us an explanation.''
State Rep. Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown, one of the leaders of an effort to indefinitely ban injection wells - Ohio's preferred method of disposing of wastewater created in the drilling process - until it's known if there is a link between the wells and recent earthquakes, also wanted more from the governor.
''What really counts is when you're really working across the aisle and trying to get legislation to protect all of us in this incredible opportunity of jobs and the possibility of hurting the environment,'' Hagan said.
Trumbull and Mahoning counties have been at the epicenter of controversy surrounding injection wells, many people believing one in Youngstown is to blame for multiple earthquakes that have rattled the Valley, the largest a 4.0-magnitude on New Year's Eve. Consequently, that well has been shut down and wells within a five-mile circle of it are under a moratorium ordered by Kasich the same day as the large quake.
Also, there are studies to determine if there is a decisive link between the well and seismic activity.
None of that was mentioned, upsetting state Rep. Sean O'Brien, D-Brookfield, who wanted more on policy regarding the Marcellus and Utica Shale plays.
"He didn't even touch it, and this is one of the biggest game changers, as he has called it, in the state of Ohio," O'Brien said.
Democrat State Sen. Capri Cafaro is working on a bill tackling a number of issues in the development of the shale industry, including protecting property owners, protecting the work force - making sure the workers are from Ohio - and ensuring the safety of the water table, she said.
She hopes Kasich would be open to that kind of legislation.
"We want to take advantage of the economic opportunity, but we certainly don't want to jeopardize the health and welfare of people of the state and we certainly don't want out of state people taking advantage of us either," said Cafaro of Hubbard.
"We taking on all the risk, we certainly don't want outside entities reaping the reward," she said.