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Ohio Environmental Groups Call for Stronger Drilling Laws

The Ohio Environmental Council is calling on the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to strengthen hydraulic fracturing regulations in the state's Grand River watershed, according to Eco Watch. Various environmental groups are asking the ODNR to better protect livestock and all of Ohio's waterways from contamination by the oil and gas industry, according to Eco Watch.

OEC Legal Affairs Director Trent Dougherty feels gas and oil might be basic commodities, but clean water is priceless, according to the Ohio Environmental Council. The agency is calling on the ODNR to expand testing and end unfunded mandates on local communities.

Here are some facts about the increased natural resources protection requests and issues the Ohio environmental groups consider potentially dangerous:

* The OEC, Network for Oil and Gas Accountability and Protection and the Buckeye Forest Council held a joint news conference on shale drilling safety this week in Geauga County. The environmental groups were upset about a gas well located less than 1,500 feet from a Grand River tributary, according to Eco Watch. The groups oppose the creation of wells along the watershed.

* The Grand River offers the most aquatic diversity of all the Lake Erie tributaries running through the state, according to the ODNR. The river holds the distinction of being an official Ohio State Wild and Scenic River. Typically, the river is stocked with 90,000 steelhead trout annually.

* A 2007 gas well explosion near the new well site along the Grand River watershed spurred a yearlong investigation and huge reform of Ohio's gas and oil drilling laws, according to Eco Watch. The Ohio General Assembly approved Senate Bill 165 to upgrade drilling safety policies in 2010. ODNR investigators determined the gas migrated from the well and caused the explosion beneath a home 100 feet away due to over-pressurization on the surface casing. The new law requires wells be located no closer than 150 feet from a home.

* The Ohio environmental groups are requesting broadening the distance that gas and oil drillers are required to test for water quality before any ground activity occurs, according to The Athens News. The group also suggests expanding the list of chemicals for which drillers must test and monitor for water contamination.

* The ODNR has received requests from the OEC and other environmental groups requesting increased protections for wildlife, livestock and residential property values where fracking will occur, according to a release by the Buckeye Forest Council. The group feels that increased testing in streams near drilling activity will better protect both aquatic creatures and wildlife which drink from the waterway.

* The OEC and NEOGAP consider costs associated with road damage, noise and traffic created by drilling activity to be unfunded mandates for local authorities. According to the NEOGAP website local governments do not have the power to restrict or regulate drilling, yet must suffer many of the costs associated with repairs to roads and traffic regulation.