Members of the Ohio Farmers Union claim to have found "a common-sense middle ground approach to Ohio's natural gas boom" during their 2012 public policy discussion at their recent convention.
The family farmer and consumer group approved language for this year which supports a limited moratorium on the issuance of permits by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for new instances of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the state. The OFU supported moratorium differs from those supported by some Democrats in the Ohio General Assembly and by some Ohio environmental groups in that it is tied to a preliminary U.S. EPA report due on fracking later this year – rather than the final study results due in 2014.
U.S. EPA is currently studying what, if any, effects fracking has on ground and surface water, according to Ron Sylvester, OFU's director of external relations. He says that OFU members from the eastern and northeastern areas of Ohio are being inundated with information, both pro and con, about the gas industry and the effects of fracking in places like Pennsylvania.
"We're not asking for much – the report is due by the end of this year. Our members who own family farms would like a bit more objective information. We'd like to hear what EPA has to say," says Sylvester.
"And, what's the rush? Natural gas prices are historically low and the U.S. is nowhere near ready from an infrastructure and market standpoint to take advantage of this bounty and become energy independent," Sylvester says.
OFU did not join others in calling for a longer moratorium because the group has no issues with the responsible use of natural gas and wishes to respect the property rights of rural landowners.
"We believe that at the end of the day this opportunity can be handled in a way that is fair to farmers and landowners from a market standpoint, environmentally responsible and with appropriate, responsible rules for the industry," Sylvester said.
In other business, the Ohio Farmers Union approved 2012 policy language which:
Called for the restoration of full funding for the Office of the Ohio Consumers Counsel,
Opposes privatization of the Ohio Turnpike,
Supports Ohio Dept. of Agriculture wishes to expand the farmer-funded Ohio Indemnity Fund, and,
Re-affirmed its support for Ohio's current energy policy which calls for 25% of electricity generated for Ohio to be from renewable resources by 2025.