Ohio Union to Obama: Enviro Job-Killers Win, American Workers Lose

Lincoln Brown
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Posted: Dec 24, 2011 12:01 AM

I have written before on these pages about how an administration that kowtows to the environmental lobby has played havoc with jobs in my adopted home state of Utah, with the caveat that sooner or later prohibitions on energy development and multiple use of public lands would find its way to other parts of the nation. And unfortunately, I was right. I submit for your consideration the issue of shale gas in Ohio. Yes, Ohio. Not Utah. Not Colorado, not even Pennsylvania but Ohio.

Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel is stumping for Senator. He recently published a piece in the Wall Street Journal and on his website about the federal government derailing the oil shale gas industry in Ohio before it even gets off, or more appropriately out of the ground.

According to Mandel, exploration of Ohio’s Utica shale formation could create 200,000 jobs in Ohio, shovel ready and otherwise. Let me say that again: 200,000 jobs. That number includes the people needed to get the energy out of the ground and the umber of people needed by Republic Steel and U.S. Steel who will have to produce the pipes and other equipment. And don’t forget the people who will be employed in the various stores, hotels, restaurants and trucking companies needed to back all of this production up.

There is a precedent for this, I saw it happen in Utah, and it is happening right now in North Dakota. The extraction industry brings jobs. Many of them are high-paying jobs that include things like health insurance and retirement plans.

But the promise in Ohio is in limbo at the moment, and may not come to pass, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it has decided to suspend oil and gas leases on three thousand acres of federal land in Ohio.

According to Mandel’s article, add Administration’s brinksmanship regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline, and even the unions are unhappy. In fact, the president of the Laborer’s International Union of North America, in reference to Keystone XL stated “The administration chose to support environmentalists over jobs…Job-killers win, American workers lose.”

I grew up in Ohio, back before all the cool kids were environmentally sensitive, and love of the earth was de rigueur. And yes, there was a time in which corporations did not care. I remember giant open strip mines left to fester, and ponds so polluted that new words practically had to be invented to describe their color.

But that was then, this is now.  Oil and gas companies no longer view the land as something to be seized and drained. I know this because I watch them here in Utah do things like enhance and increase sage grouse habitat, and spend the extra time and money to develop directional drilling, find ways to reduce their emissions, and reduce and recycle production water.

It may be heartwarming for some to spread misconceptions about hydraulic fracturing ushering in the end of the world, or to go to war for the continued existence of the Western Glacier Stonefly (and yes, U.S. Fish and Wildlife is seriously considering a petition to list it as endangered) This stuff may sound god on spec, but when it begins to separate the American people from American lands, it may be time to reexamine the no-people/no industry/no jobs approach to lands management.

The irony here is that with the simple approval of the XL pipeline, and the jobs and cheaper energy it would bring, President Obama would do wonders for his flagging public opinion. People want and need jobs right now, not the promise of an electric car they cannot afford. A decision by the President to allow the pipeline to go through and to allow more energy extraction in America would show the country that he is more concerned with American prosperity and security than he is with favoring campaign donors and mollifying the environmentalists whose votes he seeks. 

So Ohio is apparently out in the cold right now. I know the feeling, because in my town we watched jobs and money head to North Dakota because of the policies of the federal government. And chances are very good, that under the noble auspices of preserving a species or protecting the land, energy or some other activity may soon be curtailed in your state or town as well. I invite you to peruse the Department of The Interior’s press release page. The DOI has been very busy of late with its Great Outdoors initiative. Not all of the projects listed are aimed at curtailing multiple use and access of public lands. Some in fact are quite benign. But you should remember the lesson that we in Utah have learned: government largesse almost always comes with government strings, which can be drawn very tight.