Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler with OFBF Executive Vice President Jack Fisher.

EPA director discusses clean water, oil and gas exploration

These and other public policy issues were the topics of a discussion with Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Director Craig Butler during a recent edition of Town Hall Ohio.

For Butler, Ohioans don’t have to make a choice between caring for the environment and a prosperous economy, saying the agency is sensitive to the cost of regulations.

“That is the heart of why we have our compliance assistance functions,” he said. “We’re out helping businesses advance their goals and doing it in an environmentally responsible way. And I think that holds true for all the rest of our programs.”

Butler said efforts to respond to water quality challenges, which were brought to the public’s attention last summer when Toledo residents were told not to drink their water due a Lake Erie algal bloom, have been in the works for several years.

“Your farmers I know recognize this is an issue for them, and they’re doing more than that. They actually want to be part of the solution,” he said, noting the agency is taking a comprehensive approach to improving water quality.

However, he added that it’s a situation that could take years to remedy.

“We need to be able to identify where our sources of nutrients are coming from before we can craft any prescription, if you will, to solve this problem,” he said.

Regarding a boom in oil and natural gas exploration, Butler said Ohio is blessed to have this resource and the technology to extract it, but it has given his agency a lot to consider from an environmental perspective. That includes the location of drilling sites, stormwater management and air emissions.

“It’s not without environmental challenges,” he acknowledged. “Although I will say I think collectively the state has done a very fair and valuable job in being able to balance these issues between energy independence and environmental footprint.”

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Lynn Snyder 

Lynn Snyder is senior director of communications for Ohio Farm Bureau.