Candidates participate in environmental forum at Marietta College
Thursday night candidates appearing on the November ballot for local voters were given the opportunity to speak on energy and environmental issues.
The forum was sponsored by three groups, Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, Green Sanctuary Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta and Friends of the Lower Muskingum River.
“We would have liked to have more than 40 people come out but I’m happy with those that did for coming for a special topic,” said moderator Rebecca Phillips. “I’m also pleased that the candidates who came made themselves available afterward to the public for questions since we couldn’t by law make that a part of this without both candidates for each race here.”
Not a single Republican candidate was present for the candidate forum.
But Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Kevin Ritter, candidate for Washington County commissioner, did send statements to be read, expressing their regret in not being able to attend.
Johnson’s statement echoed legislation he has supported to “ensure local governments keep some of the revenue generated by local oil and gas development on federal lands,” noting a need for infrastructure and educational aid to communities surrounded by the Wayne National Forest.
Ritter’s statement aligned his position on the environment with that of Theodore Roosevelt, saying “conservation is a great moral issue.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, also sent a statement highlighting the needs of sewer overflow systems in the Ohio Valley and saying he would also work to protect the Wayne National Forest.
For the candidates present, namely Shawna Roberts, running for Johnson’s seat, Taylor Sappington and Dan Milleson, running for the Ohio House of Representatives 94th and 95th district seats, respectively, and Jim Raney, running for county commissioner, the questions offered centered on oil and gas development in the region, how the candidates would protect both natural resources and residents land rights, health and safety while encouraging economic development, what the candidates views on safe natural water resources are, and candidates’ stances on climate change.
All four candidates confirmed the existence of climate change, stating the science has been proved.
All four candidates stated that a growing economy is possible under sustainable and regulated protections of state and federal agencies.
And all four candidates stated that the oil and gas industry has brought some benefit to the Ohio Valley, but they differed on the development of mineral rights on public lands.
“I am open to considering on a case-by-case basis, proposals for oil and gas development on public land owned by Washington County,” stated Raney. “If the business case analysis of benefits, costs, and risks for a proposal is sound and most county residents support it after having an adequate opportunity to review and comment on it, I would support it.”
This drew several shaking heads from the crowd present, the three former candidates to speak on the topic had all vehemently opposed the use of public lands.
But Raney’s similar words echoing a practical mindset of operations are what encouraged David Ballantyne, a member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action.
“The content overall I thought was very good,” Ballantyne said following the forum. “But I was pleased with Mr. Raney’s comments because I’m a fan of strategic planning as well and appreciate his willingness to consider public input.”