Gov. Kasich threatens to veto broad algae-related bill

COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich today threatened to veto a broad bill designed to reduce algal blooms on Lake Erie and better regulate a growing oil and gas drilling industry if controversial provisions affecting telephone service remain in the bill.

James Zehringer, director of the Department of Natural Resources, urged a Senate committee to remove that language, which some groups contend could leave some residents, particularly senior citizens, in rural areas of the state without basic land-line service and without reliable cell or Internet service to replace it.

House Bill 490, which passed the House overwhelmingly last week, would prohibit the spreading of manure on farmland when the ground is frozen or saturated, with some exceptions. The language, largely supported by environmental groups, is an attempt to reduce phosphorous runoff into the watershed, feeding toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie like those that shut down Toledo’s drinking water system last August.

The bill also adjusts penalties associated with the improper disposal of brine from the expanding hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” operations in the eastern part of the state. It holds a controversial provision that reopens the water withdrawal debate by Ohio industry within the Great Lakes Compact negotiated with other lake states and Ontario, Canada.

“The telecommunications language will force the governor to veto this bill, as he has personally said and has also been repeated several times by other members of the administration,” Mr. Zehringer said. “We would be sacrificing all of the great work done so far on this bill if these provisions are not removed.… If not, the governor will have no other option but to veto this bill.”

The bill contains a number of things requested by Mr. Kasich’s administration, and is on a fast-track to reach his desk before lawmakers bring the two-year session to close next month.

Unlike a budget bill, the governor could not exercise his line-item veto authority to excise some parts of the bill while keeping others. He would have to sign or veto the entire bill or let it become law without his signature. That would change if lawmakers add an appropriation to the bill.

The telecommunications industry has long sought the basic telephone service language, arguing Ohioans would be better served if it concentrated its efforts on expanding broadband and wireless service in the state rather than on maintaining basic dial tone service.

 

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