UPDATED WITH VIDEO For outdoor enthusiasts, Gov. John Kasich’s fishing expedition Tuesday in the waters off Ottawa County was a success on two fronts.
One: He caught a halfway decent walleye.
Two: He signed an executive order that bans oil and gas drilling in Lake Erie.
Kasich hooked the walleye during the 34th annual Governor’s Fish Ohio Day, and he signed the executive order as a crowd of several dozen people looked on at the Lake Erie Shores and Islands West visitors bureau.
While federal law already bans petroleum drilling in Lake Erie, Kasich’s order ensures a ban will remain in place even if Congress changes its mind and lifts the federal measure.
As Kasich prepared to sign his order, state Rep. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood, said lawmakers should approve her proposed state law, HB 304, to prohibit drilling in Lake Erie.
“A law on the books would provide long-term protection to the region’s most precious resource,” Antonio said. “It is imperative that we protect Ohio’s largest source of freshwater for our children and grandchildren, our economy, and our environment.”
Asked about a proposed law to ban Lake Erie drilling, Kasich said he believes his executive order covers the matter.
But what if the Ohio General Assembly approves its own ban?
“It would be fine with me,” Kasich said.
Elected in 2010, Kasich has approved several line-item vetoes of a recent budget bill.
But he has vetoed only one proposed statute: last year’s bill to put Ohio into compliance with the Great Lakes Compact, which regulates withdrawals of water from the Great Lakes.
Kasich contended the measure was not strict enough in regulating withdrawals of water from Lake Erie.
His veto angered some members of his own party, but it forced lawmakers to approve a more restrictive bill this year, which the governor signed.
Kasich told the “Fish Ohio” crowd that Ohio’s rules governing fracking — a technique for taking natural gas out of the ground — are the strictest in the country.
He also said he and his cabinet are working hard to deal with harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.
“I think we’re making progress,” he said. “We’re aware of it. We’re pushing it.”
George Voinovich, a Republican former U.S. senator and governor, sat in the audience as Kasich spoke.
“The person who loves this lake more than anybody is George Voinovich,” Kasich said.
Afterward, as Kasich chatted with reporters, he said he often hears from Voinovich about Lake Erie issues.
“He always calls and talks to me about the lake,” Kasich said.
Voinovich also participated in the fishing event, wearing a T-shirt with a walleye picture on the front and a baseball cap with a walleye above the bill.
Voinovich said he was pleased Kasich vetoed last year’s Lake Erie bill.
The former governor said he would have preferred a stricter bill this year, but he believes Kasich is sincerely concerned about the health of Lake Erie.