In the first major policy rollout of his gubernatorial campaign, Dennis Kucinich promised "a brand new day here in Ohio" with a goal of eliminating every last oil or gas well in the state.
"Ohio taxpayers are facing a future of billions of dollars of debt and destruction as a result of the virtually unregulated nature of this industry. As Ohio’s governor, I will end the corrupt influence of these interests in the state capital," the former congressman and Cleveland mayor said at a Columbus press conference.
In a multi-faceted proposal, Kucinich pledged an immediate moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — a horizontal drilling process better know as fracking — and an outright ban on injection wells if he is elected.
He said such a radical move is necessary to protect the state’s most precious resource: water.
Such a proposal certainly would run into both ridicule and a solid wall of opposition from a GOP-controlled legislature so friendly to oil and gas interests that they wouldn’t even grant Republican Gov. John Kasich a modest increase in the severance tax on Ohio wells.
Kucinich said he would order the State Highway Patrol to stop and inspect all trucks hauling fracking waste for disposal in Ohio, and turn them back. He would set up free public health screenings for all Ohioans living close to or downstream from fracking sites.
And Kucinich would assemble a panel of physicians, scientists and economists to gather data on the impact of fracking and injection wells on Ohio for a class-action suit against drilling companies and others responsible for polluting and contaminating the state.
"Those who have poisoned Ohio’s people and their land will be made to pay," he said. "No longer will Ohio be the designated dumping ground for frack waste from here and other states with unregulated processing facilities operating for private profit at public expense."
Kucinich would use state’s power of eminent domain to acquire existing drilling sites, settle royalties, close the wells and assess severance fees on oil and gas companies.
"We will empower the people of Ohio who have been abused, victimized and lied to," Kucinich said. "I intend to create real economic opportunities for the people of fracked Ohio, especially southeast Ohio, so they will no longer be vulnerable to those who exploit their poverty with poisoned jobs."
His running mate, Akron Councilwoman Tara Samples, said, "This is about environmental justice and poor people being taken advantage of."
Kucinich noted drilling companies won’t share the proprietary chemicals injected deep underground; Kucinich said all anybody knows is "they are toxic and carcinogenic."
"Why was Ohio made into a sacrifice zone as the designated dumping ground for hazardous waste, especially frack waste from other states who don’t want it?" he asked in a series of questions.
"How can this one industry have the political clout to virtually take over state government, to use our water and destroy it forever for others and only pay pennies on the gallon for this destruction?"
Kucinich also said while his political stance is generally regarded as leftist, especially in the current five-person Democratic field, "This ticket is poised right at the center of the aspirations of the people of Ohio."
He also said, "I’m the candidate who can reach out to the Trump voters and say come on back to the Democratic Party."
Darrel Rowland is a reporter with the Columbus Dispatch.