Ohio Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan sounds a lot different running for Senate than he did running for president.
On a campaign tour with plumbers and steamfitters in eastern Ohio earlier this month, Ryan professed his unwavering support for the state’s lucrative natural gas industry. According to the Department of Energy, Ohio is a top 10 gas-producing state and a net exporter with 6 percent of the nation’s reserves and production.
“We want to go all in on natural gas,” Ryan told reporters in early September. “This is a hell of an opportunity for Eastern Ohio. Great for jobs and the environment.”
Days later, Ryan doubled down as a “big supporter” of natural gas.
“We’ve built power plants in my district, natural gas, liquid natural gas, get it, move it, build the pipelines, get it out of here,” Ryan told a local newspaper. “Why would I not be for that?”
He wasn’t for it when he was chasing the Democratic presidential nomination just three years ago.
On the campaign trail in 2019, the Democrat congressman who represents an industrial district in northeastern Ohio endorsed plans to regulate hydraulic fracturing out of business. In 2014, as many as 95 percent of new wells were being drilled with fracking technology, according to the Energy Department. Hydraulic fracturing still accounts for most new oil and gas wells today.
Speaking to The Washington Post, however, the presidential candidate left the door open to a federal fracking ban if policymakers refuse to ramp up regulation.
“We need to significantly ramp up our oversight and regulation of the industry and its practices, especially in regard to its use and disposal of water, as well as methane leaks,” Ryan said. “If the industry cannot rapidly innovate on these issues, I believe the federal government would need to step in and halt fracking operations.”
Ryan went on to defend President Joe Biden’s illegal suspension of oil and gas operations on federal lands just last year.
“It’s a great compromise that protects our national parks and federal land while still allows the pursuit of natural gas,” Ryan said.
But President Biden’s suspension, which lasted roughly 18 months, tanked domestic oil and gas production to deliver the highest energy prices Americans have seen in a generation. While no plans were in the pipeline to drill in Yosemite, 11 percent of the nation’s gas production comes from public lands and waters, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API).
Mandy Gunasekara, who served as EPA chief of staff under President Donald Trump, called Ryan a “rubber stamp” for the Biden administration’s “radical environmental policies aimed at putting Ohio’s energy industry out of business.”
“The growth and success of Ohio’s natural gas industry has occurred despite Tim Ryan’s best efforts to shut it down,” Gunasekara told The Federalist. “Tim Ryan pretends like he cares about Ohio’s natural gas industry when on the campaign trail, but in Congress, he has used his legislative authority to shutter its development.”
Ryan wasn’t running in a close race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. The Ohio congressman barely qualified for the first two debates and dropped out by the end of October 2019. According to polls in this year’s Senate contest, however, which are often manipulated to reflect media narratives, Ryan is locked with Republican venture capitalist J.D. Vance in a one-point race, in which Vance is up. The two candidates are competing for an open seat left vacant by retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman.