News broke this week that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR) – the state agency responsible for regulating fracking and the expansion of the oil and gas industry — spent taxpayer money to commission a secret promotional communications plan for that selfsame industry. Made public thanks to a Sierra Club open records request, the plan was prepared to pave the way for the Kasich administration to permit fracking for oil and gas in state forest and state park lands.
Perhaps even more disturbing than the idea of a regulator spending public money to promote the industry it is supposed to govern, the communications plan included the equivalent of a Nixon-era “enemies list”. The list contains both surprising and unsurprising names:
No surprise: The Sierra Club, NRDC, EcoWatch, Waterkeeper Alliance and a number of our allies were listed as 'opposition'.
Something of a surprise: The communications plan does not mention most groups in Ohio working on fracking, particularly grassroots groups.
A huge surprise: Earthworks was listed as 'neutral'.
Now if “neutral” means “honest broker”, we would be happy with that categorization. Throughout our 25-year history, we have worked with anyone – industry, all levels of government, environmental and community groups large and small – who could help protect communities and the environment from the adverse impacts of resource extraction.
But if “neutral” means “neutral to the possibility of fracking for oil and gas in state forests or parks”, we have a message for Governor Kasich, the Ohio DNR, the authors of this plan, and whoever else is interested: Earthworks OPPOSES oil and gas drilling in state forests and state parks.
The release of the memo caused quite a brouhaha. with the governor claiming that he had never seen it, although documents show that his staff clearly did. In response, Governor Kasich has found some wisdom on the issue, if only temporarily: his administration has now announced that they (for now) oppose fracking on public lands and state parks, because he doesn't believe Ohio’s regulations are mature enough.