Salt Fork State Park in Ohio on Sept. 18, 2021. Ohio Department of Transportation / Flickr
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A government commission in Ohio has decided to open some state parks and wildlife areas to fracking.
The decision comes amid an investigation on allegations of possible fraudulent support from an industry group representing energy companies, The Associated Press reported.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Oil and Gas Land Management Commission (OGLMC) greenlit multiple fracking proposals on land owned by Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Transportation, according to a report by The Associated Press.
The commissioners held a meeting to consider the applications, and many environmentalists showed up to protest.
After one member of the audience threw play money on the ground in front of commissioners in protest, the commissioner chair Ryan Richardson responded, “I’m going to ask again that we can show respect to the commissioners,” Ideastream Public Media reported.
The protestor responded, “Why should we show respect when you are not respecting us, and you’re giving away our land to profit-making oil and gas? Why should we sit here and let you do that?”
Days before the decision, Ohio Senate Democrats sent a letter to OGLMC, asking them to decline the applications to frack in state parks.
“These applications, if approved, would very likely lead to disastrous consequences, not only for the cleanliness and wellbeing of our state parks, but also for the health and safety of our fellow Ohioans who live near and visit these peaceful refuges,” the letter said. “If the Commission is not prepared to outright reject all applications for fracking under Ohio’s state parks, we hope that these concerns, shared both by us and by many Ohioans, at least give you pause. We strongly urge that you consider outright rejecting or at minimum, delaying these applications.”
Ultimately, the commission approved three applications for Salt Fork State Park, three in Valley Run Wildlife Area, one in the Zepernick Wildlife Area, and one for a property in Belmont County that is owned by the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Fracking has technically been legal on Ohio public lands since 2011, The Allegheny Front reported. Previous language included that state agencies “may” lease state lands for fracking, but recent amendments changed that language to “shall.”
There is an ongoing investigation following claims of possible fraud regarding public support for fracking on Ohio’s public lands. Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer reported that there were allegedly nearly 150 public comment letters in support of opening up land parcels for fracking with names of people who say they didn’t authorize the letters. Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer reported that they traced these comments back to two groups that advocate and lobby for natural gas industry campaigns. The Consumer Energy Alliance has disputed the claims and questioned the Cleveland.com’s and The Plain Dealer’s investigation and reporting.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost responded in September 2023 that he would investigate the situation. A spokesperson for Yost told The Associated Press the investigation is ongoing.
Bidding nominations can begin starting in January 2024, but protestors have said they will continue to show up to the meetings.
“At a time when the science is telling us we have to stop all the oil and gas, instead we’re doing this in our parks,” Cathy Cowan Becker, a member of Save Ohio Parks, told The Associated Press. “We’re rightfully really angry about this.”
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