COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s Oil and Gas Land Management Commission will decide whether to open up two state parks and two wildlife centers for oil and gas exploration. But, as Ohioans await that decision, a recent report from Cleveland.com revealed several people saying their names were used in a letter that support fracking without their knowledge.
The report ignited an investigation led by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to investigate the fracking submissions. Right now, it’s unclear if the investigation will impact the commission’s decision to open up the state parks for fracking.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine passed a law earlier this year permitting fracking in state parks. But there are rules for the process and nominations must be submitted. Consumers Energy Alliance is the nonprofit accused of sending the letters supporting fracking. The supporting comments for fracking could help decide whether drilling will occur in certain areas of Ohio from bids from oil and gas drillers. The group put out a public statement in response to Yost's investigation.
“CEA is in active communication with the ohio attorney general’s office and other relevant agencies and appreciates their prompt review of these allegations. Since sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants, cea will keep working with any and all relevant Ohio authorities to bring full clarity to the situation, since the allegations are provably not true,” CEA President David Holt said. “the public comment process is an essential part of participatory democracy and a complete airing of the facts in this situation and others like it is merited.”
Catherine Turcer, the executive director of Common Cause Ohio advocates for transparency in democracy. She says, the situation is shocking but an investigation is important and there needs to be more guidance for lobbying in the state.
"There are registered lobbyists," Turcer said. "We could have better rules about lobbying the public. And so, you know, you can think about this circumstance where the public is being lobbied to then put pressure, you know, to get fracking in our state parks. Well, we can also think about like House Bill 6, where the public was lobbied to support the bill that would have bailed out nuclear plants and continues to bail out these coal plants."
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources also provided a statement to Spectrum News.
"Anyone who believes a comment was submitted without their knowledge or permission should alert the commission immediately. If someone confirms that they did not submit a letter that is on the public record, the commission will remove that public comment. Furthermore, if anyone believes they are the victim of identity theft or fraud they are encouraged to reach out to the ohio attorney general’s office. The commission has also forwarded the complaints it has received to the attorney general’s office," said Andy Chow, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The public comments are posted to the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission’s website.