This morning the Sierra Club revealed what community activists, clean water advocates and Ohio Fracktion have been saying for years: the Ohio Department of Natural Resources really works to facilitate, not regulate, fracking for big industry.
A recent public records request by the Sierra Club turned up a evidence of a program hatched between the supposed regulators at ODNR and the industry they not-so-secretly promote. Their main objective this time was to pave the way for ceding mineral rights from the state parks to industry to engage in the experimental and danger-ridden fracking of shale. However, one thing stood in their way: the public’s concern for their safe drinking water. The solution: launch a secret PR campaign with leading industry groups to mislead the public about the dangers of fracking and marginalize Ohio Fracktion and other advocacy groups. Read the full memo here.
The blatant abuse of ODNR’s public resources and influence to do industry PR is insulting. It shows what we have learned the hard way – that ODNR takes the job of increasing industry profits more seriously than preventing activity that threatens our land, water and people. It shows that they see a world of allies in big business and enemies in those who are fighting for democratic control and safe drinking water. ODNR sees their duties within a world divided between allies and enemies along these strict corporate lines.
The document presents us with neat lists of each: the administration, big business, and drilling companies fall into the allies category, and the citizens ODNR is bound to protect into the the “opponents” and “adversaries”. Top of the “allies” listed are Governor Kasich, JobsOhio, the Ohio EPA, and other such allies as the US Chamber of Commerce, The Ohio Oil and Gas Association, and Halliburton. In with the “adversaries” competing for the top prize with the Sierra Club and Bob Hagan were yours truly, Ohio Fracktion. Those with concerns of their drinking water are the “neutrals” whose only role is to be moved (not listened to or partnered with) as passive objects of ODNR administration.
To be listed as one of their top “opposition groups” is a high honor we as Ohio Fracktion gladly accept. Our work as a collective of organizers and residents started on the belief that clean water and democratic control are human rights that no industry can take away and that no one deserves to be poisoned or have their land taken for another’s profit. As the ODNR has used its ‘regulation’ as a cart-blanch for drilling and treated anyone in the industry’s way as expendable, we’re not surprised they have named us as enemies – in fact, we’re honored they did. ODNR’s lack of respect for the public was made abundantly clear when members of our group were arrested for attempting to peacefully enter their public office during business hours in order to set up meetings for residents whose water was contaminated by next-door drilling. And so while bailing our friends out of jail we learned the hard way that attempting to negotiating with bought and paid for regulators was as effective as pushing a boulder up a hill over and over and over and over again.
This documents sheds light on the extent to which ODNR is a tool to promote drilling, reaching heights of absurdity. They hide behind ridiculously false claims to be able to magically “allow no negative impact on park or forest lands” and to “have some of the nation’s strictest safeguards in place to make sure there is no danger to public health or the environment” No danger? No negative impact? To protect such blatant falsehoods the PR campaign laid plans for Orwellian “truth squads” to bury alarming information with letters to the editor, news releases, and letters to supporters to confront those on the ‘opponents’ list. The sad irony is that memo focuses on strengthening industry messaging rather than providing any details of how they will protect parks from disturbance or prevent exposure of neighbors and visitors from toxins. They plan for public meetings to change public opinion, but not to work with resident with open minds.
However, in places the authors are remarkably perceptive. They list that opponents will communicate “aggressively to the news media and online to cast this initiative as ‘risky and radical,’ and that we will attempt to “legally and physically halt the drilling.” We will “create public panic [awareness] about perceived [experienced] health risks.” The reason why these tactics are their greatest concern is THAT THEY WORK: when we fight back we win. Through legal battles, civil disobedience, and public education that leads to reclaiming of democratic control, small and large groups across Ohio are providing effective resistance to this social and environmental devastation.
If there is something to learned from these documents it’s that when our state regulators at the ODNR are willing collaborators in the attack on our lives Ohioans will continue to have no option but to place our bodies on the line to protect the places and people we care about. And as catastrophe after catastrophe pile up on ODNR’s watch, they have become their own worst enemy to persuading the public that they act in good faith on our behalf. They launched a fancy PR war against us to promote drilling, but we’re winning.
Having no faith in the ODNR for their repeated and criminal abuse of public trust and good faith:
- We demand that the ODNR be brought under Federal investigation for other evidence of criminal practice.
- We demand that all permits for oil and gas related activities be halted pending an independent review made up of a commission including leading environmental advocates and citizen groups impacted by drilling permits.
- We demand the resignation of ODNR officials who allowed public resources to be used for corporate advocacy public relations.
We won’t stop until they do. No Drilling. No Compromise.