A new document released on Monday indicates that Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s office was involved in drafting a 2012 state plan to promote hydraulic fracturing or fracking in Ohio state parks and forests, complete with a Nixon-style enemies list.
On Aug. 20, 2012, Wayne Struble, Kasich’s director of policy, sent invitations to eight of Kasich’s senior staffers, plus top administrators in the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Those invited included Kasich communications director Scott Millburn, chief of staff Beth Hansen, senior advisor Jai Chabria, former director of legislative affairs Matt Carle (now Kasich’s campaign manager), and former policy advisor Craig Butler (now director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency).
The document, released by ProgressOhio and the Sierra Club, contradicts an earlier statement by Kasich’s office.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols told the Columbus Dispatch in a story published on Saturday that "the governor’s office had never seen the plan."
ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce said the report was prepared for internal discussion. He said he was unfamiliar with the report and had no explanation for why it was never put in place.
Bethany McCorkle, ODNR spokeswoman, said: "The legislature approved the leasing of state land for oil and gas mineral extraction in 2011. This initial draft was a communication plan drafted for the rollout of the new law in the event our land was subject to leasing. Ultimately, it was never implemented because there is no horizontal drilling on state parks, and it was instead used solely for discussion purposes. Frankly, any agency or business that would announce a major policy decision without a strategic plan is setting itself up for failure."
The Ohio Legislature in June 2011 approved drilling in state parks. But Kasich has never filled the posts on a new state panel that will oversee such drilling.
"John Kasich is a bully. He’s looking more like Ohio’s answer to (New Jersey governor) Chris Christie," said ProgressOhio executive director Brian Rothenberg. "First came the plans to make life tough for those that disagree with him and now the endless staff cover ups," he said in a statement.
The 13-page state document included detailed plans for various agencies in the Kasich administration to "marginalize" drilling opponents by teaming up with "allied" companies including Halliburton, business groups and media outlets.
The document was included in materials released to the Sierra Club by ODNR after a public records request.
The state plan was to "build understanding, foster support, counter opponents’ criticism and minimize public concerns about the initiative" to drill on state-owned lands, it said.
Efforts to drill on state-owned land "will be met with zealous resistance by environmental activist opponents, who are skilled propagandists," the report says.
It outlines a comprehensive strategy to "marginalize" those on a lengthy fracking public relations list including the Sierra Club, the Ohio Environmental Council, OMBWatch and some state legislators.
The plan outlines "current and potential" allies in its effort including Kasich’s office, JobsOhio, Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Health, Halliburton, national, state and some local chambers of commerce, the Youngstown Vindicator and several other news outlets.
The plan said neutral parties such as ordinary citizens concerned about their families’ health will be "vulnerable to messaging by opponents that the initiative represents dangerous and radical state policy by Gov. Kasich."
Anti-fracking activists will likely attempt to legally and physically halt drilling; to create public panic about perceived health risks; to slant news coverage against drilling; and to blur the public perception of ODNR’s regulatory role, the report says.
Said Rothenberg: "What is outrageous is that the document both recognizes the regulatory role of ODNR and then goes on to list the very organizations it regulates as allies in their propaganda camapign to drill in state parks. It is bad enough that corporations influence policy through ALEC and Citizens United, but these are full-stop Nixonian tactics."
Said Brian Kunkemoeller of the Sierra Club: "This is an unprecedented collusion between oil and gas companies and the agencies that regulate then. This isn’t just bad news for our parks and forests. It is bad news for our democracy."
"It is simply astonishing that the agency tasked with protecting the environment would see Halliburton as a friend and the Sierra Club as an enemy," said Sierra Club spokeswoman Deb Nardone. "It’s shocking to see an orchestrated PR hit job in black and white."
The report only looks at drilling in two state parks — Barkcamp in Belmont County and Wolf Run in Noble County — plus one state forest: Sunfish Creek in Monroe County.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.