TO: Director James Zehringer
SUBJ: Request for Resignation Due to Agency’s Failure to Properly Regulate Oil and Gas Industry
RE: Oil and Gas State Lands Leasing: Draft Outline for Communications Plan, 8-20-12
Dear Director Zehringer:
We are extremely disappointed by the damage your Department has done to the reputation for honesty and integrity that the ODNR once had. Friends from your home county have always respected you, though they have strongly disagreed with your waste dumping and drilling-favored policies. But we now see a different side of you and of your Department. Shame on you for the stain on "Natural Resources" which your team has besmirched by the planned, strategic initiative to quash public dissent and concern for the economic and environmental damage caused by fracking. When your department rightly anticipated that there would be a public outcry against fracking our treasured State Parks, it would not be because we are some kind of opponent that must be silenced, but because we are concerned Ohio citizens. Your actions demonstrated that you cater to the fracking industry over the best interests of the state and its citizenry you are supposed to serve.
We call on you to take responsibility for the sale of your office to the gas lobbyists, and resign now. Your work at ODNR will never again have the credibility with which you started. Putting citizens on the enemies list, as you have done, violates your sworn oath to uphold the Constitution, including our First Amendment right to speak out against errors by public officials. The continued aggressive and defensive stance taken by the spokespeople of the agency demonstrates a frightening defiance against us.
Your agency’s stance proves the ODNR cannot be trusted to operate with integrity. If the strategy of selling public office for campaign contributions was not already unlawful, your approach of shielding those who damage our environmental legacy would push this conduct over the line of illegality. We will be requesting a full investigation by the legislature and by the Inspector General, as well as by the USEPA to revoke the ODNR’s ability to permit for fracking and its toxic and radioactive waste dumping. This proves the ODNR cannot continue with permitting authority. We will request this proof be fully included in the current audit by the USEPA of your agency’s ability to permit. We also demand to know the full extent of the Governor’s role to encourage the ODNR to take such a reprehensible stance against the citizenry.
The overly-hyped mischaracterization of respected grassroots citizen groups and environmental organizations as “extremist groups” rather than normal Ohio citizens expressing our legitimate and genuine concerns shows that the ODNR is no longer an agency fit to regulate. Statements such as, “vocal adversaries will communicate emotionally and aggressively," "opponents will attempt to create public panic,” and “activists will attempt to legally and physically disrupt or halt the drilling projects, including staging dangerous protests on state lands,” use fear mongering language to remove our rights as citizens. In truth, we are everyday Ohioans working to protect our families and communities from toxic chemicals in our air, water, and soil. To be categorized as “secretly funded extremist groups,” is insulting, untrue, and unfair. It is dangerous for our state leaders to be so opposed to considering and responding to citizens’ genuine and well-researched concerns. It is for this reason and many other well documented cases of industry influence that we are also appealing to the US EPA to include ODNR’s support of the fracking industry as reason for it to be stripped of the ability to regulate the UIC program delegated to it in 1983.
It was offensive to receive verification of what we had suspected all along: that the state is using our tax dollars to plan public relations strategies, propaganda campaigns and targeted tactics against we, the people, to promote a single industry. Please know that there are many of us beyond the your agency’s targeted list of individuals and organizations who are opposed to the highly unregulated, toxic and radioactivity-polluting industry of fracking and its associated waste dumping in the state we live in and love. You know we are not secretly funded extremists groups planning to attack as characterized in a written statement by your spokesperson, Bethany McCorkle. We have no idea what your agency means about, “…anticipating the attack and planning for it.” What your agency must mean by “the attack,” (otherwise it makes no sense) is the attack you are planning on us which you have already spent our hard-earned public tax dollars to plan and implement. As to the "secret funding,” many of our grassroots groups fund our efforts out of our retirement savings, and donations, mostly gathered in the $1, $5, and $10 amounts, with a few able to donate more.
A full congressional investigation is needed to ascertain the extent of the Governor’s involvement, even though he now states the state parks are off the fracking agenda. To not admit the fact that mineral rights under state parks are often not owned by the state and to use the excuse that the regulatory structure is not mature enough offers even more proof that the ODNR and Governor’s office cannot be trusted to regulate or be fully honest with their intentions.
Please advise immediately the date of your resignation. We will also be appealing to the Inspector General for a full investigation of the ODNR and the Governor’s participation in this plot against law-abiding, tax-paying Ohioans who merely choose to protect their democratic rights and who want lasting, healthy jobs and environment. Obviously, we can’t trust our elected officials and public agencies to do this for us.
Guernsey County Citizens’ Support on Drilling Issues
Morrow County POWER
Frack Free Mahoning Valley
Concerned Citizens Ohio/Shalersville
Southwest Ohio No Frack Forum
Defenders of the Earth Outreach Mission
Guardians of Mill Creek Park
FreshWater Accountability Project
Ohio Fracktion (already on the list)
Radioactive Waste Alert
Concerned Citizens of Medina County
Concerned Citizens Ohio/Hiram
WOFAC Western Ohio Fracking Awareness Coalition