Radio Disney has withdrawn from an educational program with the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, due to strong opposition from activists across Ohio and elsewhere.
The Disney action comes after 21 local environmental groups across Ohio signed a letter chiding Radio Disney for supporting the Rocking in Ohio program staged in schools.
"The sole intent of the collaboration between Radio Disney and the non-profit Rocking in Ohio educational initiative was to foster kids’ interest in science and technology," a Radio Disney spokesperson said in an email.
"Having been inadvertently drawn into a debate that has no connection with this goal, Radio Disney has decided to withdraw from the few remaining installments of the program," the statement said.
Activists claimed Rocking in Ohio, a 60-minute interactive program presented in schools in eastern Ohio, was inappropriate in pushing shale drilling. They were very pleased by the Radio Disney decision, a spokeswoman said.
Rocking in Ohio supporters say the program emphasizes science and technology, not drilling.
In a letter released Thursday, Columbus activist Teresa Mills of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice told Radio Disney that her supporters were "stunned and horrified" that it was aligned with the Granville-based OOGEEP.
It is unfair that Disney would partner with the oil industry to indoctrinate children with "a one-sided, factually unsupported" view of fracking, she wrote.
"The events, hosted at schools and fairs, masked as educational programming are nothing more than an attempt by the oil and gas industry to brainwash our children about this extractive and harmful industry. We are adamantly opposed to the mission of this campaign and the unnatural partnership between Disney and the oil and gas industry," she added.
"We believe that the education our children receive…should be free of ulterior motives and industry propaganda," Mills wrote.
She asked Radio Disney to discontinue its support.
The groups supporting the request included the Stark Summit Coalition, Concerned Citizens Ohio (Shalersville), Concerned Citizens of Medina County and Concerned Citizens of Stark County.
That campaign was supported by a petition with 80,000 signatures from California-based Climate Parents and by a Twitter campaign aimed at Disney by the Sierra Club.
Mills had echoed similar comments in a Dec. 18 Beacon Journal story about the Rocking in Ohio program on a visit to Mogadore’s O.H. Somers Elementary School where 200 fourth, fifth and sixth graders participated in the 60-minute show that was patterned after a television show with games, races, competition and prizes. It was one of 26 scheduled stops.
Supporters were very surprised at Mills’ reaction and comments.
Rocking in Ohio is designed to get kids excited about careers in science, technology, engineering and math, not to push drilling, said Rhonda Reda, OOGEEP’s executive director, after Mills’ initial comments. The word fracking never popped up, Reda said.
The program combines information about oil and natural gas creation and production with fun activities, she said. It also highlights the sciences involved in the drilling industry, such as chemistry and geology. The goal is to get children excited about science, she said.
It was Radio Disney that approached her group to get involved in sponsoring the school assemblies. OOGEEP funded the project and partnered with Radio Disney to present it.
OOGEEP is a nonprofit education and public outreach group of the Ohio drilling industry.
Efforts to contact Reda on Saturday were unsuccessful.
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.