Marisa Twigg, Creative and Communications Director, April 6, 2023
In late December during the 134th General Assembly lame duck session, legislators rushed House Bill 507 through at the last minute, logrolling wildly disparate subjects together into an ultimately dangerous bill for our environment. The Ohio General Assembly knew Ohioans would oppose defining natural gas as green energy and mandating oil and gas leasing on public lands, yet it added those provisions to an agricultural bill, and sent the unconstitutional legislation to Governor DeWine’s desk for signature anyways.
In an adamant effort to stop Ohioans’ beloved public lands from forced fossil fuel leasing, we filed a lawsuit against HB 507 alongside our environmental partners.
On April 6, 2023, the Ohio Environmental Council joined with Buckeye Environmental Network, Ohio Valley Allies, and Sierra Club to file a preliminary injunction to stop the leasing of Ohio state parks and other public lands to the oil and gas industry. In addition to the OEC’s own attorneys, we’re represented by Earthjustice and Case Western Environmental Law Clinic. The coalition of environmental advocates that filed the lawsuit against HB 507 together represent thousands of Ohioans all directly impacted by the passage of this unconstitutional, harmful bill.
HB 507 was originally introduced as a “chicken” bill, focused entirely on agricultural laws pertaining to poultry. But in early December 2022, the Ohio General Assembly stuffed HB 507 with numerous other provisions, including a Mandatory Leasing Provision that requires the State to lease state parks with very little procedural safeguards. An open-season opportunity for oil and gas companies to lease public lands would significantly set back Ohio’s pathway toward a carbon-free future while damaging the state parks Ohioans love.
Our lawsuit asks the Court to find HB 507 unconstitutional under the One-Subject and Three-Considerations Rules of the Ohio Constitution. This lawsuit against HB 507 was filed to stop the Mandatory Leasing Provision from ever taking effect to protect Ohio’s state parks.
In addition to the Mandatory Leasing Provision, HB 507 included all of the following subjects:
Under the Ohio Constitution, a law can only have one subject. It’s a constitutional provision designed to ensure clarity and transparency as the Ohio General Assembly passes legislation. But HB 507 includes numerous subjects that deviated from the original bird-related subject matter.
Under the Ohio Constitution, a bill must be considered three times, on three separate days, by each chamber of the Ohio General Assembly. If a chamber hears a bill three times, but then the bill is vitally altered, that chamber must hear the bill an additional three times. After the Senate amended HB 507 to include its many different subjects, both chambers did not hear it three times before it was signed by Governor DeWine.
Leasing state parks to the oil and gas industry directly harms the many Ohioans who live around and recreate in those public lands. It will increase Ohio’s contributions to climate change by allowing companies to drill for more fossil fuels.
The mandatory leasing provision required the State—especially the Ohio Department of Natural Resources—to lease state lands for oil and gas development until the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission finalizes rules governing the state leasing process.
Until those rules were finalized, the mandatory leasing provision required the State to lease with limited oversight, including no public notice or comment on what lands will be leased, no requirement for an auction for the leases, nor a requirement that the leases go to the highest bidder.
>> UPDATE: A few weeks after HB 507 went into effect in April, and a few weeks after we filed our lawsuit, the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission implemented rules governing the leasing process, causing the mandatory leasing provision to be superseded by the new rules. However, our lawsuit continues—and so does our advocacy. You can learn more about our efforts to oppose oil and gas development of our state parks through the leasing process by clicking here.
On April 6, 2023 the OEC and its co-plaintiffs filed both their Complaint and Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction.
In early May 2023, environmental advocates defended their collective suit in a merits brief. The brief — drafted by attorneys from Earthjustice, the Ohio Environmental Council, and the Case Western Environmental Law Clinic, on behalf of plaintiffs Ohio Environmental Council, Buckeye Environmental Network, Sierra Club and Ohio Valley Allies — explains how HB 507 is unconstitutional under the Ohio Constitution’s one-subject and three-considerations rules.
As of September 2023, the lawsuit against HB 507 remains ongoing as plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction and declaratory judgment to stop the bill’s mandatory state parks leasing provision.
May 30, 2023 marked the start of a leasing “nomination” process for Ohio’s state parks and public lands before the Oil & Gas Land Management Commission as required by HB 507. Public comment is one of our most important tools for protecting our parks in this new nomination and leasing process. The public has 45 days to comment on each nomination after it is announced.
The OEC will continue to update our members and send alerts for nominations of major state public lands.