Marisa Twigg, Creative and Communications Director, April 6, 2023
COLUMBUS, OH — On Thursday, the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) joined with Buckeye Environmental Network, Ohio Valley Allies and Sierra Club to file a preliminary injunction against House Bill (HB) 507 to stop the leasing of Ohio state parks and other public lands to the oil and gas industry. Represented by Earthjustice, the Case Western Environmental Law Clinic and its own attorneys, the OEC is proud to work with a coalition of environmental advocates who collectively represent thousands of Ohioans directly impacted by the passage of the unconstitutional HB 507.
House Bill 507’s “mandatory leasing provision” would require the State to lease state parks to the oil and gas industry. Companies are already circling Ohio’s state parks, ready to take advantage of the upcoming open drilling season. Until the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’s Oil and Gas Land Management Commission implements regulations governing the leasing process, the State will have no discretion over leasing its land to companies who pursue a lease.
HB 507’s open season on Ohioans’ state public lands also denies the public the right to participate in public lands leasing decisions. Preventing HB 507 from taking effect will protect the public’s statutory right to notification and comment on state lands leasing decisions through the state’s leasing commission.
“We as Ohioans deserve to have our voices heard when the future of our state parks is on the line. The vitality of our public lands is essential to our own well-being. No one wants to experience visual blight or breathe in toxic air pollution when out on the trail. Our parks are often our best refuge for health and relaxation. These public resources must be protected,” Nathan Johnson, Attorney and Public Lands Director for the Ohio Environmental Council, said. “The OEC filed this lawsuit against HB 507 to defend Ohio’s best places from a dirty industry power grab.”
During the last general assembly’s lame duck session, HB 507 started as an agricultural bill focused on poultry but quickly became a bill that included numerous unrelated subjects at the last reading of the bill in the Ohio Senate chambers. The Ohio Constitution requires every bill to have only one subject, and for every bill to be heard three times in each chamber—especially after a bill is significantly amended. Both the one-subject rule and the three considerations rule are designed to ensure Ohioans have a transparent and understandable legislative process.
“The Ohio Constitution places specific requirements upon the Ohio General Assembly to ensure the people have due process and transparency in how our laws are made,” Chris Tavenor, Associate General Counsel for the Ohio Environmental Council, said. “The passage of HB 507 represents yet another example of the General Assembly believing it can play by its own rules while disregarding the impacts to the people of Ohio. The OEC is proud to stand by other environmental advocates as we fight the implementation of this unconstitutional law.”