Cassie Johnson, Communications Associate, September 15, 2023
To the Members of the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission, Director Mary Mertz, and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost,
The undersigned organizations write this letter to bring to your attention a serious concern we have with the public engagement process surrounding the state lands nomination process.
On September 10th, 2023, Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer published an article by reporter Jake Zuckerman titled “Their names appeared on letters urging fracking Ohio’s state parks. They don’t know how.” In the story, Zuckerman provides narrative after narrative of Ohioans whose identities were used to support oil and gas development in Ohio’s state parks—including a 9 year old girl’s identifying information.
But almost all of these people said they did not write the letters.
As early as July 14th, Save Ohio Parks volunteers noticed anomalies with submitted comments, and brought those anomalies to the attention of the Commission and the Ohio Attorney General. The story goes on to detail how out-of-state oil and gas interests used deceptive tactics to acquire the identifying information of Ohioans, utilizing that information to create letters to the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission. According to the investigation, the entities behind this alleged identity theft have long utilized similar tactics both in Ohio and in other states across the country.
As the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission considers whether to grant or deny the nominations of state parks and public lands for oil and gas leasing, it must base its decisions on an accurate factual record. The evidence presented indicates the public record is drastically incorrect, with many of the comments submitted to the Commission not actually submitted by the people whose names are attached to the comments or by Ohioans who did not understand that by providing their names they were filing a public comment. At best, this is a harmless error. At worst, someone deceptively submitted “public” comments using the names of Ohioans without their knowledge.
Ohioans should not have their names attached to a public record without their knowledge or consent. Ohio’s decision makers should also be basing their decisions on true and accurate information, including the understanding that the people participating in the process actually exist.
With these considerations in mind, the undersigned organizations make the following requests of the Ohio Attorney General:
Similarly, we make the following requests of the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources:
We believe these actions are necessary in light of the facts presented. Whatever actions the Ohio Attorney General, the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission, and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources take, we ask that those actions give Ohioans a robust, factual, and transparent public input process. Likewise, as you take action to rectify the current problem, we ask that you act transparently, updating Ohioans on the progress of the investigation and soliciting feedback from them as you improve public commenting procedures.
Ohio Environmental Council
Steering Committee Member
Save Ohio Parks
Ohio Consumer Power Alliance
Steering Committee Chair
Athens County’s Future Action Network
Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action
Solar United Neighbors
Third Act Ohio
Ohio Valley Allies
Black Environmental Leaders Action Fund
Director of Policy and Government Relations
The Nature Conservancy
Sierra Club Ohio
Senior Regional Representative, Region 1
NEO Climate Reality Project
Moms Clean Air Force – Ohio
Freshwater Accountability Project
Buckeye Environmental Network
Ohio Citizen Action
Ohio Organizing Director
Action for Climate Emergency