Emily Bacha, Vice President of Public Affairs, May 6, 2021
Columbus, OH — The Ohio House of Representatives’ proposed state budget drags Ohio backward by aggressively promoting fracking in state parks and other state public lands. The House recently added an amendment into the state’s budget bill (see Sub. HB 110 Bill pages 320 – 333) that fast-tracks oil and gas development on state public lands, breaks promises made to the public by HB 133 in 2011, and puts our state parks’ natural legacy at risk.
The following statement can be attributed, in full or in part, to Nathan Johnson, Ohio Environmental Council Public Lands Director:
“Public lands have never been more popular, the outdoor recreation industry never more lucrative, and the climate emergency never more pressing. But the Ohio House’s response is to actively promote our state parks for oil and gas development and fracking.
“Before passing its version of the state budget bill, the House added an amendment into the legislation that will make it state policy to “promote” oil and gas development in Ohio’s state public lands, will free state agencies to immediately begin leasing, and will mandate that all state leasing revenues be plowed back into more leasing and fracking in state public lands. If this language makes it into law it will be a major failure of conservation leadership.
“Leasing and fracking our state parks, state forests, and state wildlife areas is bad for public health, bad for outdoor recreation, and bad for local businesses that depend on bringing in recreation dollars. As if this weren’t bad enough, the House legislation skims all state fracking revenues out of parkland maintenance and improvements and plows that money back into promoting more public lands drilling. This bill language is a brazen assault on Ohio taxpayers and the public interest.
“Ohio’s public lands are owned by all Ohioans. There is no way around this fact: oil and gas development in and under our public natural areas is in direct conflict with public enjoyment and public health. Air pollution from fracking is unavoidable and especially harmful to children. Ohio families and visitors expect and deserve clean air and safe experiences in our state parks and state public lands. The Ohio Environmental Council calls on the Ohio Senate to stop this brazen industry land and money grab.”
Overview of HB 110 State Lands Leasing Provisions (House Version)
The House leasing amendment:
(1) Plows all leasing revenues back into facilitating more oil and gas industry development of our state parks, forests, and wildlife areas. Section 155.33(G) (lines 10155 – 10179) eliminates the arrangement under current law in which leasing revenues are to be reinvested in public land acquisitions and capital improvements. The bill language creates the oil and gas land management commission administration fund and directs that all state leasing revenues are to be credited to said fund. Section 155.35 (lines 10234 – 10245) specifies that the fund is to be spent by the leasing commission and ODNR to implement the state lands leasing program.
(2) Eliminates public involvement and oversight from the state public lands leasing process. Section 155.33 (line 9976 et seq.) frees state agencies to immediately begin leasing state public parcels prior to the creation of parcel nomination or public notice rules and independent of involvement or oversight by the leasing commission. This will eliminate the requirement, under current law, that state agencies consult with the leasing commission in order to lease public lands outside of the nomination process. The leasing commission, which this bill renames the “Oil and Gas Land Management Commission,” includes representation from the public and a statewide environmental organization and plays an important public oversight and transparency role. The transparency provided by the commission has deterred drilling in state lands for the past ten years. The House’s bill language would eliminate this transparency and allow leasing to occur without public knowledge.
(3) Makes it state policy to “promote” drilling in state lands. Section 155.31 (line 9893) changes state policy from “providing access and support” for state public lands oil and gas development to “promote” said development.
Ohio’s public lands are owned in common by all Ohioans. These places are natural treasures and they are vital to public health, outdoor recreation, and a strong environment. There is no way around this fact: oil and gas development in and under our public natural areas is in direct conflict with public enjoyment and public health. Surface infrastructure destroys visual integrity, and air pollution, which is unavoidable, is a serious threat to public health and enjoyment — a threat that does not respect property boundaries. The State of Ohio holds our state lands in trust for the people of Ohio, not for the oil and gas industry. Narrow interests — especially those that conflict with the interests of the broader public — should not be elevated above the interests of everyday Ohioans and their families. Yet this bill language does precisely that. And, by tipping the scales so far in favor of development, it preordains the basic decisions of the leasing oversight commission.