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The Oil & Gas Land Management Commission Must Provide Meaningful Opportunity for Public Involvement

January 9, 2023
Attn: Nate Moffitt
Oil & Gas Land Management Commission
Ohio Department of Natural Resources

RE: Proposed Rule O.A.C. § 155-1-01
Must Provide Meaningful Opportunity for Public Involvement

Dear Commissioners and Staff,

On behalf of its family of organizations and its thousands of members, the Ohio
Environmental Council (OEC) submits the following comments regarding proposed rule O.A.C.
§ 155-1-01. The statute governing the state lands nomination process requires the Commission to
consider public comments and objections when making its nomination determinations. R.C. §
155.33(B)(1)(h). However, neither the statute nor this proposed rule (as written) provides
procedures that would implement this important public process. The leasing and development of
Ohio’s state public lands for oil and gas is a matter of substantial public interest. And one that
touches on a host of vitally important considerations, including public health, environmental
quality, conservation, and recreational enjoyment. As such, the proposed rule should be
expanded to include procedures necessary for meaningful public involvement in the
Commission’s nomination decision process.

The adoption of this rule, under R.C. § 155.34, would, upon its effective date, initiate the
Ohio state public lands leasing nomination process enumerated in statute. R.C. § 155.33(A)(1).
Initiation of this process would represent a major shift in the state’s approach to the potential
leasing of state public lands for oil and gas development. In particular, the nomination process
would require the state, through the Oil & Gas Land Management Commission, to decide
whether or not individual state-owned or controlled parcels (specifically, formations therein) will
be leased for oil and gas development. See R.C. § 155.33(B)(1); (E). Ohio statute mandates that,
as part of this process, the Commission consider public comments and objections when deciding
whether to approve or disapprove a parcel nomination. Specifically, R.C. § 155.33(B)(1)(h)
provides that:

      In making its decision to approve or disapprove the nomination, the commission
      shall consider all of the following: […] (h) Any comments or objections to the
      nomination submitted to the commission by residents of this state or other users
      of the parcel of land that is the subject of the nomination[.]

However, neither the statute nor the proposed rule as written enumerates the necessary public
involvement procedures contemplated by R.C. § 155.33(B)(1)(h). Without strong, rule-based
procedures for meaningful public involvement, the public’s awareness of and ability to
participate in the statutory state lands nomination process will likely be largely frustrated. And, without robust public involvement procedures in place, the credibility and fairness of the
Commission’s nomination determinations will likely be called into serious question.

The OEC respectfully requests that the Commission expand this proposed rule, O.A.C. §
155-1-01, to include procedures implementing the public involvement process contemplated by
R.C. § 155.33(B)(1)(h). The Commission is fully empowered to do so. The statute authorizing
this rulemaking specifically authorizes the Commission to adopt rules establishing any
“procedures necessary to implement sections 155.30 to 155.36 of the Revised Code.” R.C. §
155.34(A)(2). Public notice and comment procedures are necessary to implement the
Commission’s statutorily delineated decision making process. See R.C. § 155.33(B)(1)(h).
Because adoption of this rule will initiate the statutory public parcel nomination process, now is
the time to establish the necessary public involvement procedures.

Currently, the proposed rule provides only that notice for a meeting of the Commission
(irrespective of any nominations) shall be posted on the Commission’s website at least seven
calendar days prior to the meeting. Proposed O.A.C. § 155-1-01(C). The proposed rule does not,
however, provide for public notice of nominations. Nor does the proposed rule provide any
procedures for the actual submission of public comments or objections. In addition, seven days
of website posting would be a grossly inadequate notice period for parcel nominations. Ohio
residents and users of the public parcels in question will need a reasonable amount of time to
first find a posted notice, then to review relevant available information, and then to formulate
and submit comments or objections to the Commission. All of these things will take time;
particularly if the Commission wishes to facilitate public involvement that is well-informed.

For all of the foregoing reasons, the OEC respectfully requests that the proposed rule be revised to include new provisions reflecting the following:

  • That each nomination received by the commission be both publicly noticed and opened for public comment and objection for at least 60 days prior to the Commission holding a meeting to decide said nomination;
  • That notice of each nomination received by the Commission be posted on the Commission’s website and remain posted through at least the close of public comment;
  • That, in addition, the Commission maintain and employ an email notification list (with sign-up available on the Commission’s website) that provides direct email notice of all parcel nominations; 
  • That each notice of nomination specify the day on which the notice was first published on the Commission’s website and the day and time (if any) by which public comments and objections are due;
  • That each notice of nomination disclose or otherwise provide electronic access to the information specified in R.C. § 155.33(A)(2)(b)(i) – (iii) (i.e., identification, location, and map of parcel);
  • That each notice of nomination include a recitation and citation to the 155.33(B)(1)(a)-(i) consideration factors for the Commission’s nomination determination.

Should the state public land leasing nomination process begin, it must at the very least
provide meaningful opportunity for public involvement. The proposed rule as written does not do
so. Because adoption of this rule will initiate the nomination process, appropriate public
involvement procedures must be provided for now, in this rulemaking.

Thank you for your careful consideration of the above comments.

Nathan Johnson
Public Lands Director
Ohio Environmental Council
1145 Chesapeake Ave., STE I
Columbus, OH 43212

1A 60-day notice and comment time period falls well within the 120-day statutory maximum period provided in
statute. R.C. § 155.33(B)(1) (providing decisional meeting must occur within 30 to 120 days of the commission
receiving the nomination).