Two state lawmakers were listed as opponents of drilling in state parks in a state agency’s plan to promote the practice. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow says those lawmakers are now speaking out about that controversial proposal.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources crafted a communications plan that drew clear lines between who they considered allies and who they considered adversaries.
The state agency, led by appointees of Republican Gov. John Kasich, created that plan in 2012 to promote the controversial practice of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
Included on the list of adversaries were two Democratic state representatives, Bob Hagan of Youngstown and Nickie Antonio of Lakewood. Antonio believes she’s being unfairly targeted for trying to limit fracking, including a ban in Lake Erie.
“I believe that’s the best policy for the health and safety of the people of Ohio," Antonio said. "And so to call my intentions or my work anything less than that is certainly insulting.”
The Sierra Club of Ohio unveiled the 10-page memo with the help of liberal think-tank Progress Ohio. The document warns that the state’s efforts to lease land to oil and gas companies would be met with “zealous resistance by environmental activists.”
ODNR says it never implemented the plan, but the department defends creating such a strategy and referred to the Sierra Club and Progress Ohio as “secretly funded extremist groups.”
While ODNR says the plan was never implemented, Hagan strongly disagrees, noting recent language to push various legislation.
“This political campaign to discredit critics was in full force when this bill was passed and with the MBR," Hagan said. "Again let me emphasize: This plan was implemented.”
Hagan was asked if a similar communications plan was ever drawn up by a Democratic administration.
“I’ve never seen it," he said. "I’ve been here for 28 years. I’ve never seen an organized effort like this. I’ve never seen an effort on behalf of an entire administration directed, again, by the governor.”
The governor’s spokesperson has said it only makes sense to coordinate and plan ahead on an important issue like natural gas development.
Hagan, Antonio and Progress Ohio have all tried to compare this controversy to the bridge closure scandal that‘s plagued New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
The two representatives are calling for legislative hearings to further investigate the issue.