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Ohio Governor's Office Linked to Fracking PR Conspiracy

'This is an unprecedented collusion between oil and gas companies and the agencies that regulate them,' said the local Sierra Cub coordinator

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Documents released by the Sierra Club reveal Ohio government colluding with the same people they are supposed to be regulating. (Photo: billb1961/ cc via Flickr)The office of Ohio Governor John Kasich is implicated in an attempt to cover up the administration's involvement in a conspiracy to promote fracking in public parks.

A "Draft Communications Plan" dated October 20, 2012 and published Friday reveals a detailed plan for various agencies within the Kasich administration to "marginalize” opponents by teaming up with “allied” corporations—including Halliburton, business groups and media outlets—in a public relations maneuver to promote drilling on public land.

Though the governor's office had denied that the governor was aware of the plan, an internal email released Monday reveals that, on the same day the draft plan was dated, Kasich's Director of Policy Wayne Struble sent an email to eight senior staffers with the subject line: "Meeting re: State-Land Leasing - Strategy and Communications Meeting."

Both documents were obtained by the Sierra Club through an Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) public information request.

Noting that this revelation "casts serious doubts" on Kasich's denial, Brian Rothenberg, head of ProgressOhio, said in a statement Monday: "First came the plans to make life tough for those that disagree with him and now the endless staff cover-ups."

According to a statement issued by the Sierra Club, the initial draft memo reads like a "Nixonian" hitlist:

The communication plan states that efforts to frack in Ohio’s state parks “will be met with zealous resistance by environmental activist opponents, who are skilled propagandists.” It sets out a comprehensive strategy to “marginalize” those on a lengthy fracking P.R. hit list, including the Sierra Club, Ohio Environmental Council, OMBWatch.org and state legislators. The document then lists “current and potential” allies in this effort, including the Governor’s Office, JobsOhio, Ohio EPA, Ohio Department of Health, Halliburton, Chamber of Commerce, Youngstown Vindicator, and several other news outlets.

"This is an unprecedented collusion between oil and gas companies and the agencies that regulate them," said Brian Kunkemoeller, Sierra Club Ohio Chapter Conservation Program Coordinator, following the release of the draft plan. "This isn't just bad news for our parks and forests, it's bad news for our democracy."

Though the office of the governor had not responded to a direct request for comment, following the release of the email Monday, officials sidestepped the implications by denouncing the environmental groups involved.

As of this publishing, the office of the governor did not respond to a request for comment by Common Dreams. Elsewhere, officials sidestepped implications of the news by denouncing the environmental groups involved.

ODNR spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle told the Columbus Dispatch: “Any responsible organization plans in advance what it is going to do especially when it knows it is going to face fierce opposition to progress. The fact that these secretly funded extremist groups are attacking us today validates the wisdom of anticipating the attack and planning for it.”

In an interview with Common Dreams, Rothenberg said that the government's aggressive response—labeling the century-old Sierra Club as "extremist"—is "laughable" and "indicative of the behavior of this administration."

"There are numerous instances of the administration treating local environmental groups and people with legitimate environmental concerns with disdain and coordinating with the business community that they are supposed to be regulating," Rothenberg said. He added that the response also proved that the government was implementing the draft communication plan by marginalizing environmental voices.

"I think it's a warning sign—not to the groups but to Ohioans and the American public," Rothenberg added. "There is a really bad bully mentality on the part of industry right now and the cards aren't stacked in your favor—and it's kind of scary."

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