Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Astonishing Corruption in Governor Kasich's Administration--Fracking in the State Parks

Sent to me by my brother-in-law, Steve Sanders:

Kasich aides knew of plan 

for Fracking in state parks

By Darrel RowlandThe Columbus Dispatch • Tuesday February 18, 2014 5:20 AM

On Friday, Gov. John Kasich’s spokesman said the governor’s office knew nothing about an August 2012 state marketing plan for fracking in state parks and forests.
But after an email about the plan involving most of Kasich’s top officials was disclosed yesterday, spokesman Rob Nichols said: “Of course, the administration is going to coordinate and plan ahead on an important issue like gas production on state land.”
The turnaround came after an email became public. It was from Kasich senior adviser Wayne Struble, who sought a meeting about the public-relations campaign with top Kasich officials. Those invited included Beth Hansen, the governor’s chief of staff; Scott Milburn, top communications manager; Matt Carle, his legislative liaison (who is now his re-election campaign manager); Jai Chabria, a senior adviser; Tracy Intihar, who was cabinet secretary at the time; Craig Butler, a policy adviser who is now head of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency; and leaders of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The Aug. 1, 2012, communique called for a “state-land leasing-strategy and communications meeting” on the 30th floor of the Riffe Tower, where the governor’s offices are. The meeting was slated for Aug. 20 — the same day that the PR plan is dated.
The plan was never implemented.
Nichols told The Dispatch on Friday night that the governor’s office had no knowledge of the marketing plan because it had never left the Natural Resources department.
“Clearly, that’s not the case,” Brian Rothenberg, head of the liberal nonprofit organization ProgressOhio, said in a news conference yesterday in which the email was divulged. “The fact that people at the highest level of the governor’s office were involved in this is pretty unsavory.”
Brian Kunkemoeller, conservation-program coordinator with the Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter — which obtained the material through a public-records request — said, “This is not only a sad day for our parks and forests, it’s also a sad day for our democracy.”
Rothenberg and Kunkemoeller expressed outrage that a state agency given the statutory duty to regulate the oil and gas industry actually was partnering with the industry to promote it.
Their two organizations called for an investigation into who ordered the PR push, who paid for it and why several environmental groups and two Democratic legislators were named as part of “ zealous resistance” by “opposition groups” that must be overcome.
Natural Resources spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said, “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.”
Said Nichols: “If we didn’t (prepare a marketing plan), these same extremist groups would be attacking us for not planning ahead.”
Critics say the 10-page plan goes well beyond a traditional communications effort. The memo itself recognized that the public-relations initiative “could blur public perception of ODNR’s regulatory role in oil and gas.”
The document was prepared by Mark Anthony, a senior policy adviser with the Natural Resources department who once was a press secretary for then-Columbus Mayor Dana G. “Buck” Rinehart. Anthony was hired by the Kasich administration the month before the memo was prepared.
McCorkle said she wasn’t sure whether Natural Resources or the governor’s office had directed Anthony to draw up the plan.
“To tell you the truth, the assignment was a year and a half ago, (and I’m) not sure who asked him to do it,” she said. “No action or next steps came out of the meeting.” 
In 2011, the legislature passed, and Kasich signed, a bill allowing fracking on public lands.
Fracking — hydraulic fracturing — starts with drills first going vertically thousands of feet underground and then turning 90 degrees to carve long horizontal shafts through shale formations rich with gas and oil. The actual fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals below ground to shatter the shale and free the petroleum products so they can be pumped to the surface.
[BROOKE LAVALLEY | DISPATCH FILE PHOTOWayne Struble, left, a senior advisor to Gov. John Kasich, sent an email requesting an August 2012 meeting of top Kasich officials to discuss a public-relations campaign to promote fracking in state parks and forests.]#

My thoughts:

Here is what I find astonishing. State agencies responsible for ensuring our physical health, the health of our environment (Ohio EPA), and those entrusted with protecting our parks and natural environment (ODNR) were working in service to the fracking industry. I can't believe this was even legal! It's the old story of the fox guarding the hen house (and we know how that turns out!). In my mind, this kind of collusion is incredibly corrupt; it's immoral; and it's probably not legal.

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