Above:  Framed image of written response provided to Sierra Club                          by ODNR re. fracking Ohio State Parks

Last year, the Ohio Legislature opened Ohio State Parks for oil and gas drilling by passing House Bill 133.  The bill established the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission to oversee leasing state land for oil and gas exploration.  The bill tasks the commission with adopting rules for the leasing program and with considering the environmental impact of the proposed lease of state land.

Last October, the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club sent the ODNR a verbal request for drafts of terms to be used in lease agreements and other records concerning the implementation of the drilling program.

Last November, the Sierra Club followed up with a written request for the public records.

Other than a sign-in sheet from an October, 2011, meeting between officials from ODNR and various environmental groups, the ODNR has provided neither the requested documents nor a written explanation of its delay in furnishing the information.

ODNR continues to ignore Sierra Club’s requests for records, including a letter sent by certified mail in February by the club’s California legal department.  Included in the letter were additional requests for emails and other records related to the drilling program.

Last week Monday, April 9, 2012, the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court asking for the requested records and money for attorneys’ fees and court costs.

Ohio state law requires that public records be provided “within a reasonable period of time.”  If the records are not considered public, the law requires an explanation be given for the denial.

Carlo LoParo, spokesperson for ODNR, said it’s been verbally updating the club about the status of its records request.  He further explained that the department is still compiling records and will release them in a few weeks.

“It’s not an issue of public records being denied,” LoParo said.  “The documents are being assembled where they exist, being finalized where they’re not yet complete.”

Jed Thorpe, manager of the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a statement, “Ohioans have the right to know abut the backroom deals being made to bring fracking into our state parks.  The reckless natural gas industry has no place fracking on some of our state’s most beautiful public lands.”

David Marburger, a specialist in open-government laws frequently used by the Plain Dealer, doesn’t understand why ODNR hasn’t provided a written explanation for its delayed response.  “It seems like the Sierra Club’s being basically ignored, but not totally ignored,” he said.  “It seems absolutely inane that it would take so long . . .” to respond.

from by Joe Guillen, The Plain Dealer  April 10, 2012



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