Top advisers to Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) were aware of a plan that the state's Department of Natural Resources was undertaking to target the "eco-left" as it pushed forward on efforts to promote drilling in state parks and forests, the Associated Press reports.
In August 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources drafted an outline of its communication plan for presenting its desire to allow oil and gas drilling to take place on public lands like state parks and forests to the public. The plan noted that an "initiative to proactively open state park and forest land to horizontal drilling/fracturing will be met with zealous resistance by environmental activist opponents, who are skilled propagandists" (emphasis theirs). The Columbus Dispatch reported on the communications document on Saturday.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for the governor's office acknowledged to the Associated Press that several of the governor's top advisers had met with DNR officials about the plan, as an email related to the communications plan had indicated. But state officials say the plan was not implemented.
The communication planning document warned that "'eco-left' pressure groups" will be key influencers seeking to stop the drilling and would "attempt to create public panic" about health risks related to fracking. It listed companies like Halliburton, as well as associations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association as "allied" groups on behalf of the state's initiative. Groups like the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ohio Environmental Council, as well as two specific state legislators, are listed as the "opposition."
ProgressOhio Executive Director Brian Rothenberg called the memo evidence of the "Nixonian tactics" that the governor and his officials employ.
Kasich's office has previously been blamed for pushing out a top official at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency because he would not accommodate the coal industry's requests to issue surface water permits.