On May 30, 2023, the window opened for oil and gas corporations to apply to the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission for rights to extract from Ohio public land. The process is referred to as nominating a parcel of public land for the oil and gas industry to lease from the state for extraction.
But it wasn’t always this way. Ohio’s public lands, especially its state parks, forests, and nature preserves, have until now enjoyed the protection they were meant to have from polluting extractive industries.
So how did we get to this point? Here is a timeline of events that led us to where we are now.
House Bill 133
As the fracking boom launched nationally, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 133, which created the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission to oversee leasing of public land for oil and gas extraction. “Ohio has always promised that its parks would remain a natural park, not an industrial park,” said then-OEC legislative director Jack Shaner.
Ohioans across the state protest fracking in general and fracking on our public lands — which we pay for and use — in particular. One protest, headlined by Josh Fox and Bill McKibben – drew over 800 people. Many of the older photos on this website are from that protest.
ODNR shills for fracking
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources — which is supposed to be the watchdog for the oil and gas industry — worked with the industry to create a communications plan that they hoped would win support from Ohioans for fracking on public lands. Environmental and grassroots groups were referred to as “obstacles” and “skilled propagandists.”
Kasich reverses course
Due to public opposition — and shortly after ODNR’s plan to promote fracking in Ohio state parks and other public lands came to light — then-Gov. John Kasich reversed his position and announced his opposition to oil and gas extraction from Ohio state parks. Kasich never appointed anyone to the five-member Oil and Gas Leasing Commission created by HB 133.
Commission holds first meeting
The Oil and Gas Leasing Commission meets for the first time under Gov. Mike DeWine. Members include attorneys Matthew Warnock (pictured) and Michael Wise, representing the oil and gas industry; Richard Shank, board president of Ohio Environmental Council, representing conservation; and Steve Buehrer, former CEO of the Bureau of Workers Compensation, representing finance.
House Bill 507
House Bill 507 is introduced to revise the number of poultry chicks that can be sold in lots. The sole purpose for the one-page bill is to cut the number of chicks that can be sold as a lot from six to three.
HB 507 stuffed with amendments
Republicans in the Senate Agriculture Committee insert multiple amendments to HB 507 in the during the lame duck session favoring the oil and gas industry. The bill passes the legislature quickly with no public testimony. Among the changes are clauses declaring methane gas to be “green energy” and mandating that state agencies allow fracking on Ohio public lands. The Washington Post documented dark money contributions from the oil and gas industry to lawmakers who stuffed the bill.
January 6, 2023
DeWine signs stuffed chicken bill
Late on a Friday afternoon, Gov. Mike DeWine signs HB 507 into law, forcing the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission to create a process for oil and gas corporations to nominate parcels of public land for extraction. In his signing statement, DeWine instructs the director of ODNR to prohibit “any new surface use access in our state parks” — although state statute allows oil and gas corporations to make a separate agreement with the state agency that manages a parcel of public land to gain surface use for things like frack pads, roads, pipelines, compressor stations, water withdrawals, timber removal, etc. The law is set to go into effect 90 days later on April 7, 2023.
February 1, 2023
Commission hears testimony
The Oil and Gas Land Management Commission meets to hear public testimony regarding the draft rule and draft lease form for oil and gas corporations to apply to frack on Ohio public lands. The rule is only three sentences long and contains no procedures for public involvement in decisions about what happens to Ohio public land. In response, 683 people submitted written comments and 14 testified in person, all asking the commission to include six points of robust procedures for public notification and comment. Among other things, participants ask the commission to include at least 60 days notice in the draft rule. The commission ultimately declines to include any points of public participation in the draft rule, but does specify 45 days notice in the agency guidelines, which do not have the force of law and can be rescinded at any time.
March 1, 2023
The Oil and Gas Land Management Commission meets to hear a presentation from Craig Butler, executive director of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, and staff about fracking in the district. The presentation discusses the revenue from fracking but does not cover harms to the environment and health of people living in the area. Although residents of the area attend the meeting, they are not allowed to speak. To date the commission has not scheduled any presentation from a scientist or doctor on the climate, environmental, and health effects of fracking.
April 6, 2023
Environmental groups sue
Earthjustice, representing Buckeye Environmental Network,, Ohio Valley Allies, and Sierra Club, along with Ohio Environmental Council and the Case Western Environmental Law Clinic, file a lawsuit against HB 507, arguing that it is unconstitutional because it violates the one-subject rule by putting unrelated oil and gas amendments into a poultry bill, and violates the three considerations clause by being rushed to a vote. The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order to stop mandatory leasing of public lands for oil and gas extraction.
April 10, 2023
Second public hearing
The Oil and Gas Land Management Commission holds a second public hearing on the draft rule and lease form before sending the drafts on for approval by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. This time 575 people submit written comments and 15 people testify in person, again asking for robust public notification and comment procedures as well as going over the harms of fracking to public health, climate, and environment. Testimonials include a doctor whose son died of environmentally induced brain cancer and Ohio residents dealing directly with fracking in their daily lives. All are ignored in favor of testimony from the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, which asked the commission to remove a clause giving the state the right to revoke a fracking lease. The commission announced the change a week later.
April 10, 2023
14 frack pads sought at Salt Fork
A public records request found that last October, Texas-based Encino Energy — formerly the bankrupt Chesapeake — submitted a proposal to ODNR to surround Salt Fork State Park with 14 fracking pads containing up to 89 frack wells. Encino claimed potential payments to the state of almost $2 billion over 15 years even though extraction would only last six years. Although ODNR turned them down, the request is an indication of what the oil and gas industry wants for our state parks and public lands. Meanwhile, an Ohio State University study found that preserving our parks adds $8.1 billion to the state’s economy each year and creates 132,790 jobs.
April 18, 2023
Judge denies restraining order
Judge Kimberly Cocroft of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas denies a request by environmental groups for a temporary restraining order to stop HB 507 from mandating that state agencies allow fracking on Ohio public lands. Because ODNR had said it would not grant a fracking lease before the OGLMC’s draft rules were approved, Cocroft found there was no immediate threat of fracking in state parks. Her ruling did not acknowledge public lands managed by agencies other than ODNR. The lawsuit continues on the constitutional merits of the case.
May 9, 2023
The Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review met to discuss the OGLMC’s draft rule and lease form for fracking on Ohio public lands, as well as other draft administrative rules. JCARR, comprised of members of both the Ohio House and Senate, is the last stop in the approval process for administrative rules. The committee heard testimony before voting on the draft rule. Although two Democratic members voted to send the draft rule and lease form back to the commission, the draft rule and lease form passed through the gerrymandered committee and are set to go into effect on May 28.