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Ohio State Parks Open to Fracking Despite Fraud Investigation

by Anna

In a controversial decision, the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission approved the fracking of several parcels, including state parks and designated wildlife areas, owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Transportation. The decision, made during a tense public meeting, has fueled opposition from environmental advocates and citizens concerned about potential fraudulent support for the fracking initiatives.

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Under state law, the identities of those nominating land for oil and gas drilling are kept confidential. The vote occurred amid accusations of fraudulent support, with a Cleveland.com investigation revealing that over a hundred Ohio residents claimed their names were attached to form letters supporting fracking without their knowledge. The letters, traced back to pro-oil entities, including the Consumer Energy Alliance, were submitted during a public comment period.

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Accusations of fraudulent support have added to the already polarizing debate around oil and gas fracking. The form letters, which appeared over 1,000 times in the public comment database, urged the commission to “responsibly” lease mineral rights under Salt Fork State Park and other areas. Among those whose names were used without permission were a 9-year-old girl and a blind woman.

The Consumer Energy Alliance, based in Texas, denied collecting names without permission and labeled the coverage as “libelous.” The organization, which had faced similar accusations in other states, claimed to collect and verify names through a third party, refusing to disclose the third party’s identity or the data collected.

Amidst ongoing investigations into potential crimes related to the fraudulent letters, the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission voted in favor of fracking in state parks. The commission chair, Ryan Richardson, emphasized that, according to the lease language, no surface areas of the parks would be disturbed as drilling would occur underground.

Environmental advocates expressed disappointment and accused the state board of lacking transparency, prioritizing corporate interests, and potentially harming future generations. The decision marks the first of its kind in Ohio, with laws allowing fracking in place since 2011. Despite the approval, investigations into the alleged fraudulent support for the fracking initiative continue, with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost confirming an ongoing open investigation.

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