Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at a luncheon in Las Vegas, Nevada March 29, 2014.
Steve Marcus / Las Vegas Sun / Reuters

Kasich’s fracking plan comes into sharper focus

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s (R) environmental record took a turn for the worse last week when he approved rolling back the state’s renewable energy standards. The Buckeye State became the nation’s first to go backwards in this area.
But it’s not the only trouble area for the Ohio governor as it relates to environmental policy.
We learned in February that Kasich had originally endorsed hydraulic fracturing – better known as “fracking” – on public land, though he reversed course under unusual circumstances. In 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which is responsible for regulating oil and gas drilling in the state, put together a marketing plan to promote fracking on state land. Asked about this, Kasich’s spokesperson said earlier this year that the governor’s office knew nothing about it. There was ample evidence to the contrary.
Team Kasich said the contradictory responses don’t matter since the end result was the same: the Republican governor dropped his fracking plan in August 2012. There’s new evidence that this isn’t true, either.
New emails show that the Kasich administration did not end its consideration of a plan to sell Ohioans on the benefits of fracking in state parks in August 2012 as previously indicated.
Meetings between high-level officials of the governor’s office and Department of Natural Resources continued for months afterward – even though Gov. John Kasich supposedly had already decided against fracking on state-owned lands – according to 1,572 pages of material given to The Dispatch in response to a public records request almost three months ago.
At a certain level, the fact that the Ohio governor no longer supports his own policy is good news for fracking opponents. At a minimum, it’s preferable to his original position, which would have opened state parks and forests to the controversial – and many believe, dangerous – fracturing process.
But it’s the dishonesty surrounding Kasich’s version of events that continues to raise eyebrows.
We know for certain that in August 2012, Kasich administration officials, including those who regulate oil and gas drilling in the state, met to discuss how best to promote fracking on public land. We also know that it was at this point that the governor’s office claims Kasich changed his mind about the policy.
But the new materials highlighted by the Columbus Dispatch show that Kasich’s team hasn’t been entirely candid about the administration’s efforts. In February, a spokesperson said the Ohio Department of Natural Resources insisted, “No action or next steps came out of” the August 2012 meeting.
Evidence shows, however, that officials continued to strategize about next steps for months afterwards.
“If the governor were indeed opposed to fracking in state parks, why were his top officials planning a meeting to discuss the rollout strategy for just such a thing?” Alison Auciello, Food & Water Watch’s Ohio organizer, asked in a statement to the Columbus Dispatch.

Fracking, John Kasich and Ohio

Kasich's fracking plan comes into sharper focus