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Kasich's turnaround on state-park fracking
Ohio Gov. John Kasich already approved fracking on public land, but yesterday announced he now opposes it. The timing of the announcement is raising eyebrows.
By Steve Benen
Less than three years after signing legislation opening up Ohio state parks and forests to fracking, Gov. John Kasich now opposes the controversial horizontal drilling for oil and gas on public lands. "At this point, the governor doesn't support fracking in state parks," Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols told The Dispatch. "We reserve the right to revisit that, but it's not what he wants to do right now, and that's been his position for the past year and a half."
That reference to the longevity of Kasich's position might, at first blush, seem odd. What difference would it make how long the governor has opposed fracking in state parks?
The answer, in this case, matters quite a bit. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer added, "Word of Kasich's reversal came the same day Democratic lawmakers called for an investigation of a marketing plan to promote fracking on state lands that was put together a year and a half ago by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which regulates oil and gas drilling."
Right. In this case, the timing is everything.
As recently as last Friday, Feb. 14, Kasich's office was asked whether the governor and his team knew about an August 2012 state marketing plan for fracking in state parks and forests. Kasich's spokesperson said the governor's office knew nothing about it.
A few days later, the public learned that wasn't quite true. ProgressOhio's Brian Rothenberg and the Sierra Club's Brian Kunkemoeller released an email on Monday showing the governor's top aides, including Kasich's chief of staff, scheduled a 2012 meeting to discuss -- you guessed it -- the marketing plan for fracking on public land.
[The governor's spokesperson] told The Dispatch on Friday night that the governor's office had no knowledge of the marketing plan because it had never left the Natural Resources department. "Clearly, that's not the case," Brian Rothenberg, head of the liberal nonprofit organization ProgressOhio, said in a news conference yesterday in which the email was divulged. "The fact that people at the highest level of the governor's office were involved in this is pretty unsavory." [...] Rothenberg and Kunkemoeller expressed outrage that a state agency given the statutory duty to regulate the oil and gas industry actually was partnering with the industry to promote it.
So, consider the rough timeline of events:
* Kasich opened up state parks and forests to fracking.
* Kasich's team met to discuss a marketing plan to promote fracking on public lands.
* Kasich's spokesperson said the governor's office didn't know about the plan.
* Kasich's spokesperson concedes the governor's office did know about the plan.
* Kasich announces he's not for fracking in state parks and forests after all.
Democrats in the Ohio legislature yesterday called for an investigation into the marketing plan and the governor's office's willingness to conceal its efforts.