ODNR Drafted Communication Plan For Hydraulic Fracturing

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The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has formulated, but allegedly not implemented a controversial hydraulic fracturing or communications plan.

Sierra Club, an environmental group, uncovered records that show ODNR drafted a plan in 2012 on how to communicate with the public about the practice commonly known as fracking.

The memo included lists of allied groups, neutral groups, and adversaries of fracking.

Allied opinion leaders and groups included the Governor's office, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association among others.

The Sierra Club was among those listed as a fracking adversarial opinion leader, along with other environmental groups and two democratic state representatives.

Brian Kunkemoeller of the Sierra Club says ODNR is protecting the hydraulic fracturing industry.

"The industry that’s supposed to be regulating fracking and protecting our public lands is working in alliance with the industry itself," Kunkemoeller said.

ProgressOhio, a liberal think tank, held a press conference Monday denouncing the communications plan. 

ProgressOhio's Executive Director Brian Rothenberg said, "It is highly inappropriate for the executive branch to try to single out and marginalize legitimate public policy discussion of legislators they don’t like."

However, there is no evidence the plan was ever implemented, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Bethany McCorkle, a spokesperson for ODNR, responded to accusations from Sierra Club and Progress Ohio.

"Any responsible organization plans in advance what it is going to do especially when it knows it is going to face fierce opposition to progress. The fact that these secretly funded extremist groups are attacking us today validates the wisdom of anticipating the attack and planning for it," McCorkle said.

Caleigh Bourgeois is a fellow in Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. Follow her on Twitter @caleighreports.