Local Group Asks Court To Order ODNR To Provide Records

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An environmental group that is contesting an Athens County injection well permit has asked a court to order the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to provide public records the group requested two months ago.

Athens County Fracking Action Network filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, accusing ODNR of violating Ohio’s public records law.

ACFAN has appealed to the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission a permit that ODNR issued to K&H Partners for an injection well in Troy Twp. — although ODNR has asserted the permit is not appealable, and has asked that the appeal be dismissed. The ODNR records sought by ACFAN relate to that permit, and to an earlier K&H Partners permit and injection well in Troy Twp. Injections wells are used to dispose of waste from oil and gas wells.

“The state has tried to dismiss our appeal without providing us access to public records,” ACFAN member Roxanne Groff said in a news release. “This is unconscionable but unfortunately consistent with ODNR’s wanton disregard of its legal responsibility to the public whom it is entrusted to serve and protect.”

The Athens Messenger contacted ODNR regarding the lawsuit.

“We don’t comment on threatened or pending litigation,” spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said in an e-mail.

According to the action filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, ACFAN made the public records request Jan. 16 and had not received a response by the time the court case was filed. The lawsuit also asserts that ODNR has not provided a written explanation of why it has not complied.

“ODNR had failed to provide the public documents requested by … ACFAN within a reasonable period of time as required by (Ohio’s public records law),” the court filing asserts.

The court is being asked by ACFAN to order ODNR to immediately provide the records. The lawsuit also asks for an award of attorney fees, court costs and damages. Under the public records law, damages can be awarded in the amount of $100 per business day that there is not compliance with the public records law, starting with the date the court action is filed, although damages cannot exceed $1,000.