By: Dayton Daily News – The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is investigating the origins of public comments sent to state regulators urging fracking in state parks — letters whose purported authors, including some from the Dayton region, say they didn’t write or send.
The issue was originally revealed by Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, which found dozens of Ohioans who say their names were used without permission in a flood of public comments urging the newly formed Oil and Gas Land Management Commission to allow fracking for oil and natural gas in Salt Fork and other state parks and protected lands.
Of 13 area residents in the 937 area code reached by the Dayton Daily News, 10 had no idea why they’re named as writing a letter of support. Many said they oppose the idea. Three others confirmed they did write a letter supporting fracking.
According to the Cleveland.com report, thousands of pro-fracking comments barraged the inbox of the commission, which will decide in the coming months whether to free mineral rights under state lands for leasing and bidding from oil and gas drillers. One set of those form letters traces back to an entity that advocates for the natural gas industry.
Some of the people contacted by the Dayton Daily News did not know what fracking is and were upset after they found out. Fracking is the process of freeing methane from shale thousands of feet underground using water, sand and chemicals at high pressure, technically known as hydraulic fracturing.
The nonprofit Consumer Energy Alliance of Houston, Texas, has previously been accused of using citizens’ names on government petitions and public comments without their permission in Wisconsin in 2014, in Ohio in 2016, and in South Carolina in 2018, according to Cleveland.com.
The alliance denied any wrongdoing, saying that it uses a digital trail to confirm that the names submitted for the form letters through an online portal are authentic.
The Oil and Gas Land Management Commission is scheduled to meet Monday at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources headquarters in Columbus. Andy Chow, ODNR spokesman, said the commission takes these concerns seriously. However, there was no comment on this matter as the commission won’t be meeting in public session until Monday.
“Anyone who believes a comment was submitted without their knowledge or permission should alert the commission immediately,” Chow said. “If someone confirms that they did not submit a letter that is on the public record, the commission will remove that public comment.”
Chow said, “furthermore, if anyone believes they are the victim of identity theft or fraud they are encouraged to reach out to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. The commission has also forwarded the complaints it has received to the Attorney General’s Office.”