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Ohio’s Bizarre New Law Will Require the Leasing of State Parks for Fracking

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A law that requires state parks to be leased for oil and gas development — along with a host of other bizarre and  harmful provisions — is about to go into effect in Ohio. What started as an agricultural bill focused on poultry quickly grew in scope to grant oil and gas fracking, petrochemical, and agriculture wishes to industry.

State legislators passed HB 507 with no discussion or fanfare, and a dark money group with ties to the gas industry has helped push the false narrative that this law will support a transition to a clean energy future. Earthjustice is suing to stop this law in its tracks. This lawsuit is part of a broader fight to end the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

Ohio’s law is scheduled to go into effect on Friday, April 7, 2023. If it goes into effect, the law will do a wide swath of things. In addition to requiring state parks to be leased, it will redefine “natural methane gas as “green energy.” Other topics in the sweeping bill include everything from agriculture law to electric utilities to a prohibition on the sale of dyed chicks, rabbits, and ducklings.

Now, let’s dig into why we’re most concerned.

Leasing state parks to the oil and gas industry is harmful to people and the planet. This law requires state parks to be leased for oil and gas development.  

  • Oil and gas leasing was already allowed at state parks because of a 2011 bill from the state legislature. HB 507 requires oil and gas leasing on state owned land.  
  • HB 507 doesn’t even require an auction or that leases go to the highest bidder. It simply mandates that state agencies lease to any interested party with insurance and financial assurances that has registered with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. 
  • While Governor DeWine assured he would prohibit any new drilling in Ohio state parks when he signed the bill, oil and gas companies have already asked for leases in Ohio’s state parks. HB 507 removes the state’s discretion to deny those leases. 
  • HB 507 gives no public notice on what lands will be leased and provides no opportunity for public comment. 
  • State parks are often a refuge from oil and gas development in Ohio (see map). This law will lease public lands for short-term oil and gas profits.
Map of Ohio Department of Natural Resources lands and horizontal oil and gas wells in the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area.

(FracTracker Alliance) 

Oil industry greenwashing is preventing real climate action. This law re-defines methane gas as “green energy.”  

  • HB507 labels methane gas as “green energy” a term typically reserved for solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources.
  • Methane gas is not renewable, nor is it green—it is a fossil fuel greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere at 80 times the rate of carbon dioxide.
  • This law did not originate in Ohio. The Washington Post found that “The Empowerment Alliance, a dark money group with ties to the gas industry, helped Ohio lawmakers push the narrative that the fuel is clean.”

This bill is not only bizarre, it’s unconstitutional under Ohio law.  

  • Ohio’s one-subject rule states that each bill can only contain one subject. HB 507 clearly covers several subject matters. 
  • Ohio’s three considerations clause states that bills must be brought up for consideration three times before a vote. The general assembly only considered the final version of this bill that included leasing state parks to oil and gas once in each house. 

While this bill is focused on state parks, this sort of influence from the fossil fuel industry is also happening with our federal lands. The federal government leases vast swathes of public lands and waters to private corporations to drill for oil and gas and to mine for coal. Take action by urging the Biden administration to phase out federal production of fossil fuels.

Green trees, waterfall, peaceful scene with no people.
Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills State Park, Ohio. (David Arment / Getty Images)