EID reported last month that fringe environmental extremists are now using fake landowner coalitions to try to bolster efforts to ban fracking and stop pipeline development in Ohio. And even though these front groups are bragging about parachuting in Earthworks operatives, and plan to hold a so-called “leasing forum” headlined by none other than the “Moonbeam Congressman” and current gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich, Ohioans are already proving they are wise to their antics by setting the record straight and continuing to demonstrate that the people who actually live and work here aren’t buying what activists are selling — regardless of how much money and influence out-of-state and out-of-touch groups try to impose on the Buckeye State.

Fake Landowner Groups Launch Misinformation Campaign

It’s been a busy few weeks for the new fake landowner groups EID exposed last month.

The so-called Tri-County Landowners Coalition “representing” three Ohio counties — Richland, Ashland, and Holmes — and including Hayesville Community on Fracked Gas (HCFG), Clear Fork Landowners Group (CFLG), Advocates for Local Land (ALL), and the Monroe Township Landowners Coalition (MTLC), continues to show its true colors in several distinctive ways.

First, ALL penned a letter to the Richland Source calling on readers to “Learn facts about fracking to make an educated decision,” claiming,

“One needs only to visit Carroll County or any other nearby area to witness firsthand these issues. Our past travels in those areas as well as West Virginia and Pennsylvania provide stark examples of what full scale extraction practices have done to those regions, infrastructure, aesthetics, and quality of life. As one example of this devastation, please research the life-changing impact on the local water supplies in the areas where full scale fracking is being done. Where will the millions and millions of gallons of water needed to frack come from? By one estimate, Ohio has forever lost over 16 billion gallons of water due to oil and gas extraction. The resultant toxic water will be poisoned and removed from the water cycle — forever… Advocates for Local Land (ALL) is here to work together to protect and to enhance the health, beauty and sustainability of our community.”

Days later, ALL announced a so-called Tri-County Land Leasing Forum to “provide information to landowners and other concerned citizens regarding some of the issues surrounding subsurface mineral leases and deep horizontal drilling in Ohio.” The forum includes well-known anti-fracking speakers, spearheaded by Kucinich and Tara Samples — candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively — with additional speakers from the Mom’s Clean Air Force, North Central Ohio Land Conservancy, and the so-called Mohican Basin Landowners Association. The entire anti-fracking “leasing forum” charade is “sponsored” by the fake Tri-County Landowners Coalition.

Shortly after ALL announced this forum, one of the “coalition” members, Elaine Tanner, and the Oberlin-based Friends for Environmental Justice announced that it has enlisted the help of Earthworks, one of the most aggressive national “ban fracking” groups, boasting that they plan to again parachute an Earthworks operative into Ohio to campaign and fearmonger local communities through their notorius misuse of FLIR cameras, this time focusing on orphaned and abandoned shallow wells. As you can clearly see, Friends for Environmental Justice is even bragging about its ability to use grants and donations for its anti-fracking campaigns “at no cost to you.”

Ohio Locals and Real Landowners Set the Record Straight

Fortunately, Ohioans are not buying into these groups’ claims and tactics. For example, after learning about the fact that these fake landowner coalitions tried to use Carroll County as “one example of this devastation” in the aforementioned Richland Source letter to the editor, Amy Rutledge, executive director of the Carroll County Convention & Visitors Bureau (who actually lives in Carroll County) set the record straight and responded by saying,

“The letter was both insulting and factually untrue. The author of the letter said ‘one needs only to visit Carroll County or any other nearby areas to witness firsthand these issues.’ Well, as someone who does actually live in Carroll County, I too encourage the readers of the Richland Source to visit Carroll County and other nearby areas to witness firsthand the truth about the oil and natural gas industry. You’ll find that Carroll County has and continues to boast scenic drives with beautiful rolling hills, farmland galore, beautiful lakes and fishing, boating and hiking trails throughout. And yes, there have been a lot of changes too, as the oil and gas industry has become one of our key industries alongside agriculture, manufacturing and tourism. The oil and gas boom in Carroll County has been extraordinary. 2013 sales tax revenues increased by 70 percent versus 2011 ($3.2 million vs. $1.9 million). Two new hotels have been constructed in the county. Drilling companies have spent $40 million upgrading township and county roads. In addition, we have a new school being built, thanks to a new natural gas power plant. To be clear, our county is not an ‘example of devastation’ and as the and as the executive director of the Carroll County Convention & Visitors Bureau, I would invite each and every reader down to our beautiful county any time. Please come see for yourself that the statements made are simply untrue. I too encourage readers to ‘Learn facts about fracking to make an educated decision’ and the recent Letter to the Editor on fracking was not at all factual.”

As for the upcoming so-called Tri-County Land Leasing Forum being headlined by “Moonbeam Congressman” Kucinich, all four of his fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates have unanimously rejected his “rash” and “naïve” plan to ban oil and gas development in Ohio. As former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O’Neill stated,

“Ending fracking is not the right answer and initiating another class action lawsuit is clearly not the right answer.” (emphasis added)

It’s also ironic that Friends for Environmental Justice would use the issue of orphaned and abandoned wells as an excuse to parachute in Earthworks and fear monger local communities at the exact same time that the Toledo Blade reports that the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and the Ohio Environmental Council have teamed up to cap idled and abandoned wells. That’s right — industry and a key mainstream environmental group are solidly behind bipartisan legislation dedicated specifically to address this issue.

But this is certainly not the first time that Earthworks has been out of touch in Ohio. Recall that just last year, Earthworks staffer Ethan Buckner said to a “huge” crowd of only 15 in Marietta, “I’m from Oakland, California and happy to be here.” While out-of-state Earthworks operatives may be happy to be in Ohio — using fossil fuels to travel as far as 2,500 miles from places like California — local residents have had about enough of them.

Washington County Commissioner and Marietta resident Ron Feathers told EID,

“We don’t need these national groups coming in from out of state, traveling 2,500 miles to try to dictate how we manage our natural resources in Ohio. They have no vested interest here. They are not paying taxes, and they are not supporting our schools or local fire department. I don’t tell people in California how to eat and they shouldn’t be telling me how to use our minerals.”

The actual national landowner advocacy group – the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO) — agrees, reporting to EID last month,

“This constant drum beat by folks who do not want any fossil fuels developed under the guise of ‘local control’ is tiring, and for those of us who have a national perspective, this is anything but local. Most of the groups claiming to be ‘local grassroots’ organizations may have enlisted a few local residents to carry the banner, but don’t be fooled. The tell on who is behind them is the rhetoric they spew which is the exact same message developed by Food and Water Watch, Food and Water Action, Sierra Club, Green Peace, etc., who are anything but local. Don’t believe me? Just visit any of those organizations’ websites and see what they say about oil and gas, and you will find the exact same talking points these supposed local grassroots groups are using. They all point to lack of federal Safe Drinking Water Act authority over the oil and gas industry as some terrible miscarriage of justice. Look, this is NOT about local control. This is a private property issue.  This is about a few who want to control everyone else for their own selfish reasons.”

Indeed. And it’s taken only a few weeks to prove that our recent blog post headlined “Heads-Up to Ohio Landowners: Beware of Fake Coalitions” has in fact proven to be wholly accurate. As a reminder, these fake groups have no real intention to help landowners navigate leasing questions. They want to ban all oil and gas development, period.

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