ODNR pays to settle third public-records lawsuit

From The Columbus Dispatch For the third time since 2012, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has turned over documents and cash to settle a lawsuit contending the agency illegally withheld public records.

The settlement, in which the department agreed to pay $1,000 to the Athens County Fracking Action Network, was filed yesterday in the Franklin County Court of Appeals to resolve the group’s lawsuit.

The group filed the action on March 19 after failing to receive public records it initially requested on Jan. 16.

The Athens County Fracking Action Network was seeking records as part of its now-dismissed appeal of a decision by the natural resources agency to grant a permit to K & H Partners to open a second fracking-waste injection well in Troy Township.

The department admitted no wrongdoing in settling the lawsuit. Comment was being sought from the agency.

Richard Sahli, the Columbus environmental-law attorney who represents the fracking-opposition group, said he received the requested records from ODNR shortly after the Ohio Oil and Gas Commission dismissed the group's appeal. He has filed a motion for reconsideration based on evidence found in the records.

"ODNR has the most-controversial program in the state, but is the worst in letting the public know what is happening," Sahli said. "Fracking is the least-transparent program I've encountered in 30 years. At some point, you have to wonder -- is it intentional or overwork?"

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