Power plant and OSU president

“Ohio’s nine of the top ten warmest and eight of its top ten wettest years have all occurred since 1990,” said OSU’s Vice President of Agricultural Administration, Cathann Kress.

Kress was speaking at OSU’s Earth Day event back in April, aptly named “Time to Act on Climate Change.”

“Climate is not just about the environment, it’s about everything,” continued Kress.

The year 2022 is on track to be one of the state’s hottest and wettest. Ohio’s farmers are witnessing this firsthand as they run state’s $90 billion farming industry. The Ohio Farm Bureau says higher average nighttime temperatures and more intense rains results in more agricultural bugs and fungus, among other challenges.

During the OSU Earth Day event, Kress introduced the recipient of the 2022 Chadwick Award for “an outstanding character who has boldly chosen to speak for the trees.”

She announced the winner: OSU President Kristina Johnson. Chosen for her “bold vision and action on carbon sequestration. Thank you, President Johnson for your action to address climate change.”

Johnson accepted the award and began her speech but was abruptly interrupted by youth climate activists from Ohio Youth for Climate Justice and the Sunrise Movement who called out the hypocrisy of President Johnson receiving a climate award.

“Kristina Johnson, we will not allow you to accept an award pretending like you’re tackling the climate crisis,” Yousuf Manir, a sociology student and organizer with Ohio Youth for Climate Justice announced through a megaphone.

Johnson and OSU’s climate record has been dubious. Since being appointed President in 2020 by the OSU Board of Trustees, she has championed the building of a new fracked gas power plant on OSU’s campus, has refused to divest university capital from fossil fuels, and ignored calls to further disentangle the university from fossil fuels.

“We will not go away until you commit to fully divesting from all fossil fuel projects, when you shut down the CHP plant, and when you agree to reinvest… in the community,” Manir said.

The Ohio Youth for Climate Justice and Sunrise Movement also called attention to the ties between the University and Marathon Petroleum. This year, OSU’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) accepted a $250,000 donation from the Marathon Petroleum Foundation.

Marathon Petroleum is headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, and operates the country’s largest petroleum refining system. Their second largest refinery is in Canton, Ohio, processing 93,000 barrels per day. Marathon Petroleum made $11.3 billion in profit between April 2021-2022.

It’s in the profitable corporation’s best interest to continue an economy based on fossil fuels. This includes a polical strategy of influencing policy and politicians with help from American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC.

In 2018, Marathon worked with conservative billionaire Charles G. Koch to run a stealth lobbying campaign seeking to convince Congress and state governments to roll back car emission standards.

The same year, Gov. John Kasich appointed Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s president and CEO, Gary Heminger, to OSU’s Board of Trustees. Between 2011 and 2019, Heminger was compensated over $100 million by the Marathon, or roughly $13 million a year. He was also on the board of JobsOhio, the privatized job-creation board.

Heminger was involved in a conflict of interest case surrounding a tax incentive deal for Marathon while he and one other JobsOhio board member were on Marathon’s board. He retired from Marathon Petroleum in 2020, but will serve on OSU’s board until 2027.

“We’re committed to investing in projects that promote sustainability,” said Shawn Lyon of Marathon. He was reffering to Marathon’s $250,000 donation to OSU. The majority of which will go towards vegetation management along fossil fuel pipelines.

“The fact is, you can manage the vegetation around a pipeline all you want — but if that pipeline is carrying fossil fuel that will emit even more carbon when burned, then it’s not sustainable,” activist Cathy Becker said.

Even with vocal student opposition to OSU’s investments in fossil fuels, their building of new fossil fuel infrastructure, and their acceptance of fossil fuel money, the university has shown no sign of going back on these policies or having any intention to change course.