Everyone thinks our elected officials are under some influence of “special interest” money. It’s very apparent in Pennsylvania with the passage of Act 13 – The Marcellus Shale in February 2012.
The PA House vote was 101 YEAS, 90 NAYS. The PA Senate vote was 31 YEAS and 19 NAYS. Yes, it was all along party lines.
On Feb. 14, 2012, without cameras, reporters or other fanfare – Gov. Tom Corbett quietly signed ACT 13.
ACT 13 dangles a little bit of money to each community in the form of an “impact fee” paid by the natural gas corporations. In exchange for 30 pieces of silver, communities will no longer be able to set zoning or other conditions on where or how the natural gas corporations may drill, frack, or otherwise industrialize the community.
The Sierra Club has published “The 10 Top Myths about Pennsylvania’s The Mad Rush to Frack Act” – read it.
In his article, “Why I Voted NO on the Marcellus Shale Bill”, State Rep. Jesse White of the 46th district stated:
“This bill is loaded with blatant giveaways for the natural gas industry. There’s money for a “Housing Affordability Programs,” which means we will be paying for temporary housing for workers from out of state who will no longer be staying in our hotels. There are subsidies for natural gas vehicle programs the industry apparently couldn’t afford to do without a government handout. And there is a massive direct cash giveaway intended to go to the Shell Oil Corp., which had a profit of more than $20 billion in 2010.
If you were upset about the potential funding of the Arlen Specter Library (which Corbett approved last week), you have to be losing your mind over a deal to subsidize a major foreign oil company with your tax dollars.”
He continues: “Supporters of House Bill 1950 will tell you the law is a compromise. The only compromise could have been between the lobbyists for the natural gas industry and the people who agreed with them already, because they were the only ones in the room negotiating this 174-page bill, which was drafted in secret and almost immediately put up for a vote. House Bill 1950 wasn’t a compromise; it was a back room deal made by a small group of people whose primary concern was the profit margin for the energy industry.”
On January 12, 2012, letter was sent to Representatives Smith, Turzai and Ellis on behalf of Kathryn Z. Klaber, President, Marcellus Shale Coalition and Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Executive Director, Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania.
A copy of the letter was also sent to all Pennsylvania House Members in the PA Legislator and to Gov. Tom Corbett. The letter was accompanied with 4 pages of suggestions. All but 3 of the “suggestions” found their way into the final version.
WHO are Klaber and Wissman?
API is the American Petroleum Institute: largest U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry. It claims to represent about 400 corporations involved in production, refinement, distribution, and many other aspects of the petroleum industry.
API is also part of the VOTE 4 ENERGY, an industry and corporation funded ad campaign.
Vote4Energy is a project of the American Petroleum Institute representing more than 490 oil and natural gas companies, leaders of a technology-driven industry that supplies most of America’s energy, supports 9.2 million U.S. jobs and 7.7 percent of the U.S. economy, delivers more than $85 million a day in revenue to our government, and, since 2000, has invested more than $2 trillion in U.S. capital projects to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives.
Founded in 2008, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) is an organization committed to the responsible development of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale geological formation and the enhancement of the region’s economy that can be realized by this clean-burning energy source.
Members of the MSC are the oil/gas corporations, too numerous to list on this blog. Click a link below to see the lists.
Kathryn Klaber: Executive Director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC)
Prior to joining the MSC, Ms. Klaber was Executive Vice President for Competitiveness at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League.
Through the 1990s, Ms. Klaber worked in the environmental consulting business in mergers and acquisitions, environmental management systems, air and water quality projects, Brownfields redevelopment, accidental release preparedness, and other environmental initiatives.
She is a member of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee.
Environmental consulting business? Which one?
Through the 1990s, Kathryn Klaber worked for the international environmental, health and safety consulting firm, Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM), first at the company’s headquarters in Philadelphia, then in her native Pittsburgh. Her client work consisted primarily of mergers and acquisitions, environmental management systems, air and water quality projects, and other facilities’ engineering engagements. She supervised multinational projects, primarily for Fortune 1000 companies, involving staff from across the company’s 130 offices. In southwestern Pennsylvania, she worked with regional companies on air quality compliance, Brownfields redevelopment, accidental release preparedness, and a myriad of other environmental initiatives. During her last three years with the firm, Ms. Klaber managed the Pittsburgh regional office, responsible for all aspects of the practice including business development, product delivery, staffing, and financial management.
Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM) : As a leading global provider of environmental, health, safety, risk, and social consulting services, ERM has sustainability at the heart of both our services and how we operate our business. We employ over 4,000 people with 140 offices in 40 countries worldwide.
For over 40 years we have been working with clients around the world and in diverse industry sectors to help them to understand and manage their environmental, health, safety, risk and social impacts.
The key sectors we serve include Oil & Gas, Mining, Power, and Manufacturing, Chemical and Pharmaceutical.
Stephanie Catarino Wissman: Executive Director of Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania (API-PA), a division of the American Petroleum Institute(API).
Former Director, Government Affairs : Stephanie Catarino Wissman joined the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry as director of Government Affairs in October 2007. Stephanie graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. With nearly 15 years of experience in government relations, Stephanie primarily serves as the PA Chamber’s energy and environmental lobbyist, with additional responsibilities including general business advocacy, transportation and technology.
Prior to joining the PA Chamber, Stephanie served as manager of Government Affairs for Embarq (formerly Sprint). Highlighting her career at Embarq was her work on Act 183 of 2004, commonly referred to as Chapter 30. Stephanie played a major role in passing this landmark telecommunications alternative regulation legislation, which has become a model for other states confronting telecommunications reform.
As a registered lobbyist, Stephanie has also held positions at Pennsylvanians for Effective Government and Associated PA Constructors. She is a member of Women in Pennsylvania Government Relations and serves on the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association’s (PHIA) Board of Directors.
Governor Corbett Announces Recent Nominations, Appointments : HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Governor Tom Corbett today announced the following recent nominations and appointments: Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Mechanicsburg – Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board.
Gov. Tom Corbett (R) – Pennsylvania
Bio: Corbett was the Attorney General of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 1997; he was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge to fill the unexpired term of Ernie Preate.
As a condition of his Senate confirmation, Senate Democrats required him to pledge that he would not run for re-election in 1996. This is a common practice in Pennsylvania for appointments to elected offices. Corbett left office in 1997 and again went into the private sector, first as general counsel for Waste Management, Inc., then opening his own practice.
In 2004, Tom Corbett won the election for Pennsylvania Attorney General. His 2004 campaign funds were fattened a bit, by a $450,000 check from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy.
“The $450,000 in campaign checks that energy mogul Aubrey McClendon wrote that fall helped elect a man he said he’d never even met – a relatively obscure GOP candidate for Pennsylvania attorney general, Tom Corbett.
That investment arguably changed not just the history but also the political direction of the state. The influx of cash helped Corbett narrowly win the closest attorney general’s race in Pennsylvania history and propelled him toward the governor’s mansion, where he has now pledged to turn the Keystone State into “the Texas of the natural-gas boom.”
In the 2009-2010 campaign cycle, Chesapeake Energy and its employees donated $87,150 to candidates in Pennsylvania. David Spigelmyer, Chesapeake’s Vice President for Government Relations was given a seat on the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission in 2010.
Chesapeake racked up 132 violations in 2010, putting it in the #3 spot. Chief Oil & Gas led the violations pack with 174 violations.
Chesapeake Energy disputes this account: “Chesapeake spokesman Matt Sheppard disputes the account of the people Pennsylvania Public Radio spoke with, who come from both inside and out of state government, emailing, “[Spigelmyer] stepped aside from the Marcellus Commission prior to the first meeting to focus on Chesapeake operations and his duties as vice chair of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.” Corbett’s office did not return calls for comment.”
To my knowledge, Spigelmyer’s seat was not filled. The MSAC submitted its final report in July 2011.
Gov. Corbett has been extremely supportive of natural gas drilling; he believes it will bring jobs and millions of dollars to Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania is blessed with remarkable resources, innovation and a legendary work ethic. Even in its infancy, the Marcellus Shale is beginning to have a great economic impact on Pennsylvania. At a time when the national and state unemployment rates are rising and our country is slowly trying to regain its traction from the recession, the Marcellus Shale is working to create jobs and millions of dollars in royalty fees and local and state tax revenues. The commonwealth currently finds itself at a competitive advantage when compared to other states with similar gas shale plays. Capital investment to develop Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale is increasing rapidly, and, according to an economic impact study released by Penn State University in 2009, industry activity is expected to generate over $600 million in tax revenues to the Commonwealth during 2010 without a severance tax. Tom Corbett believes that a punitive tax on the industry at this stage would reduce capital investment in the commonwealth and reduce the potential for new jobs, tax revenues and other economic benefits associated with development of the Marcellus Shale. In addition, Tom Corbett would support dedicating a portion of the royalty fees to communities that are being impacted by drilling.”
Budget Cuts: Forced Fracking
In 2011, Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget included $2 billion in cuts to education and reduces aid to colleges and universities by 50 percent. The budget passed with only a 19 percent chop to the funding of Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln.
Those concerned with the quality and importance of education protested the cuts. Gov. Corbett told them Pennsylvania universities should consider drilling for natural gas below campus to help solve their financial problems.
For the 2012-2013 budget: “Gov. Tom Corbett announced on Tuesday his $27.4 billion state budget proposal, which slashed spending and suggested cutting Pitt’s state funding by 30 percent — from $136 million to $95.2 million — for the coming fiscal year.
The proposed cuts to higher education mark the biggest percentage cut in Corbett’s 2012-2013 budget, which aims to reduce spending without raising taxes. This year’s proposed budget is an $866 million reduction from the 2011-2012 budget.
September 2012: Pennsylvania Legislature to allow gas drilling on college campuses:
Short Title: An Act providing for indigenous mineral resource development; and imposing powers and duties on the Department of General Services and the State System of Higher Education.
Prime Sponsor: Senator D. WHITE
Last Action: Signed in Senate, Sept. 25, 2012
Text of Senate Bill 367 (excerpt)
Section 3. Development of resources on State-owned land.
(a) Authority.–The department has the following powers:
(1) To make and execute contracts or leases in the name of the Commonwealth for the mining or removal of valuable coal, oil, natural gas, coal bed methane and limestone which may be found in or beneath State-owned land and to convey Commonwealth rights to coal, oil, natural gas, coal bed methane and limestone.
(2) To grant a right-of-way through State-owned land to any individual or corporation that applies if the department determines that the grant will not so adversely affect the land as to interfere with its usual and orderly administration.
HARRISBURG, PA–The natural gas industry and related trade groups have now given nearly $8 million to Pennsylvania state candidates and political committees since 2000, according to new research by Common Cause Pennsylvania and Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania. Top recipients of industry money given between 2000 and April 2012 were Governor Tom Corbett (R) with $1,813,205.59, Senate President Joseph Scarnati (R-25) with $359,145.72, Rep. Dave Reed (R-62) with $137,532.33, House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai (R-28) with $98,600, and Sen. Don White (R-41) with $94,150.
Pennsylvania college and universities are not the only ones to being forced to frack in order to make up for budget shortfalls
Signs in hand, members of Marcellus Outreach Butler positioned themselves outside Seneca Valley Intermediate High School before the start of Monday’s school board meeting to protest potential drilling for Marcellus Shale on district property.
The group, which was made up of residents from Seven Fields, Jackson and Cranberry townships among others, also attended the meeting to ask for the district’s support in stopping a natural gas processing plant in Jackson Township.
In light of the $10 million budget shortfall the district faces for the 2011-2012 school year, officials in March also brought up the possibility of drilling for Marcellus Shale gas on the 142-acre property the district owns on Ehrman Road. The property spans Cranberry and Jackson townships.
The property, which the district purchased for $4.5 million in 2002, was once under consideration for new buildings after a predicted spike in school population.
Mirka Fatschel of Seven Fields, who is the mother of three Seneca Valley students, said she didn’t want Marcellus Shale drilling to take place near any of the schools.
“There are many health issues we are worried about,” she said.
Schools Fill Budget Holes With Fracking Revenues | By Ben Wieder, Staff Writer | Stateline | August 30, 2011
Dozens of school districts, especially in Pennsylvania and Texas, have leased their mineral rights to natural gas companies. Those agreements have bolstered sagging school budgets, but come as concerns grow about the safety of natural gas extraction.
In late July, the Blackhawk School District, 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, joined a handful of other school districts in Pennsylvania looking to cash in on the state’s natural gas boom.
In a vote of seven-to-one, the school board agreed to lease 160 acres of the district’s land to Chesapeake Energy, the largest holder of mineral rights in the Marcellus Shale region, which lies underneath Pennsylvania and neighboring states. At $2,000 per acre, the lease terms grant the district more than $300,000 upfront. If Chesapeake successfully extracts gas from below the district’s property, the schools would earn an additional 15 percent royalty on the profits.
School leaders say the decision was unrelated to major state cuts to education funding this year. But the school board vote was immediately followed by a discussion of the district’s budget — the district saw a reduction of around $800,000 in state funding to its $30 million budget. Jerry Wessel, the district’s business manager, says the natural gas lease will help the budget situation some in the short term but hopefully even more over the long haul. “That signing bonus could just be a decent drop in the bucket,” Wessel says. “If there was a well under the high school — you could see a million dollars over a 20-year period.”
Blackhawk is one of dozens of school districts across the country that have struck deals with natural gas companies, either for underground mineral rights or for rights to drill on the earth’s surface. Many of the leases have come in Pennsylvania and Texas, two states that are experiencing an energy boom at the same time that they’ve been cutting state aid for K-12 education. Chesapeake Energy has signed many of the deals with school districts, touting that lease money can help school districts offset some of their recent budget losses.
By the time Corbett was done cutting the budget, his approval dead even with his disapproval at 41/41 percent. In December 2011, he had an approval rating of 47% and disapproval of 34%, a difference of 13 points.
KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano went to Market Square in Downtown to ask why some are not happy with the governor’s job performance.
Said one, “With no disrespect, I don’t like what he did to the schools, he cut the budgets, and he’s giving Marcellus Shale people carte blanche.”
More Fracks – Less Oversight
In addition to cuts in education: The Department of Environmental Protection will see funding cut by 7.8 percent or $10.5 million; and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ budget is decreased by about $2.5 million or 4.6 percent.
Secretary Krancer commented on the proposed cuts: Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer took his turn before the state Senate’s Appropriations Committee yesterday. Discussing his department’s budget, Krancer said DEP has the staff it needs to inspect Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale wells. That’s despite Governor Corbett’s proposal to trim the department’s budget by more than $10 million.
An article in the Patriot-News, by Donald Gilliland asks: (emphasis added)
What happens when the fox builds the hen house?
The drilling industry helped get some of the most influential lawmakers elected with lavish donations to their campaigns. It paid millions to lobbyists to influence legislation, and it has hired many of the experienced regulators away from public service.
Now the industry will pay to train the people who set policy and enforce it.
ExxonMobil and GE will be investing $1 million each to establish new training programs at three universities, including Penn State, “to ensure that regulators and policymakers have access to the latest technological and operational expertise to assist in their oversight of shale development,” according to a Penn State press release issued Thursday.
With money from the drilling industry, Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research will offer a new “Shale Gas Regulators Training Program” to provide “best-practices training” to people who oversee the drilling industry.
The center’s co-director, Tom Murphy, said in a press release the program will “offer new regulators the chance to learn the latest science-based concepts related to geology, petroleum technology and environmental quality.”
Until now, Murphy had maintained that the Marcellus Center operated free and clear of industry funding.
Act 13 Interventions
In July 2012, the Commonwealth court declared the state-wide zoning provision was unconstitutional, null, void and unenforceable. The Court also struck down a provision which would require DEP to grant waivers to the setback requirements in the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act. The Corbett administration quickly filed an appeal.
During the original court proceedings, GOP Legislators and representatives from the Natural Gas Industry attempted to intervene. Their requests were denied. More recently requests to intervene from GOP Legislators and representatives from the Natural Gas Industry was also struck down.
Supreme Court Denies GOP, Industry Request to Intervene in Act 13 Appeal The order, dated Monday, also denied Marcellus Shale industry groups’ petition to intervene. By Amanda Gillooly | September 26, 2012 | Forest Hills – Regent Square Patch (emphasis added)
A state Supreme Court order dated Monday denied the request from two top state Republican leaders to intervene on the Act 13 appeal that is scheduled for oral arguments Oct. 17.
State Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and Speaker of the House state Rep. Samuel H. Smith in August had sought to intervene in the appeal of a Commonwealth Court ruling that struck down portions of the state’s new Marcellus Shale law as unconstitutional.
A request by the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Markwest Liberty Midstrearn & Resources, LLC, Penneco Oil Company, lnc., and Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC to intervene and participate in oral arguments in the appeal was also denied in the order Monday.
Following the Money of the “Interveners”
Per Marcellusmoney.org: State Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati has received $359,146 from Natural Gas interests between 2000 – 2011.
In February 2011, Consol Energy paid for a Super Bowl Trip.
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, had his ticket, plane ride and hotel bill paid for by Consol Energy Inc., one of Scarnati’s top aides told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The free trip is permitted under Pennsylvania’s ethics rules, Drew Crompton, Scarnati’s legal counsel and chief of staff, told the newspaper. Scarnati might reimburse Consol for some of the costs, Crompton said.
Consol executives and lobbyists have contributed more than $15,000 to Scarnati’s campaigns since 2006, according to state records. The Inquirer reported that it’s not known whether Consol paid for any other legislators to attend the game in Arlington, Texas, a contest in which the Green Bay Packers beat the Steelers 31-25.
Per Marcellusmoney.org: Speaker of the House state Rep. Samuel H. Smith has received $59,250 from natural Gas interests between 2001-2011.
Natural Gas interests have spent $15,703,062 for lobbying just in Pennsylvania from 2007-2012 (Q1).
Corbett Hears the Natural Gas Industry
Responding to “complaints” from the Natural Gas Industry, Gov. Corbett signed an executive order in July 2012. The Executive Order establishes firm time limits for reviewing environmental permitting applications.
Corbett orders firm time limits for rulings by DEP | MATT HUGHES | Times-Leader | Jul 25, 2012
Excerpt: (emphasis added): The permit decision guarantee replaces a 1995 executive order establishing a money-back-guarantee for permit fees paid by applicants that DEP could not complete in time.
“One of the biggest complaints I have received over and over again is the time it takes for businesses, nonprofit organizations and local governments to work through the permitting process,” Corbett said in a statement. “I promised to correct this, and today we are setting the wheels in motion to deliver on that promise.”
Corbett’s order notes that the permit decision guarantee may extend to permits “with the most direct impacts on the protection of public health, safety and the environment, as well as economic development.” It also notes that an applicant’s permit must be judged complete before the clock starts ticking.
DEP regulators rush through gas-drilling permit reviews | By Susan Phillips | Newsworks | April 14, 2011
Pennsylvania environmental regulators testified that they spend 30 minutes or less reviewing permits for natural gas wells. The interviews of four employees of the Department of Environmental Protection are part of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists and residents challenging the state’s approval of a natural gas well.
Ummmm….. A 30 minute rubberstamp is not fast enough?
© 2012 by Dory Hippauf