No Fracking Way

MINUTEMAN ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES RAID – TIP OF THE DRILL BIT?

by Dory Hippauf on May 31, 2013

drill bitThe barrage of public relations and damage control has begun in what may be just the tip of the drill bit.

On its website, Minuteman Environmental Services’s (MES President, Brian Bolus, posted a letter to its customers.

Bolus again blames former employees as he did in the press release dated May 30, 2013

“Several months ago I became aware that the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General (OAG) was questioning several former, disgruntled employees of Minuteman Environmental Services.”

(In the press release Bolus stated it was 18 months ago, so that puts it at some point late in 2011).

The posted customer letter further states, MES hired a former United States Attorney, now engaged in private practice, to represent them.  Mighty big guns to handle a simple case of disgruntled former employees wouldn’t you say?

At the end of the first paragraph, Bolus switches gears from “disgruntled former employees” to the question of waste disposal.

This material enables us to completely document that we have handled all of your waste professionally and in conformity with state and federal laws and regulations.  Anyone taking the time to review this material can be assured of the integrity of our business practices.

If this is all about “disgruntled former employees” why bring up the issue of waste disposal?

Obviously, the boxes and boxes of material removed during the raid will be reviewed thoroughly by state and federal agents.

Raiding a business on this scale is not something any federal or state agency does lightly.  No elected or appointed government official wakes up one morning and on a whim says “Hey gang, let’s have a raid today.”

SELDOM SIMPLE

According to “NOT THE ITEM” blog post FEDS RAID EX-CELOTEX SITE OPERATOR, news reports failed to mention the link between MES and Moran Industries – Minuteman were busily engaged in 2011 in shipping fracking waste through the Moran-owned former Celotex site, and in the process aroused much controversy and caused many problems for local residents.

When MES was shipping fracking waste through the former Celotex site, there were documented reports of trucks leaking foul smelling fluids, leaking waste containers and leaking rail cars.

In the article, “Money, politics and pollution in fracking country” | BY WILL BUNCH, Daily News Staff Writer | January 13, 2013:  One day before Corbett took his oath of office, trucks started rolling into the Sunbury industrial site.

At the end of that day, stunned and angry neighbors counted 27 large dump trucks on their small residential street, filled with the debris from gas-drilling rigs in the Marcellus Shale. Some of the trucks were leaking liquids, said the neighbors, including Cora Campbell, who recalled that “it smelled like a combination of diesel fuel and dirt.”

For months, Campbell and others in the history-rich town of 10,000, an hour north of Harrisburg, and environmental activists pressed the new owner of the site, the logistics firm Moran Industries, and regulators from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), to find out what was happening at the property and how it could handle so much fracking waste without environmental permits.

But there was something else that Sunbury residents didn’t find out until long after DEP sided with Moran Industries: Its subsidiary’s contract with an interstate railroad, signed three months after the waste-transfer station opened, now meant that it was exempt from Pennsylvania permitting laws.

CEO of Moran Industries is John Moran Jr., Moran had donated more than $100,000 to Corbett’s campaign.    Much later it was revealed Moran had “gifted” Corbett with $2,400 for personal travel, including hosting Corbett and his wife on a yacht off the coast of Rhode Island in 2011.

The records clearly show a casual, cozy relationship between the Corbetts and those seeking influence in Harrisburg.

  • On Dec. 12, 2011, Frank Schoeneman, chief executive of the Pottsville-based Empire Education Group, a leading chain of beauty schools in Pennsylvania and nationally, flew Gov. Corbett on a private jet to an event in Pittsburgh – a jaunt that the governor priced at nearly $1,407, the price of a first-class plane ticket.
  • Ten months later, Corbett signed a bill into law aimed at aiding cosmetology students who attend schools like those operated by Schoeneman, by making it easier for those students to obtain a state license.
  • On Jan. 30, 2010, when then-Attorney General Corbett was running for governor, the powerful Blank Rome law firm bought the Corbetts a pair of $2,500 tickets to attend the Philadelphia Academy of Music anniversary concert. Blank Rome also bought Corbett a $65 ticket to the Phillies’ home opener in 2010.
  • Blank Rome operates a lobbying shop representing a number of powerful interests in Harrisburg, and in 2010 was getting more involved in issues related to natural-gas drilling, or fracking, in Pennsylvania. Blank Rome is listed as an associate member of the pro-industry Marcellus Shale Coalition.
  • In January 2011, when Corbett was becoming governor and his hometown Steelers were deep into a playoff run, his longtime friend Jack Barbour – head of the powerhouse Pittsburgh law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney – bought him tickets to two of the games, worth $325. Buchanan Ingersoll is also one of the state’s most powerful lobbying firms, representing UPMC, as well as energy companies EQT and the Williams Cos. and numerous medical and pharmaceutical outfits.
  • When Corbett was sworn in that month, insurance executive Marty Lane, then-chief executive of Aegis Security Insurance, donated $1,800 to defray the cost of Susan Corbett’s inaugural gown and coat. At the time, Aegis was regulated by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department. (Designers Richard and Theresa Andries, of Andries Couture, also donated $8,276 in inaugural clothing for Pennsylvania’s first lady, as well as a $1,500 birthday jacket.)
  • As the Daily News reported in January, business executive John Moran of Moran Industries was running a fracking-well waste-recycling business in Sunbury, Pa., that was under scrutiny by the state Department of Environmental Protection at the same time he paid $1,422 for the Corbetts to fly to Rhode Island for a yachting vacation with Moran over July Fourth weekend in 2011. Moran paid an additional $902 to fly the governor to events in Williamsport and Pittsburgh on Sept. 30, 2011.

None of the gift-givers seems particularly eager to talk. The most expansive comment came from UPMC spokesman Paul Wood, who said: “The NHL Winter Classic was a major international event showcasing Pittsburgh and western Pennsylvania, and UPMC was more than happy to host the governor-elect and his wife.”
Lane, the inaugural-gown giver, reached by the Daily News at his second home in Florida, said he’d have to check his records when he returned to his office near Harrisburg. “I don’t have them right now,” he said.

As a side note, in April of 2013, when DEP Secretary Michael Krancer officially resigned, he rejoined Blank-Rome as a partner.  Krancer was a partner from 1992 through 1999.

A partner at Blank Rome from 1992 to 1999, Mr. Krancer represented clients in complex civil and commercial litigation in state and federal courts.  He left Blank Rome for public service, serving until 2007 as Judge and Chief Judge of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Hearing Board (EHB), the state-wide trial/appellate court for environmental matters involving appeals from actions of the DEP.  He returned to the EHB in 2009 after a run for Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and a stint as Associate General Counsel of the Exelon Corporation, where he focused on areas of environmental law, health and safety compliance, and litigation. Governor Tom Corbett appointed Mr. Krancer Secretary as his first Secretary of DEP in January 2011.

Krancer will be leading  Blank-Rome’s Energy, Petrochemical and Natural Resources Practice.

Where all of this will eventually lead is unknown.  There are many different players.    Again we ask, does this seem to be a simple case of “disgruntled former employees” or is there more to it?   Is this just the tip of the drill bit?

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©2013 by Dory Hippauf 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

DEB May 31, 2013 at 8:51 am

WOW! Great job! Me thinks this is much deeper than we know yet. Great research and great tip of the drillbit writing!

Reply

Kim Feil May 31, 2013 at 9:02 am

yep-good stuff!

Reply

jbl May 31, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Dory, you’re the best!!!

Reply

Jane Tolomello June 1, 2013 at 2:43 am

this is AWSOME! Can’t wait to see how this story ends..! Great Job! (as usual)

Reply

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