Opposition to fossil fuel drilling/fracking, construction of pipelines, midstream infrastructure and export facilities continue to grow. The industry, predictably, responds with the usual bag of tricks by throwing lots of lobbying and campaign contributions to legislators and candidates.
In Pennsylvania along, according to MarcellusMoney.org:
- Since 2007, the natural gas industry has spent $41 million lobbying Pennsylvania officials.
- Since 2007, it has also contributed $8 million to Pennsylvania candidates and PACs.
- Half that $8 million total has been donated by industry employees, while industry PACs contributed the remaining half.
- Over $6.2 million of the total $8 million has been donated to candidates, while Party PACs received $1.4 million ($1.2 million to Republican Party PACs, $166,850 to Democratic Party PACs).
- Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is the top recipient of natural gas industry contributions. He has received $2,084,241 from the industry since 2007 – $1.55 million from industry employees and $526,652 from industry PACs. Governor-elect Tom Wolf received $53,500.
- Top recipients #2-6 together received $1.3 million in contributions from 2007 – present.
- The top 5 industry donors together gave $2 million since 2007. Drilling CEO Terrence Pegula, who also owns the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, is the top contributor with $667,000.
The other tact is lots and lots of advertising. In September 2014, the Marcellus Shale Coalition unveiled a new ad campaign called “Fracking: Rock Solid for PA”. Taglines in the ads include actors saying “Fracking is a good thing” or “Fracking Rocks”.
Lancaster County has become a center of opposition to the Williams Partners proposed Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline(ASP). Groups like Lancaster Against Pipelines have been especially vocal, and have forced Williams to rework the ASP route around ecologically sensitive areas. On January 5, 2014 40 residents of Martic, Conestoga, Manor, West Hempfield and Lancaster City braved the cold to do something remarkable: peacefully shut down core-sample drilling along the Conestoga River.
Nancy Jefferies stated at the protest “Today I stood up for what I believe in. I believe this proposed pipeline is wrong. Fossil fuel use is killing this planet; we need to invest in renewable energy such as solar or wind. I find it ironic that this afternoon 8 citizens were arrested for protesting William’s pipeline, yet tonight at our Township supervisor’s meeting they are going to pass an anti-pipeline resolution. Generations in the future will pay the steepest price for corporate greed now. This is craziness and it needs to stop here and now. That’s why I say to Williams, ‘no means no.’”
Eight residents of Martic, Conestoga, West Hempfield, Pequea Township, and Lancaster City did not agree to leave the site and continued to peacefully halt the drilling operation. Shortly afterward they were arrested by the police and charged with defiant trespass. All have since been released on $1,000 unsecured bail.
Similar protests, and arrests are happening all over the nation with regards to drilling, pipeline construction, gas storage, refineries and export facilities.
Opposition is not just coming from real grassroots groups. Over 20 communities along the proposed PennEast Pipeline have passed resolutions opposing the project. More communities along the PennEast pipeline are considering similar resolutions. While such resolutions have no legal power to stop or change federally regulated pipeline projects, the expression of disapproval is loud and becoming louder.
It now appears a new approach is needed to reverse the tide of opposition.
Corporate Carrots to Communities
Late in 2014, PennEast announced a “Community Connector Grant Program” . It states “To mark the development of our proposed pipeline project, PennEast Pipeline Company has established funding for grants, up to $5,000, to support projects in Pennsylvania and New Jersey along our proposed route. Grants will be fairly distributed among communities along the proposed pipeline route.”
Recipients so far are: Aquashicola Volunteer Fire Company; Bear Creek & Buck Township Ambulance Association; Bear Creek Township Volunteer Hose Company; Durham Township; Holland Township Volunteer Fire Company; Kingwood Township Volunteer Fire Department; Northmoreland Township Volunteer Fire Company; Palmerton Memorial Park Association; Southeastern Volunteer Fire Company; and Towamensing Volunteer Fire Company, as of December 17, 2014.
Following suit, the Williams Partners upped the ante to $10,000 for similar community projects. Grants would be awarded based on community need and can be used to provide environmental benefit, economic development, and community benefit. Williams Partners started taking grant applications as of January 1, 2015 with priority given to community projects located within the vicinity of Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise project.
The $10,000 carrot program is in addition to the Atlantic Sunrise Environmental Stewardship Program announced in October 2014. Williams hired Arlington, Virginia-based The Conservation Fund, a national conservation group known for partnering with business interests to forge conservation alliances, to vet potential projects and recommend the best.
Penn State Pay to “Learn”
A Penn State “research project” is offering $100 to 50 Lancaster and Lebanon County residents to become better educated about Marcellus Shale gas development. Coincidently the strongest and most vocal opposition to pipelines is in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties.
Those enrolling would attend 10 weekly workshops at the Farm & Home Center on Tuesday evenings from Feb. 3-April 14. Field trips to see active well pads, abandoned gas wells, to test water quality and to measure methane gas emissions are planned. Those who attend at least eight of the sessions would receive $100.
Terry Noll, a Penn State research assistant and project coordinator of the Marcellus Community Science Volunteer Program stated “The project is not funded or associated in any way with the natural gas industry. We are not tied to the industry. This is only the context. This is an educational project.”
Funding is from a $1.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation to the Penn State Marcellus Shale Center for Outreach and Research. The foundation is an independent federal agency funded by Congress.
While the Pay to Learn may not be directly funded by the industry, Penn State has received numerous funding from industry sources. In September 2014, GE announced it would invest up to $10 million establish a new innovation center focused on driving cutting-edge advancements in the natural gas industry. The Center for Collaborative Research on Intelligent Natural Gas Supply Systems at Penn State (CCRINGSS) will engage Penn State researchers and students from many disciplines in collaborative work with various industry stakeholders. The center will seek to advance efficiency and environmental sustainability both through technological innovations and improved supply chain management.
And who can forget the $102 million donated by Terry Pegula to Penn State for a hockey area. When asked about the donation in 2010:
EXCERPT: “If you could tell students here at Penn State one thing, what would it be?”
He (Pegula) paused for just a millisecond before saying,
” I would tell students that this contribution could be just the tip of the iceberg, the first of many such gifts, if the development of the Marcellus Shale is allowed to proceed.”
June 2014: John Leone will gift it $2 million for football and the College of Arts and Architecture to Penn State. $1.5 million of the gift will name the Lasch Football Building’s strength and conditioning center after John and Willie Leone, and the other $500,000 will establish the Willie Leone Endowed Scholarship Fund in Music Theatre.
Leone is president and CEO of Bonney Forge, based out of Mt. Union. He graduated from Penn State’s petroleum and natural gas engineering program in 1956, and has been a longtime donor to the university, starting donations in 1984 to petroleum and natural gas engineering funds.
Bonney Forge produces fittings and valves, among other items, for Oil & Natural Gas,Fossil Fuel, Nuclear, Chemical, Refineries, Petro Chemical and Industrial Piping markets.
September 2014: The Penn State Investment Council, which oversees the investment management of the long-term investment pool, committed $20 million to Natural Gas Partners XI, a private equity fund managed by NGP Energy Capital Management that invests in the North American oil and natural gas industries.
Call it “Frackacademia” or Propaganda by Proxy, results are the same, it all industry controlled advertising to promote their talking points and ignore what it means to live in a sacrifice zone.
©2015 by Dory Hipauf