News Flash! Marcellus Shale Coalition Takes on PA Charities

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

Thanks to Citizens United, we are all the beneficiaries of unlimited corporate money in our elections — witness the onslaught of TV ads interrupting our ballgames and the fall lineup of TV shows.

In a new twist, the very groups that agitated to spend unlimited funds to promote their point of view are now critical of others who challenge them. What brings this to mind is an Associated Press story this morning that the Marcellus Shale Coalition is not happy about the funding priorities of the Heinz Endowments and William Penn Foundation.

Citizens groups and nonprofits around the nation are asking questions about environmental and health impacts of natural gas hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and Pennsylvania charities are funding much of the debate.

Foundations from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh have provided more than $19 million for gas-drilling-related grants since 2009, according to an Associated Press review of charity data. The money has paid for scientific studies, films, radio programs, websites and even trout fishing groups that monitor water quality.

That’s led to expressions of gratitude from those who say state and federal governments aren’t doing enough on the issue but also protests from some in the gas-drilling industry, who claim there’s bias in the campaigns...

But the Marcellus Shale Coalition, a leading industry group, criticized what it sees as a “record of bankrolling organizations and institutions opposed to the safe development of job-creating American natural gas.”

(Full disclosure: the Keystone Research Center receives funding from the William Penn Foundation and Heinz Endowments.)

What the groups, and their funders, are critical of is the unsafe development of natural gas. Since Pennsylvania’s official Marcellus policy is drill baby drill, somebody has to do the due diligence, so thank your local charity.

A related story provides heartening news that public debate can smoke out research that is simply advancing the perspective of the group that paid for the study.

A natural-gas driller’s group has canceled a Pennsylvania State University study of hydraulic fracturing after some faculty members balked at the project that had drawn criticism for being slanted toward industry.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, which paid more than $146,000 for three previous studies, ended this year’s report after work had started, said Kathryn Klaber, coalition president.

The earlier studies were co-written by former Penn State professor Tim Considine, an economist now at the University of Wyoming who has produced research on economic and energy issues under contract to trade associations. The first study, in 2009, initially failed to disclose its industry funding and was used by lawmakers to kill a state tax on gas drillers. It was characterized as advocacy for producers by groups such as the nonprofit Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in Harrisburg...

The Marcellus Shale Coalition, a Pittsburgh-based drillers group, paid Penn State for the three economic-impact studies beginning in 2009, according to John Hanold, senior associate director of Penn State’s Office of Sponsored Programs...

Subsequent studies by other researchers have found that gas drilling created fewer than half the jobs projected by Considine in 2009.

The public needs reliable data to understand what drilling does and what it doesn’t do — information that the industry just won’t provide. Rational, independent studies funded by an unbiased government or private foundations, are in this post-Citizens United environment the antidote to unlimited, year-round campaign commercials, like the ones offered by our friends in the gas industry.

This is what strength in numbers looks like

Most of the folks in this video are Clean Water Action staff, but there's a few of the rank and file Lobby Day attendees there. On Tuesday, environmentalists hit Harrisburg big [check out these photos]. You might have seen press reports about the rally. To me, though, the real story is what happened before the rally, as normal people went to visit their legislators and talk issues around the Marcellus Shale.

Folks were talking to legislators about the budget for environmental enforcement, rules to protect drinking water, a commonsense moratorium and taxing the revenues from shale to pay for cleaning up the drillers' destruction. Before the day happened, we had folks registered to come from 47 out of the 50 State Senate Districts, and our drop-off rate was really low. So not only was there a big noisy rally, but legislative offices were hearing from real voters. That's where change comes from.

It was also great to see the environmental community so unified.

How Corbett tricked the protesters at the last Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission hearing

This video is just 88 seconds and its great. At Corbett's Marcellus Shale Advisory hearing last week, they set out two sign-up sheets for public comment. Only, they told the industry about one and the protesters about the other.

Guess which one they went to first?

In this video, a woman from Pittsburgh calmly and clearly confronts a Corbett Administration spokesperson about the trick. She comes off as smart, guts and reasonable. He comes off like someone who just got caught stealing an extra piece of cake at Church Camp.

Anastasio Announces Environmental Sustainability Action Plan

Anastasio Announces Environmental Sustainability Action Plan

Anastasio's plan works towards a cleaner and greener City which is an essential component of growing the economy, crating jobs, and improving the quality of life for Philadelphia residents.

(Philadelphia, PA) – Today, Vern Anastasio, Democratic candidate for the 1st City Council District released his Environmental Sustainability Action Plan for the City of Philadelphia. The plan focuses on responsible development along the Delaware River, establishing a sustainable green economy, and increasing the amount of green spaces throughout the First District.

For decades, the waterfront has been a squandered opportunity. As a member of Council, Vern Anastasio will work tirelessly to enact the PennPraxis vision, forging partnerships to integrate the communities with the Delaware River and transform the waterfront into the crown jewel of our City.

Good thing we're cutting all the funding out DEP. God knows they don't need it.

The Scripps News Service has a story out published in Ohio's The Republic on the poor oversight of natural gas drillers.

Data supplied by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources show that well operators in that state have received 14,409 notices of violation since 2000.

Many of the violations reflect paperwork oversights, but many others are for environmental harm. The Ohio data, analyzed by Scripps, show 1,972 violations alone for pollution and contamination. Nearly 2,000 violations have no electronic record of when -- or if -- they've been fixed.

Pennsylvania officials say their records are in similar shape. The state has issued 8,309 violations since 2007, but officials there caution that their files - which include thousands of violations that have no date of being fixed - cannot be trusted as accurate. Instead of keeping their books up-to-date, inspectors are devoting their limited manpower in the field rather than completing paperwork.

I'm working to move Pennsylvania forward

Tom Corbett doesn't want you to vote. I do.

That's what this election comes down to -- and it really is that simple.

On Thursday, Corbett -- the state's Attorney General! -- told his Republican supporters that "we want to make sure" voter turnout in the City of Philadelphia is low. "Keep that down," he said.


Because Tom Corbett knows that if you vote, he will lose. While Tom Corbett is fighting for the special interests, I'm running for Governor to get the economy back on track, protect the environment and preserve the rights of all Pennsylvanians.

I want to move Pennsylvania forward, and I'm the only candidate with experience running the state's second-largest county, balancing 7 budgets in a row without ever raising property taxes, and protecting the environment and promoting sustainability.

I’m the only candidate who supports a competitive severance tax on Marcellus shale drilling. I think that the Marcellus shale presents a great opportunity to create much needed jobs in the Commonwealth-- but it can't come at the expense of Pennsylvanians’ health and safety, and certainly not at the expense of taxpayers. Tom Corbett is the #1 recipient of campaign money from the gas drillers in last decade!

Pennsylvania’s citizens also need a Governor who will protect their rights.

Tom Corbett supports a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. And he opposes civil unions and anti-discrimination and hate crime laws with protections for LGBT Pennsylvanians. He says he'd sign a total ban on abortion into law if he's given the chance.

Pennsylvanians can’t afford to have a Governor who won’t protect their safety or their rights.

I can guarantee that, as Governor, I will protect the environment and the safety and rights of Pennsylvanians-- and I’ll turn around our economy to help create jobs in all of our communities.

State Legislators Scored by Green Groups -- Best, Worst Legislators Highlighted in New Rankings

(Harrisburg) – Sierra Club and Clean Water Action released today a new scorecard for all current Pennsylvania state legislators for their support for environmental laws and regulations over the past two years. State House members and State Senators were scored based on floor votes in the legislature, or other official actions taken by legislators on environmental matters.

“Before voters head to the polls next Tuesday, the Environmental Scorecard is a way to see what a state legislators’ actual record has been over the past two years. Voters who care about the environment should hold their elected officials accountable,” stated Jeff Schmidt, Pennsylvania Chapter Director for the Sierra Club.

The two groups noted that there were large differences between legislators who have a history of supporting environmental positions and those who are clearly opposed. Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action stated, “It is striking that the House Environmental Resources Committee Chair, Rep. George (D-Clearfield) had one of the highest scores at 92%, while the senior Republican on the House Environmental Resources Committee, Rep. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango) had one of the lowest scores at 13%. This stark difference shows how the outcome of the State House elections could have a big impact on the environment.”

The Environmental Scorecard is available for download at http://www.cleanwateraction.org/pa. Direct link [PDF].

The Faces of Folks Standing Up to Natural Gas Drillers

Folks on here may enjoy seeing the faces of folks standing up to natural gas drillers. These are leaders in the Williamsport area that Clean Water Action has found working on the issue of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus formation.

State Budget Continues to Slash Environmental Protection -Over 1/3 of DEP budget cut over two years

UPDATE: We did a report on DEP funding, adjusted for inflation, for the last ten years. You can see it here

(Harrisburg) – Clean Water Action issued a strong statement today calling for restoration of large cuts to the budget for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The proposed state budget deal released yesterday by the Governor and legislative leaders cuts DEP’s budget by 9.2%. This is on top of last year’s budget cut of 26% for DEP. [ATTACHED - PDF of 2000-2008 budgets in actual numbers, not accounting for inflation]

Commonwealth moves to buffer water quality and control drilling waste

Commonwealth moves to protect rivers with new wastewater and stormwater rules
Mobilization of citizens, organizations and legislators succeeds in limiting pollution in streams

(Harrisburg) – The PA Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted today to enact new protections for the state’s rivers and streams. Two regulations were approved to set new treatment requirements for wastewater from Marcellus Shale drilling operations, and to require buffers along our best streams when new development is proposed there. These new rules fall under Title 25, in the PA code, Chapter 95, Wastewater Treatment Requirements, and Chapter 102, Erosion and Sedimentation Control.

Don't Be Fossil Fooled!

Ever heard of Fossil Fools Day? It falls on April 1st each year and began in 2004 when environmental groups began making a mockery of the year’s biggest “Fossil Fool”.

This year, Philadelphia environmentalists told morning commuters not to be “fossil fooled” by PNC Bank – a bank that calls itself “A Green Bank with Eco-Friendly Service”. PNC Bank has direct and indirect connections to mountaintop removal coal mining.

State Forest Drilling Moratorium bill, HB 2235, moves out of committee

What our state forests could look like with more drillingVitali's bill to put a moratorium on Natural Gas Drilling in State Forests (HB 2235) was voted out of committee just now. he and Rep. Levdansky led this charge, along with a coalition of Democrats calling themselves the Green Dogs. The vote was 16-9. GOP members Harper and Everett voted for the bill, which is great news.

Read HB 2235 here.

The Green Dogs believe that they were sold a bill of goods by the Governor last year. The Governor asked them to support his budget with some prescribed forest leasing. In exchange, he said he wouldn't ask to lease more land this year.

But he has.

Hit Read More, below, yo.

Did you like the Daily News Editorial on clean water today? Great! Take action!

At the of today's Daily News editorial, The Return of Muddy Waters, the paper calls for its readers to take action. Did you agree? Great. Take action. Here. Obviously, Clean Water Action agrees.

Here's an excerpt from the editorial in case you haven't read it yet:

The Clean Water Act was designed to cover all the nation's water.

This is the only interpretation that makes sense - that is, if you're not a polluter. You can't really protect "navigable waters" if you can dump poisons into their tributaries.

Natural Gas Drilling: Vitali to host public meeting on Marcellus Shale gas drilling in MEDIA, PA

Rep. Vitali put out this press release for a forum on natural gas drilling that he's hosting in nearby Media. I'm on the panel and so is Sharon Ward (who many of us know). Rep. Vitali is rightly trying to educate his constituents about what may well be the most serious environmental issue to hit our state since coal.

If any YPP'ers can join us, it would be great to see you there.

HARRISBURG, Dec. 30 - State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware, will host an informational meeting on Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19 in the large auditorium at Delaware County Community
College, 901 S. Media Line Road, Media.

"The purpose of this meeting is to educate the public and policy makers about the environmental and fiscal issues surrounding Marcellus Shale gas extraction. This will be an issue of increasing importance in the upcoming decade," Vitali said.

How Does Your Garden Grow? Plan your vegetable garden now.

Just a quick reminder that these short winter days and long winter nights are a good time to think about planning and planting your own vegetable garden.

By growing your own, you'll save money, have less concern about chemical use and health issues, likely improve your landscape, and reduce energy consumption shipping food stuffs to you.

You'll save the most money if you start plants from seed, which means getting going in February and March, so you can plant outside in April and May.

I've been happy with Vermont based company Gardeners Supply (http://gardeners.com/) for many years for supplies, equipment and advice.

As for seeds (and more advice), local company Burpee (http://www.burpee.com) has been in the business for well over a century, and some friends recently introduced us to Seed Savers Exchange (http://www.seedsavers.org) which specializes in collecting and propagating unique heirloom vegetables, herbs and plants (more than 13,000 different varieties!).

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