Republicans Christiana, Marshall, Vogel Take Corruption to a New Level – Selling out our natural resources for their personal gain

by Randy Shannon

Treas. PA 4th CD Chapter, PDA

Gas drillers have been concentrating on the Marcellus Shale deposit in New York as they work with the Pennsylvania Republicans to gain a free hand to exploit our resources. The bought Republican majority in the PA Senate and the minority in the House used the budget crisis as leverage to force Democrats to back down on the gas severance tax.

All the states with a history of gas drilling impose a severance tax on the gas so that the citizens recover a share of the treasure taken from their land. This is in addition to the local lease that the drillers pay to set up operations on a piece of property. The Republicans blocked the severance tax in this year’s budget even though it is estimated that Pennsylvania would receive over $500 million a year in gas severance revenues. The Republicans claimed that the lease income to the state for drilling on gamelands and state forests would be a bonanza. The real bonanza was the lobbyist payoffs to the Republicans.

In addition, the Republicans cut the PA Department of Environmental Protection budget in half as a cost saving measure. Of course this will hamper the PADEP’s efforts to enforce environmental regulations that protect the drinking water in the state and our rivers and streams. In addition to avoiding the severance tax in PA, there is another big issue for the drillers. The drillers want to maximize profits by eliminating the costs of extracting the gas in a manner that does not damage the environment, especially water. If they can avoid the cost of sealing off underground water, dump polluted water on the ground instead of treating it, and dispose of excess chemicals by pouring them into local streams, profits will be maximized.

This practice is the norm in the current rush to lease and drill in the most accessible areas. Incidents of groundwater pollution and drinking water pollution have alarmed the officialdom of New York City. Less populated areas of Pennsylvania have also reported groundwater pollution. The Bush administration exempted shale fracking from EPA control on the basis that it was environmentally harmless. The Obama administration is taking another look as can be seen in the two articles on the next page.

Pennsylvania legislators must impose a gas severance tax in the next session of the legislature, beef up the PaDEP budget, and make sure that the administration of the PaDEP is untainted by money or associations with the gas drillers. The only way to protect our land and secure our just share of nature’s bounty is to kick the Republican Judases out of the legislature. Jim Marshall, Jim Christiana, and Elder Vogel all voted to sell our birthright to the wealthy energy corporations. This is the real corruption on a grand scale that is hidden by the media circus around insubstantial charges against the likes of Ed Piroli and the selective prosecution of Democratic legislators.

Domestic Reserves of Natural Gas
To Go Untapped?

Democrats are rethinking policies allowing extraction of gas locked up in rock. An ExxonMobil venture hangs in the balance.

By Andrew C. Schneider, Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter

December 22, 2009
Stricter environmental oversight of natural gas drilling is in the works. Congress is poised to lift an exemption from safe drinking water rules for hydraulic fracturing, a process for extracting gas from shale formations by injecting a mix of sand, water and chemicals into the shale at high pressure.

The process promises to greatly expand domestic production of natural gas, increasing energy independence. Moreover, to the extent it encourages power companies to shift from coal to natural gas as a fuel for generating electricity, hydraulic fracturing could ease the shift to a lower carbon economy.

“This hydraulic fracturing is a technique that has made major advances in the past few years and totally changed the outlook for natural gas supply,” says William J. Hederman, senior vice president for energy policy at Concept Capital’s Washington Research Group.

But despite the technology’s promise as a way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is winning few friends among environmentalists and public health advocates. Critics have long alleged that the chemicals used in the process seep from the wells into the surrounding soil, contaminating the groundwater. In addition, drillers draw the large volumes of water they use in hydraulic fracturing from nearby rivers and streams, threatening agriculture, fishing and recreational businesses along those waterways. The issue has become particularly controversial in New York state, where any groundwater pollution could endanger the drinking water supply of New York City.

The Bush administration’s Environmental Protection Agency released a study in 2004 concluding that hydraulic fracturing posed little or no risk of contamination to groundwater. The report was contradicted almost immediately by an EPA whistle-blower, who noted that five of the seven members of the report’s external review panel appeared to have conflicts of interest. Nevertheless, the Republican-led Congress followed the agency’s official position, waiving Safe Drinking Water Act requirements for companies using the process.

The Obama administration’s EPA is preparing its own study on the potential water contamination risks of hydraulic fracturing. That will provide congressional Democrats with much of the leverage they’ll need to repeal the waiver sometime next year.

As a result, vast reserves of shale gas may go untapped for years. Many independent drillers will abandon the effort rather than bear higher costs of safeguarding water. “Independents do most of the drilling in the U.S.,” says Frank Verrastro, director of the Energy and National Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If independents aren’t able to afford it, big majors could move in, but they also have LNG [liquefied natural gas] investments.”

But deep-pocketed energy firms may focus on LNG imports and other natural gas sources rather than spend extra resources to comply with stricter regulations. For example, Exxon Mobil Corp. last week announced that it would purchase Fort Worth, Texas-based XTO Energy for $31 billion. The merger agreement, however, includes a clause that would nullify the deal if Washington enacts legislation that would make hydraulic fracturing too costly.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has already taken an interest. Markey says that, while the Exxon-XTO deal highlights the importance of natural gas to reducing America’s carbon footprint, “this proposed merger also raises a number of issues with respect to the future direction of the U.S. domestic oil and gas industry, competition within the industry, and the potential environmental impact of increased unconventional natural gas development.” He plans to hold hearings on the merger early next year.

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NY Times – December 31, 2009

By MIREYA NAVARRO

The federal Environmental Protection Agency told New York State on Wednesday that it had major concerns about how proposed hydraulic drilling for natural gas would affect public health and the environment, and urged it to undertake a broader study of the potential impact.

In formal comments on the state’s proposed regulations governing new natural gas drilling, the E.P.A. said it was particularly concerned about the regional water supply, air quality, wastewater treatment and radioactive materials that could be disturbed during drilling.

It recommended that “essential environmental protection measures” be taken before the state begins to review permit applications for the drilling, which is envisaged in the Marcellus Shale region.

The region includes New York City’s watershed in the Catskills. The Chesapeake Energy Corporation, which owns the lease to drill in the watershed, has backed off from plans to drill there specifically, but opponents of drilling have argued that the promise means little and could be reversed.

The draft regulations apply to a technology known as hydraulic fracturing, which involves blasting huge volumes of water mixed with chemicals into rock to extract gas. The process results in significant amounts of wastewater and has stirred concern about the risk of contamination and about water disposal issues.

In a statement, Yancey Roy, a spokesman for the State Department of Environmental Conservation, said it “appreciated” the federal agency’s comments but had no detailed response.

“At this time we are still taking input from the public and it would not be appropriate to respond to specific comments,” he said.

The federal agency was not required to weigh in as a regulator in what amounts to a state process to assess the environmental impact of drilling. But the agency’s involvement was welcomed by those who share similar concerns in what has become a highly polarizing issue in New York.

New York City officials, who oppose drilling in the watershed that supplies the city’s drinking water, views the E.P.A.’s comments as corroboration of their view that the state’s environmental impact statement is “flawed and should be rescinded,” said Marc La Vorgna, a spokesman for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

“It does not adequately address the risks to the city’s drinking water,” he said.

Katherine Nadeau, water and natural resources program associate with Environmental Advocates of New York, a nonprofit group, described the federal agency’s letter as “nothing short of awesome.”

“The E.P.A. rightly echoes the concerns of tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” she said. “The D.E.C. needs to ditch the draft natural gas guidelines.”

E.P.A. officials did not specifically call for a ban on drilling in watershed areas. But they said the agency had “serious reservations about whether gas drilling in the New York City watershed is consistent with the vision of long-term maintenance of a high-quality unfiltered water supply.”

They recommended “a very cautious approach in all watershed areas.”

The agency also suggested that state regulators join forces with the New York State Department of Health, which enforces rules on safe drinking water, and with the New York State Public Service Commission, which regulates the construction and operation of the pipes that gather the natural gas.

They should work jointly, the E.P.A. said, to produce a more complete final document that addresses all issues of concern.

3 thoughts on “Republicans Christiana, Marshall, Vogel Take Corruption to a New Level – Selling out our natural resources for their personal gain”

  1. Many many new chemicals are not tested for their long term impacts on humans. That could well include chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. There was a pretty big write up in the NY Times about that several weeks ago and a link to a website about chemicals. I included those in a comment to one of the postings on the Marcellus shale at this website in that time frame.

  2. Randy,

    You are alleging corruption by 3 Beaver County elected officials yet you offer no proof whatsoever that they were paid off either directly or with campaign donations. That is very irresponsible. Furthermore, many of our fellow Democrats voted to allow drilling and also cut the DEP budget. And of course, Gov. Rendell went along with this plan. Again, it is disingenuous to blame only the Republicans for this. I do not mean to defend them, only to point out that you gain nothing with such an obviously misleading argument either intellectually, morally, or with the voters when you ignore what actually happened in favor of what you wish happened.

    Tom

    1. Tom,

      Thanks for your criticism. The reward for these three is continued good graces of Scaife and the other right wing financiers of the Republican caucus. This concretely means they will share the Republican campaign war chest in order win to re-election. They put their office above the interests of the people. This is not like pocketing money from a stick-up, more like sharing in the bounty of organized crime.

      Tom you know that we had to have a budget, even if it was a bad one. And for us to have a budget some Democrats had to vote for it and the Governor had to sign it. You are painting the Democrats with the same brush and that is misleading.

      What matters in the legislature much more than the final vote, is the process of writing the bill that will finally be voted on. If you had followed the action in the PA legislature you would know that there were two competing budgets, one by the Democrats and the other by the Republicans.

      You have to go to these original proposals for the 2010 budget to judge whether these legislators were working for the wealthy lobbyists or the people of the state. The Democrats’ budget included a gas severance tax. The Republican unity against the tax was held together by money for their past and future campaigns. They opposed a just, natural, and widely accepted source of revenues for our State at a time when our State was suffering from a revenue deficit! They forced the Democrats to concede because they were willing to see our State employees go without pay and all of the thousands of state contractors, including daycare providers, go without pay until they had their way.

      Tom, lets add extortion to the list of crimes these Republican legislators committed around the 2010 budget battle. The Republicans extorted the people of this state into giving away their birthright to income from our State’s natural resources. Now was this over some principle, some moral issue, some concern for the common good, some special concession for the people in their districts? No!

      Vogel, Christiana, and Marshall acted as robotic pawns of the Scaife right wing cabal known as the Republican Party. These three clowns did not even try to extract any minor concessions for our county in return for their corrupt vote on the gas giveaway. They were only interested in their personal standing within the faction, and given the vicious nature of this faction’s attacks on others, they may have actually feared for their political future if they voted to uphold the true interests of their constituents or used their votes to bargain for some crumbs for the people of our area.

      Tom, this story is not over. The people are slow to wake up to the grand scale of this crime but I feel certain that they will and that the truth will come out. This is criminal politics so there won’t be any indictments from Mr. Corbett. The corrupt Republicans will not make the mistake of stuffing a wad cash in their pockets. Hopefully we will be able to track down enough concrete evidence that will convince you and other fair minded voters that the dots are connected.

      Randy

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