When Luzerne County, PA fracktivist Scott Cannon received a notice of acceptance to be a member of the newly created Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce he was somewhat surprised and delighted.
Finally, real people in Pennsylvania would have a seat and a voice at the table when it came to natural gas industrialization.
His delight was short lived. Two days later, he received a second email stating his Taskforce membership had been rescinded, with no real explanation.
“After further consideration of the overall composition of the Task Force, however, I have decided against adding you as a member,” state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley said in the July 2 email.
Anyone knowing Scott knows he would not let this drop. Scott has been a tireless member of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC) for over 5 years. He has produced the Marcellus Shale Reality Tour video series and given presentations about natural gas activities.
Pennsylvania previously had one advisory board for oil & gas activities. This was the Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board (OGTAB). Under former Governor Tom Corbett, the board consisted mainly of natural gas corporations, lobbyists and supporters or the natural gas industry.
Pennsylvania’s new Governor, Tom Wolf, split the board into two boards and created Conventional Oil and Gas Advisory Committee (COGAC). OGTAB would deal with unconventional drilling, i.e. horizontal hydraulic fracking, while COGAC would advise on the more traditional drilling activities.
During his election campaign, Wolf spoke a lot about a severance tax and how much money it would bring into Pennsylvania. There was little indication he was interested in addressing the concerns and problems which the industry has created.
This was further highlighted when New York announced its ban on fracking. Wolf was asked what he thought about New York’s ban.
Wolf called New York’s decision “unfortunate.” He says he believes fracking can be done safely.“I want to have my cake and eat it, too. I don’t want to do what New York did,” he said. “I want to do what I think we can do here in Pennsylvania and that is to have this industry, but do it right from an environmental point of view, from a health point of view.”
The majority of OGTAB and COGAC are from the natural gas industry and their supporters.
Drilling in PA has slacked off, mostly due to the glut which resulted in falling market prices of natural gas making drilling and fracking unprofitable.
The industry is now looking to export. Export prices are higher and there will be profits to be made. This rush to export requires getting the gas to the coastal export facilities along the east coast and Gulf of Mexico and that means pipelines, lots of pipelines.
The flood of pipeline applications being reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and landmen knocking on home owner’s doors has created a backlash.
Grassroots groups across Pennsylvania have sprung up in opposition to the many pipelines being proposed. In Luzerne County, there are 4 existing pipelines: the Transco, Leidy/Leidy Expansion, Williams Gathering and Energy Transfer Gathering (formerly known as Chief, PVR or Regency). Two others, the PennEast and Atlantic Sunrise are in various stages of consideration with FERC, and two more, the Marc II and Diamond East are in the wings but have not yet filed with FERC.
Former FERC Chair, Cheryl LaFleur, remarked at a National Press Conference Luncheon in January 2015 that opposition was unprecedented when it came to pipelines.
Why Was Scott Booted?
As mentioned, Scott is not one to take this sort of thing lying down. He contacted DEP Secretary Quigley office and asked for an explanation.
The explanation as reported by The Citizens Voice:
“While we appreciated his willingness to serve, we felt others on the task force would better represent the wide range of citizen perspectives on pipelines,” press secretary Neil Shader said in an email.
Wolf’s solution to pipeline opposition appears to have been to create the Pennsylvania Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce (PPIT). PPIT’s mission statement claims it is a: (emphasis added)
A stakeholder-driven effort, the Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF) will develop policies, guidelines and tools to assist in pipeline development (including planning, permitting and construction) as well as long-term operation and maintenance.
This will be a transparent process, and will entail close coordination with federal agencies, state partners, local governments, industry representatives, landowners and environmental advocates.
Looking at the make-up of PPIT, the stakeholders as mentioned in the mission statement, the vast majority are industry representatives and their supporters. What better way to silence opposition than to create a taskforce which excludes them from a seat and voice at the table under the guise of being transparent?
We don’t know how many others may have been accepted and then booted from PPIT because they didn’t “better represent the wide range of citizen perspectives on pipelines”. If you are one of these, or know of someone please let us know.
Frackorporation is working on connecting the dots of all three natural gas committees, boards and taskforce. There are lots of dots and your patience is appreciated.
In the meantime, we hope to see more grassroots groups rising in unprecedented opposition to the natural gas industrialization of our communities, not only in Pennsylvania but across the nation.
John Mellow, now a retired DEP licensed geologist, had applied for a seat on PPIT but was not chosen.
While at the DEP, Mellow was assigned to review 13-year-old reports analyzing a possible link between harmful gases found below Dunmore from the Keystone Sanitary Landfill.
Mellow and his retired co-worker, Robert Gadinski, interpreted years of evidence to conclude Keystone was the most likely source of carbon dioxide that displaced oxygen in mined-out coal seams below the borough. They also found other gases they believe pointed to the landfill as a source. The two said they believe taking underground gas samples on landfill property was a crucial step to proving or disproving its unlined section the source. Their supervisors would not allow them to do so, they said.
Mellow disputed his former supervisor, Joseph “Jody” Brogna statement that more testing, including on landfill property, was not necessary. While he agreed that his own program could not continue under its mission, he said he believes other DEP programs should have taken up the issue.
The Keystone Landfill, owned by Louis DeNaples, was approved by the DEP to accept solid and liquid drill waste.
© 2015 by Dory Hippauf