Something needed to be done to address this problem. The problem is not construction of pipelines, but rather the problem of opposition to pipelines.
According to former chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Cheryl LaFleur: (emphasis added)
“We have a situation here,” she said. “Pipelines are facing unprecedented opposition from local and national groups including environmental activists … These groups are active in every FERC docket, as they should be, as well as in my e-mail in-box seven days a week, in my Twitter feed, at our open meetings demanding to be heard, and literally at our door closing down First Street so FERC won’t be able to work.”
Just about every pipeline headed for Pennsylvania has prompted local citizens to form opposition groups all along the routes. Although the industry is attempting to paint such opposition as a “vocal minority”, “misguided” or being influenced by “outside organizations” the presence of citizen opposition cannot be denied or ignored.
Perhaps taking LaFleur’s comment about unprecedented opposition to heart Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the formation of a Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force (PITF) in the spring of 2015.
According to the PITF website: (emphasis added)
The Task Force is made up of representatives from state agencies, the legislature, federal and local governments, the pipeline and natural gas industries and environmental groups, among others. The Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection serves as Chairman.
Given the long history of Pennsylvania government cuddling up with the fossil fuel industry, the PITF announcement was met with some degree of skepticism by those who have opposed the increasing industrialization of their communities. Nonetheless, this seemed to be an opportunity for real people, who would be directly affected, to participate and have a voice.
Scott Cannon, of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County (GDAC), submitted his name for consideration. Luzerne County is facing multiple pipelines, in addition to the Transco interstate pipeline and two intrastate gathering lines. Headed for the area is the expansion of the Transco via the Leidy Loop (a storage line), the Atlantic Sunrise, PennEast, Diamond East and the Marc II.
Cannon has produced a number of videos about the industry in Pennsylvania through the Marcellus Shale Reality Series as well as giving presentations about what the industry doesn’t want the public to know. Cannon is well known for being a vocal opponent to the growing natural gas industrialization happening across Pennsylvania.
Imagine his surprise when he received an email welcoming him to join PITF. Maybe, just maybe, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was serious about hearing from real people and interested in their concerns. His appointment to PITF raised the hopes of many groups and people that PITF was not going to be another industry run group with a governmental stamp of approval.
Fractivists Need Not Apply
Original skepticism of PITF rang true. A few days after being invited to PITF, Cannon received a second email stating he was uninvited.
No reason was given for being uninvited.
Cannon wanted to know why and/or who uninvited him. Cannon contacted Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Governor’s office looking for an answer. What he received was a non-answer answer.
This left Cannon with another option to find answers. File a Right to Know Request (RTKR).
What follows are excerpts from the RTKR filing.
Thursday July 2, 2015 seemed to be the day DEP circled its wagons with a flurry of emails requests to remove Cannon from PITF. Note the email below from DEP Secretary John Quigley, marked IMPORTANCE: HIGH. Quigley added “I suspect he will run to the press. If asked, the less said on this, the better, in my view.”
And this one expressing concerns of more press attention dated July 6, 2015:
Per StateImpact article of August 28, 2015 (emphasis added):
Asked why Cannon was taken off the group, DEP press secretary Julie Lalo said in an email: “After further consideration of the overall composition of the Task Force, the Secretary decided against adding this individual as a member. 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.”
Citizen Perspectives on Pipelines?
In a 3-Part series, Frackorporation looked at the composition of PITF:
- Industry Shadows the PA Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce (PITF) – Part 1
- Industry Shadows the PA Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce (PITF) – Part 2
- Industry Shadows the PA Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce (PITF) – Part 3
- Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce Spreadsheet (PITF)
In Frackorporation’s analysis of PITF, 56 of the 158 members are from the fossil fuel industry or have direct interest in the construction of more pipelines. Please see Pipeline Infrastructure Taskforce Spreadsheet (PITF) for more details.
If corporations are people, then the overwhelming number of industry members to PITF could be construed as “citizen perspectives” while excluding the citizens who are facing pipelines in their backyards.
Right To Know?
Cannon still doesn’t know who requested that he be uninvited. The emails revealed in his RTKR request do shed some light regarding concerns of his original inclusion to PITF.
However, two pages of emails were not released:
Do these pages hold the answer? We may never know as those two pages are protected by client-counsel privilege citing legal advice provided by the Chief Counsel to the Secretary and Chief Counsel’s impressions, conclusions and opinions that encompassed the notification.
We do know is someone did not want Cannon on the PITF. What we do not know is who and why.
© 2015 by Dory Hippauf