Part 5: Pieces of Silver – Act 13
Everyone thinks our elected officials are under some influence of “special interest” money. It’s very apparent in Pennsylvania with Act 13 – The Marcellus Shale now being the law of the commonwealth.
The PA House vote was 101 YEAS, 90 NAYS. The PA Senate vote was 31 YEAS and 19 NAYS. Yes, it was all along party lines.
On Feb. 14, 2012, without cameras, reporters or other fanfare, Gov. Tom Corbett quietly signed ACT 13.
ACT 13 dangles a little bit of money to each community in the form of an “impact fee” paid by the natural gas corporations. In exchange for 30 pieces of silver, communities will no longer be able to set zoning or other conditions on where or how the natural gas corporations may drill, frack, or otherwise industrialize the community.
The Sierra Club has published “The 10 Top Myths about Pennsylvania’s The Mad Rush to Frack Act” – read it.
In his article, “Why I Voted NO on the Marcellus Shale Bill”, State Rep. Jesse White of the 46th district stated:
“This bill is loaded with blatant giveaways for the natural gas industry. There’s money for a “Housing Affordability Programs,” which means we will be paying for temporary housing for workers from out of state who will no longer be staying in our hotels. There are subsidies for natural gas vehicle programs the industry apparently couldn’t afford to do without a government handout. And there is a massive direct cash giveaway intended to go to the Shell Oil Corp., which had a profit of more than $20 billion in 2010.
If you were upset about the potential funding of the Arlen Specter Library (which Corbett approved last week), you have to be losing your mind over a deal to subsidize a major foreign oil company with your tax dollars.”
He continues: “Supporters of House Bill 1950 will tell you the law is a compromise. The only compromise could have been between the lobbyists for the natural gas industry and the people who agreed with them already, because they were the only ones in the room negotiating this 174-page bill, which was drafted in secret and almost immediately put up for a vote. House Bill 1950 wasn’t a compromise; it was a back room deal made by a small group of people whose primary concern was the profit margin for the energy industry.”
On January 12, 2012, letter was sent to Representatives Smith, Turzai and Ellis on behalf of Kathryn Z. Klaber, President, Marcellus Shale Coalition and Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Executive Director, Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania.
A copy of the letter was also sent to all Pennsylvania House Members in the PA Legislature and to Gov. Tom Corbett.
The letter was accompanied with four pages of suggestions. All but three of the “suggestions” found their way into the final version.
WHO are Klaber and Wissman?
API is the American Petroleum Institute: largest U.S trade association for the oil and natural gas industry. It claims to represent about 400 corporations involved in production, refinement, distribution, and many other aspects of the petroleum industry.
API is also part of the VOTE 4 ENERGY, an industry and corporation funded ad campaign.
Vote4Energy is a project of the American Petroleum Institute representing more than 490 oil and natural gas companies, leaders of a technology-driven industry that supplies most of America’s energy, supports 9.2 million U.S. jobs and 7.7 percent of the U.S. economy, delivers more than $85 million a day in revenue to our government, and, since 2000, has invested more than $2 trillion in U.S. capital projects to advance all forms of energy, including alternatives.
Founded in 2008, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) is an organization committed to the responsible development of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale geological formation and the enhancement of the region’s economy that can be realized by this clean-burning energy source.
Members of the MSC are the oil/gas corporations, too numerous to list on this blog. Click a link below to see the lists.
Kathryn Klaber: Executive Director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC)
Prior to joining the MSC, Ms. Klaber was Executive Vice President for Competitiveness at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League.
Through the 1990s, Ms. Klaber worked in the environmental consulting business in mergers and acquisitions, environmental management systems, air and water quality projects, Brownfields redevelopment, accidental release preparedness, and other environmental initiatives.
She is a member of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee.
Environmental consulting business? Which one?
Through the 1990s, Kathryn Klaber worked for the international environmental, health and safety consulting firm, Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM), first at the company’s headquarters in Philadelphia, then in her native Pittsburgh. Her client work consisted primarily of mergers and acquisitions, environmental management systems, air and water quality projects, and other facilities’ engineering engagements. She supervised multinational projects, primarily for Fortune 1000 companies, involving staff from across the company’s 130 offices. In southwestern Pennsylvania, she worked with regional companies on air quality compliance, Brownfields redevelopment, accidental release preparedness, and a myriad of other environmental initiatives. During her last three years with the firm, Ms. Klaber managed the Pittsburgh regional office, responsible for all aspects of the practice including business development, product delivery, staffing, and financial management.
As a leading global provider of environmental, health, safety, risk, and social consulting services, ERM has sustainability at the heart of both our services and how we operate our business. We employ over 4,000 people with 140 offices in 40 countries worldwide.
For over 40 years we have been working with clients around the world and in diverse industry sectors to help them to understand and manage their environmental, health, safety, risk and social impacts.
The key sectors we serve include Oil & Gas, Mining, Power, and Manufacturing, Chemical and Pharmaceutical.
Stephanie Catarino Wissman: Executive Director of Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania (API-PA), a division of the American Petroleum Institute(API).
Former Director, Government Affairs :
Stephanie Catarino Wissman joined the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry as director of Government Affairs in October 2007. Stephanie graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. With nearly 15 years of experience in government relations, Stephanie primarily serves as the PA Chamber’s energy and environmental lobbyist, with additional responsibilities including general business advocacy, transportation and technology.
Prior to joining the PA Chamber, Stephanie served as manager of Government Affairs for Embarq (formerly Sprint). Highlighting her career at Embarq was her work on Act 183 of 2004, commonly referred to as Chapter 30. Stephanie played a major role in passing this landmark telecommunications alternative regulation legislation, which has become a model for other states confronting telecommunications reform.
As a registered lobbyist, Stephanie has also held positions at Pennsylvanians for Effective Government and Associated PA Constructors. She is a member of Women in Pennsylvania Government Relations and serves on the Pennsylvania Highway Information Association’s (PHIA) Board of Directors.
HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Governor Tom Corbett today announced the following recent nominations and appointments: Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Mechanicsburg – Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board
The Pieces of Silver
Perhaps it’s a misnomer to refer to campaign donations from the Natural Gas Industries as 30 pieces of silver as it’s more than $7-million pieces of silver.
According to Marcellusmoney.org, the Natural Gas Industries have “donated” $7,175,234 to Pennsylvania candidates and Political Action Committees (PACs) from 2000 through the end of 2010, according to a Common Cause/Pennsylvania (CCPA) analysis. $3,442,212 was donated to elected officials currently in office.
Donations from the Natural Gas Industry and its associates doubled during the 2009-2010 election cycle. In 2007-2008 donations totaled $1,004,757; by the end of 2010 $2,608,187 had found its way into campaign coffers.
For more details see Marcellusmoney.org for a spreadsheet containing data through the end of 2010. Tabbed sheets at the bottom of the spreadsheet show total donations to in-office elected officials, by company, and by year.
The data in this chart was taken from Marcellusmoney.org spreadsheet.
This covers donations made between 2000 thru 2010. I have broken out the totals by year and noted the election year info.
Gov. Tom Corbett (R) – Pennsylvania
Bio: Corbett was the Attorney General of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 1997; he was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge to fill the unexpired term of Ernie Preate.
As a condition of his Senate confirmation, Senate Democrats required him to pledge that he would not run for re-election in 1996. This is a common practice in Pennsylvania for appointments to elected offices. Corbett left office in 1997 and again went into the private sector, first as general counsel for Waste Management, Inc., then opening his own practice.
In 2004, Tom Corbett won the election for Pennsylvania Attorney General. His 2004 campaign funds were fattened a bit, by a $450,000 check from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy.
“The $450,000 in campaign checks that energy mogul Aubrey McClendon wrote that fall helped elect a man he said he’d never even met – a relatively obscure GOP candidate for Pennsylvania attorney general, Tom Corbett.
That investment arguably changed not just the history but also the political direction of the state. The influx of cash helped Corbett narrowly win the closest attorney general’s race in Pennsylvania history and propelled him toward the governor’s mansion, where he has now pledged to turn the Keystone State into “the Texas of the natural-gas boom.”
In the 2009-2010 campaign cycle, Chesapeake Energy and its employees donated $87,150 to candidates in Pennsylvania. David Spigelmyer, Chesapeake’s Vice President for Government Relations, was given a seat on the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission in 2010.
Chesapeake racked up 132 violations in 2010, putting it in the #3 spot. Chief Oil & Gas led the violations pack with 174 violations.
“Chesapeake spokesman Matt Sheppard disputes the account of the people Pennsylvania Public Radio spoke with, who come from both inside and out of state government, emailing, “[Spigelmyer] stepped aside from the Marcellus Commission prior to the first meeting to focus on Chesapeake operations and his duties as vice chair of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.” Corbett’s office did not return calls for comment.”
To my knowledge, Spigelmyer’s seat has not been filled by anyone.
Gov. Corbett has been extremely supportive of natural gas drilling; he believes it will bring jobs and millions of dollars to Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania is blessed with remarkable resources, innovation and a legendary work ethic. Even in its infancy, the Marcellus Shale is beginning to have a great economic impact on Pennsylvania. At a time when the national and state unemployment rates are rising and our country is slowly trying to regain its traction from the recession, the Marcellus Shale is working to create jobs and millions of dollars in royalty fees and local and state tax revenues. The commonwealth currently finds itself at a competitive advantage when compared to other states with similar gas shale plays. Capital investment to develop Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale is increasing rapidly, and, according to an economic impact study released by Penn State University in 2009, industry activity is expected to generate over $600 million in tax revenues to the Commonwealth during 2010 without a severance tax. Tom Corbett believes that a punitive tax on the industry at this stage would reduce capital investment in the commonwealth and reduce the potential for new jobs, tax revenues and other economic benefits associated with development of the Marcellus Shale. In addition, Tom Corbett would support dedicating a portion of the royalty fees to communities that are being impacted by drilling.”
In 2011, Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget included $2 billion in cuts to education and reduces aid to colleges and universities by 50 percent. The budget passed with only a 19 percent chop to the funding of Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln.
Those concerned with the quality and importance of education protested the cuts. Gov. Corbett told them Pennsylvania universities should consider drilling for natural gas below campus to help solve their financial problems.
Signs in hand, members of Marcellus Outreach Butler positioned themselves outside Seneca Valley Intermediate High School before the start of Monday’s school board meeting to protest potential drilling for Marcellus Shale on district property.
The group, which was made up of residents from Seven Fields, Jackson and Cranberry townships among others, also attended the meeting to ask for the district’s support in stopping a natural gas processing plant in Jackson Township.
In light of the $10 million budget shortfall the district faces for the 2011-2012 school year, officials in March also brought up the possibility of drilling for Marcellus Shale gas on the 142-acre property the district owns on Ehrman Road. The property spans Cranberry and Jackson townships.
The property, which the district purchased for $4.5 million in 2002, was once under consideration for new buildings after a predicted spike in school population.
Mirka Fatschel of Seven Fields, who is the mother of three Seneca Valley students, said she didn’t want Marcellus Shale drilling to take place near any of the schools.
“There are many health issues we are worried about,” she said.
“Gov. Tom Corbett announced on Tuesday his $27.4 billion state budget proposal, which slashed spending and suggested cutting Pitt’s state funding by 30 percent — from $136 million to $95.2 million — for the coming fiscal year.
The proposed cuts to higher education mark the biggest percentage cut in Corbett’s 2012-2013 budget, which aims to reduce spending without raising taxes. This year’s proposed budget is an $866 million reduction from the 2011-2012 budget.
Gov. Corbett’s cuts are being met with protests from educators and students alike. The honeymoon is over.
A recent Quinnipiac poll has Corbett’s approval dead even with his disapproval at 41/41 percent. In December 2011, he had an approval rating of 47% and disapproval of 34%, a difference of 13 points.
KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano went to Market Square in Downtown to ask why some are not happy with the governor’s job performance.
Said one, “With no disrespect, I don’t like what he did to the schools. He cut the budgets, and he’s giving Marcellus Shale people carte blanche.”
In addition to cuts in education:
The Department of Environmental Protection will see funding cut by 7.8 percent or $10.5 million; and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ budget is decreased by about $2.5 million or 4.6 percent.
Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer took his turn before the state Senate’s Appropriations Committee yesterday. Discussing his department’s budget, Krancer said DEP has the staff it needs to inspect Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale wells. That’s despite Governor Corbett’s proposal to trim the department’s budget by more than $10 million.
We seem to have a slight problem here. Education is being cut, DEP is being cut, and with ACT 13 rolling out the red carpet for gas drilling everywhere, the need for regulators is a pressing concern.
What happens when the fox builds the hen house?
The drilling industry helped get some of the most influential lawmakers elected with lavish donations to their campaigns. It paid millions to lobbyists to influence legislation, and it has hired many of the experienced regulators away from public service.
Now the industry will pay to train the people who set policy and enforce it.
ExxonMobil and GE will be investing $1 million each to establish new training programs at three universities, including Penn State, “to ensure that regulators and policymakers have access to the latest technological and operational expertise to assist in their oversight of shale development,” according to a Penn State press release issued Thursday.
With money from the drilling industry, Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research will offer a new “Shale Gas Regulators Training Program” to provide “best-practices training” to people who oversee the drilling industry.
The center’s co-director, Tom Murphy, said in a press release the program will “offer new regulators the chance to learn the latest science-based concepts related to geology, petroleum technology and environmental quality.”
Until now, Murphy had maintained that the Marcellus Center operated free and clear of industry funding.
On April 24, 2012, Pennsylvanians will be voting in the primaries. All of the Pennsylvania State House and about half of the Senate will be on the ballot. About 7 months later, November 6, 2012, we will all be going to the polls for the general election.
In the coming months, you will see more and more and more money pouring into campaigns and around campaigns in the form of super-PACs. It may seem overwhelming; you may say, “What can I do against all this corporate money?”
Remember, all this corporate money is being spent to support a candidate who needs YOUR VOTE. It all comes down to millions and billions of dollars in exchange for YOUR VOTE, and you deserve to know who is trying to buy it.
Although the media and news will be dominated by the Presidential race, as Pennsylvanians we have the responsibility to look to our own legislature, to educate ourselves about the candidates and understand how those candidates will shape the future of Pennsylvania. It’s YOUR VOTE – make it an informed vote.