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PA Politics Continue to Trump Health and Environment

Politics continues to threaten the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians.

By Walter Brasch

Politics continues to threaten the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians.

The latest is how the Republican-dominated legislature and Gov. Tom Corbett separated one of the wealthiest and more high-tech/industrial areas of the state from the rural areas.

Less than a week before the 2011–2012 fiscal year budget was scheduled to expire, June 30, the majority party slipped an amendment into the 2012–2013 proposed budget, (SB1263), to ban natural gas drilling in a portion of southeastern Pennsylvania for up to six years. The South Newark Basin includes portions of Bucks, Montgomery, and Berks counties, and could provide at least 360 billion cubic feet of natural gas, according to estimates by the United States Geologic Survey.

Only an e-mail blast by anti-fracking activist Iris Marie Bloom and a short AP story the day before the budget was passed alerted Pennsylvanians to the amendment that gives special consideration to the suburban areas of Philadelphia.

High volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a process that injects under heavy pressure as much as 10 million gallons of water, sand, gases, and chemicals, many of them known carcinogens, into a rock formation as much as 10,000 feet below the earth’s surface to open channels and force out natural gas and fossil fuels. However, numerous studies have concluded that the process of fracking to extract natural gas poses significant problems to the health of citizens and their environment.

In his first budget address, Corbett declared he wanted to “make Pennsylvania the hub of this [drilling] boom. Just as the oil com­pa­nies decided to headquarter in one of a dozen states with oil, let’s make Penn­syl­va­nia the Texas of the nat­ural gas boom.”

The push by Corbett and the Republicans in the Legislature that led to the enactment of the highly-controversial Act 13 to open gas drilling was possibly not only because they favor corporate development but because it was also payback for extensive campaign contributions by the natural gas industry. Corbett had taken more than $1.6 million in contributions from persons and PACs associated with the natural gas industry, according to data compiled by Common Cause.

Rep. Brian L. Ellis (R-Butler County, Pa.), sponsor of the House bill, received $23,300. Sen. Joseph B. Scarnati (R- Warren, Pa.), the senate president pro-tempore who sponsored the companion Senate bill (SB 1100), received $293,334, according to Marcellus Money. Rep. Dave Reed (R-Indiana, Pa.), chair of the majority policy committee, received $105,732; Rep. Mike Turzai (R-McCandless, Pa.), majority floor leader, received $79,100. Of the 20 Pennsylvania legislators who received the most money from the industry in the past decade, 16 are Republicans, according to Common Cause.

The Republican legislators who enthusiastically supported Act 13 but then created an amendment to exempt a part of the state, claim the amendment was needed to give time to better study the effects of fracking. “We basically said we didn’t know [the South Newark Basin] was there before when we did Act 13,” said State Sen. Charles T. McIhnnerey (R- Doylestown), sponsor of the amendment. However, the presence of natural gas in southeastern Pennsylvania wasn’t exactly a secret; energy companies had been active for several years in the region. McIhnnerey told phillyburbs.com, “We need to slow this down until we can do a study on it—see what’s there, see where it is, see how deep it is, study the impact, get the local supervisor’s [sic] thoughts on it.”

“Where was our study?” demanded State Rep. Jesse White (D-Washington County), who actively opposes Act 13 and has been trying to get responsibility on the part of the Industry and the state Legislature regarding drilling in the Marcellus and Utica shales. “We were here four months ago [when Act 13 was passed] under the guise of, we had to have uniformity, we had to have consistency, we needed to be fair,” said Rep. White, “and now, four months later, we’re saying, ‘Maybe, for whatever reason, we’re going to give a few people a pass.’”

Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, and one of the state’s more active opponents of fracking, says, “Studies are not being conducted before drilling begins anywhere else in the state . . . nor are studies being conducted on the potential impacts of the pipeline operations already coming here [Berks County].”

David Meiser, chair of the Bucks County Sierra Club, said the Legislature “should either exempt all counties from Act 13 and not just try to get special treatment from Sen. McIlhinney’s core area, or repeal the law entirely.”

Sen. McIhnnerey proudly noted the last-minute legislation “makes good on my promise that Act 13 was not intended to apply to Bucks County.”

By his own words, it is time for the Republican majority, so willing to expose rural Pennsylvania to the effects of fracking, to now honestly answer two significant questions.

The first question to the Republicans is, “Why do you support a state law that discriminates against the rural counties, while you support a special exemption that protects the health and welfare of the urban and suburban counties that have many of the state’s most powerful and wealthiest constituents, including the head of the Department of Environmental Protection and the lieutenant governor?”

The second question is, simply, “How much more money will it take to continue to buy your loyalty to corporations, the powerful, and the affluent?”

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Liz Rosenbaum July 06, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Today, Scranton cut the pay of over 400 city employees pay down to the minimum wage (illegally); Harrisburg is bankrupt and schools are closing across the state... All this while Governor Corbett refuses to impose a general extraction tax on gas drillers... Welcome to Fracksylvania!
Liz Rosenbaum July 06, 2012 at 07:36 PM
The Gas Industry lobby has successfully "bought" politicians on both sides of the aisle. Until we have campaign finance reform, our system is broken.
Tony Campisi July 06, 2012 at 07:58 PM
There's a difference between drilling and drilling responsibly. It is perfectly reasonable to expect, and to demand, that the resources being taken out of the ground beneath our feet be done so in a responsible, safe and healthy manner and that the people who own the resource (the taxpayers) be reasonably compensated. Yet, the GOP seems to be flat out against all things reasonable these days.
james koslosky July 07, 2012 at 02:42 PM
typical republican politiians with their hands out.
Rosemary B July 07, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Jobs are not increasing in Pa. We have been lagging behind the country, so Pa private sector is NOT doing fine. And the gas drilling also has not yet brought as many jobs as previously predicted. http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2011/08/30/new-study-cuts-estimated-marcellus-job-creation-in-half/
Rosemary B July 07, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Aren't Scranton and Harrisburg doing poorly because of their own LOCAL mismanagement? Going back years and years? Not sure you can lay that at Corbett's door.
Rosemary B July 07, 2012 at 07:07 PM
And Dems never take political contributions owe pay back any political favors?
Tom Bartman July 08, 2012 at 04:29 AM
What are the facts that I should look into? Please explain that to us. Especially the "limited water sources." Explain that.
Liz Rosenbaum July 08, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Hi Tom and Earnest, These are the facts I'm stuck on: FACT 1: According to the Environmental Working Group, “Water utilities spend 19 times more on water treatment chemicals every year than the federal government invests in protecting lakes and rivers from pollution in the first place.” FACT 2: Once water is removed from the watershed for fracking (and AquaPA is about to start pulling 3 million gallons A DAY from the Susquehanna) it cannot be safely returned. It is lost forever. "Recycling" really refers to re-use for another frack. FACT 3: The best triple cement well-bore seals, which are meant to protect our water supply from drilling chemicals, methane migration and naturally occurring flowback, will start to deteriorate and fail in 70-100 years. That's according to the industry estimates. They will ALL need to be replugged. Just as acid mine drainage has polluted our waterways, these leaking seals will poison our water tables. FACT 4: According to PA DEP, 6.2% of these seals fail immediately. That number is unacceptably high. FACT 5: Burning natural gas is cleaner than coal or oil, but producing and processing is more greenhouse gas intensive. FACT 6: Perhaps the scariest fact of all... Most Republican lawmakers don't believe Global Warming is real. So, if you only ask a politician one question, maybe find out if they subscribe to the science of Climate Change. Their reactions are something to behold!
Louis Flanagan July 08, 2012 at 01:40 PM
If you make a claim here about harm from fracking, the only way you'll have any credibility is to cite specific examples or case studies that include all the details.. Otherwise, youi're merely relaying hearsay. The gullible tend to swallow hearsay but the rest of us view this seriously enough to demand evidence. You want to charge someone with murder, produce a body.
Liz Rosenbaum July 08, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Here's a "body" http://protectingourwaters.wordpress.com/2012/06/29/headley-familys-nightmare-with-gas-drillers-profiled-in-new-york-times/ There are lots more. You can find a long list of sites that publish their testimonials at http://stopfrackingpennsylvania.wordpress.com/
David Curran July 08, 2012 at 01:49 PM
The burden of proof should be on the industry to prove their extraction methods are safe. The fact that an amendment was added to the budget bill that precludes part of the state from drilling (Rep. Sponsor) says to me there are real concerns.
Liz Rosenbaum July 08, 2012 at 01:50 PM
You can also learn more about the impacts of gas extraction on Pennsylvanians in "Fractured Lives" Detritus of Pennsylvania's Shale Gas Boom by Edward Humes http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/201207/pennsylvania-fracking-shale-gas-199.aspx
Tom Bartman July 08, 2012 at 02:31 PM
I do not believe in global warming. I've been researching it for years. While we're on the subject, tell me where the 'warming' is. Global temperature map from yesterday: http://policlimate.com/climate/cfsr/cfsr_t2m_2012070700.png I believe in mother nature doing what she does and not a pompous attitude of thinking man has a clue of what is really happening.
Tom Bartman July 08, 2012 at 02:40 PM
90% of the globe is below average temperatures while the US is under a heat wave. http://policlimate.com/climate/cfsr/cfsr_t2m_2012070700.png If you ever worked among news rooms, you would know why the 10% under record heat gets the headline while the cooling is ignored. Everybody gets it. http://www.threatcore.com/media-ignores-end-of-warming/
David Curran July 08, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Tom, you really have to be more carefull in your posts. Liz was talking about "climate change" not global warning. The numbers you quote about "90% under temp" in regards to temperatures would seem to bolster her argument not yours.
Anthony Wayne July 08, 2012 at 08:37 PM
Those who believes that politicians in the U.S. serve the people's interest before the interest of the big business that paid to get them elected, are kidding themselves. It's always about the money, not what is best for America. Until voters wake up and fix the situation, it will only get worse. Will fracking hurt people? I don't know. But someone has paid to assure that it does not matter.
Rosemary B July 08, 2012 at 10:34 PM
I do believe the climate is changing. But the climate has always been changing. Since the changing climate was not man made centuries ago I do not believe it is man made now. It is more like chicken little running around saying the sky is falling!
Anthony Wayne July 09, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Take a few moments and listen to "A Master Of Bribes And Influence Peddling" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwhk3UjAAkQ&feature=youtube_gdata_player
Tom Bartman July 09, 2012 at 01:44 AM
Well put
Mike July 10, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Ask yourself who has better regulation PA/America or OPEC Nations? I for one am tired of blood for oil so whatever gets us off of foreign dependency I am all for. Not too mention when we switch to natural gas to power industry and eventually cars and fleet vehicles it will be better for the environment. The drilling occurs below the water table so gravity will work on that aspect we just have to make sure the water being used in the fracking isn't dumped out like it was under Gov. Rendell and the current administration has taken steps to ensure proper treatment and disposal.
SMYRNA-X July 12, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Bottom line our envir friends will not be satisfied till we are back in the stoneage. Sure who wants pollution- dem or rep- but you have to crack an egg to make an omelet. Dems just prefer its done in someone elses backyard.
JK July 12, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Tony C- You mention responsible drilling and the money hungry Republicans. Can you please explain why the off shore drilling was shut down by the Obama admin in the US but we paid out money to aid Brazil in their DEEP SEA drilling the following week? Let's stop the democrat vs republican concept. If you are true to the cause then be honest and speak out about every instance instead of just those thst further your political career.
Tony Campisi July 12, 2012 at 12:16 PM
A) This post was about drilling in the Marcellus Shale for natural gas, not off shore drilling. B) US domestic oil production is at an eight year high because under Obama domestic drilling has been expanded. I believe the moratorium you speak of was a TEMPORARY one imposed after the BP SPill in the Gulf of Mexico. That ban on deep sea drilling was lifted in the Fall of 2010. C) US imports of foreign oil are at their lowest in about 9 years. D) Drill, baby, drill is not a responsible, nor reliable, energy plan.
Rosemary B July 12, 2012 at 12:28 PM
If US imports are at their lowest in 9 yrs and US oil production is at an 8 yr high then "Drill, Baby, Drill" seems to be working well so far. At least until we can get our cars to run on Wind energy or Solar power!
Liz Rosenbaum July 12, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Smyrna-X, I wish you had an actual name because i feel like I'm talking to an industry shill, I embrace a simpler, non-consumerist lifestyle. I believe in Conservation, first and foremost. Do you realize the US wastes over 50% of the energy we produce due to outdated, inefficient electrical grids? That's before the power even reaches consumers, who could also do much more to conserve. Beyond that, yes, I do believe that renewable energy is a far more sustainable path, and we are lagging behind other countries. Are you aware that Saudi Arabia just invested $200 BILLION in solar energy? That ought to tell us something. I don't want to see pollution from extreme fossil fuel extraction in anyone's backyard. And if you've ever actually seen a shale gas rig in operation, you wouldn't want one in your backyard, either.
JK July 12, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Tony C- I realize the differences between the two issues but was pointing out a broader issue that you did not comment on. You need to be consistent in order to have any credibility. FYI - the ban was reinstituted several months later and no permits were allowed. The only reason it was resolved was because there was an industry lawsuit brought upon the US Interior Sec'y TWICE and they were forced to comply? Please show us you are geniune and stop the "drill baby drill" insults.
Ego_Death July 13, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Tom- Are you serious? How is Fracking an Environmental concern? Really? Also I bet if you look at the jobs created by the industry, majority of them go to out of state contract workers. PA has a good record on jobs because of the major healthcare / pharma companies in SE PA (our area) Without them we would have very little industry here.
Ego_Death July 13, 2012 at 04:25 PM
And to add to tony's point, follow the same EPA rules that EVERY other type of company and personal land owner has to follow. It is crazy that this industry has exemptions and are not held responsible of things go wrong.
Ego_Death July 13, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Tom- its called climate change. We'll see how you feel in 20 years when the midwest turns into a desert and we can no longer grow crops in our heartland.

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