CMD superman logo.jpg SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy,

depends on donations from people like you!

Click here to make a tax-deductable contribution.

Marcellus Shale Coalition

From SourceWatch
Jump to: navigation, search

Learn more about the threat drilling for methane gas poses to fresh water.

This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

Learn more from the Center for Media and Democracy's research on climate change.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition is an industry coalition that fights against environmental protections sought by citizens facing the prospect of methane gas drilling near their water supplies. It is engaged in an extensive state and federal lobbying campaign to protect the financial interests of the corporate members of the coalition.

Its PR material describes the Marcellus Shale Coalition as "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. The members of the coalition work with our partners across the region to address issues with regulators, local, county, state and federal government officials and communities about all aspects of producing clean-burning, job-creating natural gas from the Marcellus Shale."[1]

The coalition says that is has over 90 members. These corporations are interested in maximizing their profit from methane gas extraction in the Northeastern U.S. and minimizing regulations which would help protect watersheds within this region, including the safe drinking water of millions of Americans and the security of streams and lakes in the area.

Massive Lobbying Successes and Huge Campaign Contributions in Pennsylvania: Common Cause Pennsylvania's "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets" May 2010 Report and the government-industry revolving door

In the state of Pennsylvania, a state in which 40 out of its 67 counties are rife with Marcellus Shale deposits, a clear correlation can be seen between the money given to the state's politicians and their support of drilling into the Marcellus Shale. In a groundbreaking study titled "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets: The Campaign Contributions and Lobbying Expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania," Common Cause followed the money, demonstrating that money flowing from oil companies had a clear impact on the behavior of Pennsylvania politicians. The report reveals that the natural gas industry gave $2.85 million to political candidates in PA between 2001 and March of 2010, with the campaign contributions flowing in at a particular prominent level post-2005, and especially post-2008. In addition, the industry spend $4.2 million on lobbying since 2007. The authors point out that PA has no limit to campaign contributions and, on top of that, this data is not easily searchable for the common citizen, which makes sense when one understands that, as they point out, PA is often described as the "Wild West" of campaign financing. Indeed, the authors of the study correctly state that "the Marcellus Shale has enabled the industry to promise a modern-day Gold Rush for the state." The combination of the modern-day Gold Rush alongside Wild West campaign finance laws is a deadly duo, said the report.[2]

Current Governor Ed Rendell: In Bed With the Natural Gas Industry

Although supportive of taxing gas drilling, Ed Rendell "has called himself the industry's "best ally." And an ally he is, indeed, to the tune of receiving over $84,000 in campaign contributions from the industry.[3]

Furthermore, it appears as if there is a government-industry revolving door as it relates to the gas industry and Governor Rendell's office. Three of Rendell's former high-level staffers have abruptly left their jobs gas industry lobbying positions. The three are Kenneth Scott Roy, Barbara Sexton, and Sarah Battisti. Roy was Rendell's former executive deputy chief of staff and left to work for Range Resources Corp. He formerly served as chief liaison between the governor's office and the gas industry and environmental groups, making the transition to Range Resources a perfectly logical one.[4] Sexton, former executive deputy secretary of environmental protection of Pennsylvania left to work in governmental affairs for Chesapeake Energy Corp., an Oklahoma company that is one of the nation's largest gas exploration firms.[5] Battisti, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Rendell, who, on her LinkedIn page says she focused on "Energy, Conservation and Natural Resources, Community and Economic Development,"[6] now works for the BG Group, an integrated oil and gas company which has its headquarters in Reading, Berkshire, England. "BG Group's main business is exploration for and the extraction of natural gas, liquefied natural gas and to a lesser extent oil. It sells these products to wholesale customers such as retail gas suppliers and electricity generating companies. It also owns some gas pipelines and is involved in some power generation projects. It is active around the world, with only a minority of its business being in the UK. BG Group is a multinational company with operations in 27 countries."[7]

Former Department of Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge named as "strategic adviser" to the Coalition

On July 30, 2010, the MSC named former Department of Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge their strategic adviser. The group announced that his communications and policy groups will be paid $75,000 a month for help in such areas as public outreach, education and coalition building.[8] Ridge was a two-term Republican governor in Pennsylvania, serving from 1995–2001.[9]

Ridge will be joined by Duncan Campbell, who was his Chief of Staff during his stint at the DHS and currently works with him at Ridge Global as the Managing Director of Operations[10]

Handling the chore of lobbying the Legislature will be two former aides from Ridge's days as governor, Mark Holman and Mark Campbell.

According to his biography on the Ridge Policy Group website, Holman "served President George W. Bush and Governor Ridge as Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Homeland Security immediately following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He also served as Governor Ridge’s Chief of Staff from 1995-2000. [He] has also worked in both branches of Congress. He started his public career with the late Senator John Heinz, (1980-1982), and later served as Chief of Staff for then Congressman Ridge, (1983-1992). [He] managed Governor Ridge’s first campaign for Congress in 1982 and later managed his first gubernatorial campaign (1993-94). He served on President George H.W. Bush’s campaign committee in 1980 and 1988. He also served on President Reagan’s 1980 campaign."[11]

Campbell also has extensive insider political experience. According to his Ridge Policy Group biography, "He served as a congressional chief of staff (1992-1994), a gubernatorial deputy chief of staff (1995-2001) and chief of staff to Governors Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker (2001-2002)."[12]

2010 Republican candidate for Governor and current Attorney General Tom Corbett--Top Recipient of Industry Contributions from January 2001-April 2010

Tom Corbett has received over $360,000 dollars in industry contributions since 2001, which is over three and a half times the amount of contributions received by any other politician, making him the leader of the so-called modern day Gold Rush. Indeed, even the Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, Dan Onorato, has received roughly $60,000 in campaign funding, putting him right behind Ed Rendell at seventh on the list of top 25 recipients of industry contributions from 2001 through April 2010. While there are three Democrats in the Top Ten of that list, there are only five in the top 25, with Republicans receiving 84% of contributions ($2.28 million) and Democrats receiving 16% ($428,000).[13]

President and Executive Director Kathryn Klaber

President and Executive Director Kathryn Klaber of the Marcellus Shale Coalition is the former Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Economy League.[14][15] In an interview with the so-called "Clean Skies TV Network," a channel affiliated with the American Clean Skies Foundation (which is largely funded from profits from gas drilling), Klaber stated that toxins entering into peoples' oil wells was a myth (though debunked by investigative journalists and scientists), and also stated that the FRAC Act was unnecessary because other organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency already have regulations in place to serve as a watchdog, neglecting to mention that chemicals used in methane drilling are exempt from federal water protection disclosure rues, thanks to the Halliburton loophole, and the process is subject to woefully inadequate state inspection agencies.

The Coalition's Claims vs. the Science

The Coalition acknowledges that, when explaining how the hydrofracking process works,"(e)xtracting natural gas from horizontal Marcellus Shale wells requires the use of more water than traditional shallow vertical wells."[16]. Indeed, though, as shown on the Marcellus Shale page, it takes far more than just a little "more water." The reality is that hydrofracking involves a fluid being injected into the rock which then releases the gas along with radioactive toxins and other hazardous substances in the shale--has raised serious environmental and health concerns. To force natural gas out of shale, millions of gallons of fresh, drinkable water are forced through a pipe drilled into the shale at extremely high pressure. A variety of chemicals are added to the water to keep the fractures in the shale open and keep the gas flowing to the surface. Although no complete list of the cocktail of chemicals used in this process exists, information obtained from environmental clean-up sites demonstrates that known toxins are routinely being used, including hydrochloric acid, diesel fuel (which contains benzene, tuolene, and xylene) as well as formaldehyde, polyacrylimides, arsenic, and chromates. These chemicals include known carcinogens and other hazardous substances. The Coalition attempts to minimize this by asserting that "the fracturing fluids [are] made up of more than 99.5 percent water and sand."[17]

The Coalition notes that the Marcellus Shale "gas developers recognize that the drilling process is not without short-term inconveniences."[18] The "inconveniences," have been documented to include neighbors' water becoming flammable, the mysterious death of cattle in Louisana, the mysterious death of goats in Texas, and other adverse effects. The Coalition ignores these effects and instead suggests that inconveniences are more mundane, like increased traffic, suggesting for example that a "project requir[ing] a large fleet of trucks to service the site, including on an average of 400 trucks coming and going during the fracturing process, transporting water to and from the drill pad."

The Coalition also asserts that the production of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation is critical because it "produces a clean-burning energy source in an environmentally sound manner."[19]. In a well-spun website section titled "Protecting the Environment," they claim that "(n)atural gas produced from the Marcellus Shale formation . . . can be extracted safely, while protecting our environment. Marcellus Shale gas producers operate under rules and regulations established by state environmental agencies, covering every aspect of planning, drilling and completing a gas production well."[20]. This ignores that fact that during the Bush Administration, Halliburton, though a self-created legal loophole, better known as the Halliburton loophole, led the way to make sure that Americans are not fully informed about the chemicals being used to extract the natural gas using their "proprietary" mixture. (In 2005, at the urging of Vice President Dick Cheney, Congress created a loophole to the Clean Water Drinking Act (CWDA) to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating this process, despite its demonstrated contamination of drinking water. In 2001, Cheney's "energy task force" had touted the benefits of hydrofracking, while redacting references to human health hazards associated with hydrofracking. Halliburton, which was previously led by Cheney, reportedly earns $1.5 billion a year from its energy operations, which relies substantially on its hydrofracking business.)

Attempting to exploit citizen concerns about the British Petroleum oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the creation of this new coalition was announced via a press release dated May 27, 2010. The release states, “Engaging, educating and mobilizing the public about the environmentally responsible and well-regulated development of clean-burning, job-creating natural gas from the Marcellus Shale is absolutely critical,” said Kathryn Klaber, president and executive director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. “Our new site will serve as a one-stop shop for those interested in learning more about how this once-in-a-generation type of opportunity is creating tens of thousands of good-paying, permanent jobs across the region and delivering affordable, American-made energy to small businesses and families.”[21]

Strong Desire to Avoid (Accountability) Paying Severance Taxes

In a town hall debate that took place on April 27, 2010 in Pennsylvania, president and Executive Director Marcellus Shale Coalition, Kathryn Klaber, repeatedly argued that companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale should not be have to pay a severance tax, repeatedly arguing that the those doing natural gas drilling should not be held to different standards than other industries, ignoring the fact that drilling in the Marcellus Shale attaches imminent enormous environmental and human impacts.[22] During the debate, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Projection, John Hanger is continuously bombarded by Klaber and a representative from the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce by claims of the DEP being a "bad business climate" and "state government working against the interests of businesses and industry." Interestingly, even Hanger was not in opposition to natural gas drilling on its face.

The Coalition has also released a Factsheet that can best be described as militantly anti-severance tax, which can be seen here: http://marcelluscoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/msc-taxing-concern-for-pennsylvania.pdf

A June 5, 2010 report showed that oil companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale owe over $55 million in severance tax dollars to the state of Pennsyvania, and in particular, the taxpayers of the state, who are currently being forced to fork over the tab. The report, done by Pennslyvania Budget and Policy Center, has a ticker display that showing that the money they owe grows exponentially by the minute: http://www.pennbpc.org/severance-tax-ticker. In a story written by the Scranton Time Tribute, President and Executive Director of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Kathryn Klaber, defends the lack of severance taxes paid and the PBPC counter, stating, "If we were prone to such gimmicks, maybe we would create a counter of all the jobs created by gas industry, or the local tax revenue," ignoring the fact that she's in charge of a Coalition that has paid no tax dollars for drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which ultimately could be lethal for the citizens of Pennsyvania.[23]

How It's Spun

"Great Economic Opportunity" and "Jobs"

On its website, the Coalition asserts that: "The development of natural gas from Marcellus Shale offers great potential for the region’s economic future, as well as the thousands of individuals, families and small, locally-owned businesses involved in extracting this clean-burning and abundant energy source from the ground. . . . The Marcellus Shale formation holds enough recoverable natural gas reserves to not only serve Pennsylvania’s needs, but to turn the Commonwealth into a significant exporter of energy, generating equally significant economic benefits."[24]

The Coalition consistently touts that drilling in the Marcellus Shale will create 211,000 jobs, leaving out how destructive these jobs are for the environment, humanity, and the commons at-large. Interestingly, building a high-speed rail line would also create scores of jobs nation-wide and would be far more environmentally friendly, yet one will never hear the Coalition say anything of the sort.[25]

A Chance to Get Off of Foreign Oil

The Coalition relies on a common argument for natural gas: that using hydrofracking will help the U.S. end its dependence on foreign oil. The coalition provides no evidence that tapping into the Marcellus Shale area for natural gas would make the U.S. less addicted to foreign oil or that it is superior to investing a comparable amount in genuinely clean energy, like solar energy.

Mere "Trade Association?"

While the Coalition couches itself as a trade association set up for the good of ordinary Americans, the Coalition has emerged just as Congress is considering the FRAC Act, known officially as the "Fracking Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act." In response to complaints by constituents in the Northeast corridor of the United States, numerous representatives joined in supporting this bill. In 2009 and 2010, with other legislation consuming floor time, this bill has not moved forward.

On June 2, 2010, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) proposed through a letter to House Majority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), that although the bill has hit a hiatus, Congress must move forward with the FRAC Act and bring the bill to the floor for a debate and a vote. In the letter, Hichney stated, "I believe it is...important for the House...to move forward on legislation designed to close legal loopholes that have allowed natural gas drilling to operate with almost no federal safeguards in place. At the behest of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the Energy Policy Act of 2005...exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act."[26]

While it pitches itself as merely a trade association, the truth is that the Marcellus Shale Coalition is in fact a massive lobbying conglomerate, spending over $200,000 in lobbying efforts in the first quarter of 2010, alongside the hundreds of thousands of dollars the other companies within the Marcellus Shale Coalition have spent individually on that same effort. In short, by making itself a trade association, while also registering itself as a lobbyist organization, double-dipping is occurring, which has become easier than ever in the aftermath of Federal Elections Committee v. Citizens United]].[27]

Penn State University's Study--"The Economic Impacts of the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Play: An Update"--Independent Study or Bought Off and Paid For Study?

On May 24, 2010, three professors from the Pennsylvania State University College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering penned a study titled "The Economic Impacts of the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Play: An Update."[28]

On the first page of the study's Acknowledgements section, the authors state that the Marcellus Shale Coalition provided all of the funding for this "independent" study.

Interestingly, tone of the researchers was a man by the name of Timothy J. Considine, (Ph.D., Cornell, 1981) who is a Professor of Natural Resource Economics at the Pennsylvania State University.[29] Prominently displayed in his biography is the fact that he spent time working in both the Congressional Budget Office, spearheading a campaign on natural gas deregulation. From there, he worked as an Economist at Bank of America where he developed the "oil price forecast."

On June 14, 2010, the Associated Press reported that the Marcellus Shale Coalition paid more than $43,000 for the study, calling into question the academic independence and legitimacy of the study at-large.[30]

Ex-Penn State professor receives more oil & gas industry funding" Examiner.com August 17, 2010

link: http://www.examiner.com/energy-in-philadelphia/ex-penn-state-professor-receives-more-oil-gas-industry-funding

Since 2009 former Penn State professor Timothy J. Considine, now at the University of Wyoming, has released a total of 4 highly positive economic impact/job creation reports all funded by the oil and gas industry to promote the growth and expansion of coal and shale gas drilling. Considine's original 2009 report while at Penn State on Marcellus Shale gas drilling failed to disclose it was paid for by the Marcellus Shale Coalition and was reissued to show who paid for it in May 2010 but without public retraction of the original report. In December 2009, he issued a highly positive economic report on Powder River Basin coal mining which was paid for by the Wyoming Mining Association. On July 14, 2010 he issued a report on the positives of Northeastern US shale gas drilling paid for by the American Petroleum Industry. The majority of Considine's work does not deal with any in depth analysis or assessments of the environmental damages or threats posed by oil and gas mining and extraction methods but rather the standard industry upside only claims of job creation and energy independence.

The professor's original 2009 report claimed 83,000 new jobs created from shale gas drilling which was then aggressively pushed to a claimed 200,000 new jobs when reissued under pressure in May 2010 all at the same time a Pennsylvania Department of Labor report stated only on or about 13,000 new jobs created from such drilling activities.

During the controversy surrounding his 2009 report, Penn State's dean of the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, William E. Easterling, wrote a letter to the Penn State board stating, "... the authors could and probably should have been more circumspect in connecting their findings to policy implications for Pennsylvania, and may well have crossed the line between policy analysis and policy advocacy,".


Hydrofracking is "environmentally friendly"

Excerpt from a Marcellus Shale Town Hall Meeting

A steady talking point for the Coalition is that hydrofracking is environmentally safe. While the Coalition offers no evidence to support this claim, it does however applaud the fact that "fracturing fluids are made up of more than 99.5 percent water and sand. The remaining additives, many of which are found in common household products, fight bacteria and allow the fluid to move down the wellbore, which is encased in layers of steel and concrete, ensuring the integrity of groundwater aquifers."[31] "99.5%" is a big talking point for the coalition and is a mantra that is repeated time and time again. Yet, what the Coalition does not confess to is that even if that were categorically true, under the Halliburton Loophole, they do not have to disclose the chemicals involved in the other .5%, which have been found to be lethal, carcinogenic toxins. Bucknell University Geology Professor Carl Kirby has called this erroneous claim "a bit of spin," since nearly 30,000 gallons of chemicals ramin in the ground after each fracking[32]

References

  1. [1], "Marcellus Shale Coalition About Page."
  2. [2], "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets: The Campaign Contributions & Lobbying Expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania." Common Cause. May 11, 2010.
  3. [3], "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets: The Campaign Contributions & Lobbying Expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania." Common Cause. May 11, 2010.
  4. [4], "Rendell advisers getting jobs with shale gas firms." Philly.com. July 13, 2010
  5. [5], "Rendell advisers getting jobs with shale gas firms." Philly.com. July 13, 2010
  6. [http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sarah-battisti/5/61b/857}, "Sarah Battisti LinkedIn Page."
  7. [6], "BG Group Wikipedia Entry"
  8. [7], "Ex-Homeland Security Boss Joins Gas Drilling Group." ABC News. July 30, 2010.
  9. [8], Tom Ridge. Wikipedia Entry
  10. [9], Duncan Campbell, Ridge Global
  11. [10], Mark Holman, Ridge Policy Group, RidgePolicyGroup.com
  12. [11], Ridge Policy Group, Mark Campbell
  13. [12], "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets: The Campaign Contributions & Lobbying Expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania." Common Cause. May 11, 2010.
  14. [13], "President & Executive Director." Marcellus Shale Coalition.
  15. [14], "About the Pennsylvania Economic League"
  16. [15]
  17. [16], "Marcellus Shale Coalition About Page."
  18. [17], "Marcellus Shale Coalition About Page."
  19. [18]
  20. [19], Marcellus Shale Coalition, "Protecting the Environment"
  21. [20], Wayne Independent, "Marcellus Shale Coalition Unveils Interactive Online Site." May 27, 2010.
  22. [21], "Marcellus Severance Tax Debate1." YouTube. April 27, 2010
  23. [http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/group-pennsylvania-missing-54m-in-tax-revenue-from-natural-gas-production-1.831835}, "Group: Pennsylvania missing $54M in tax revenue from natural gas production." Scranton Times Tribune, June 5, 2010.
  24. [22], Marcellus Shale Coalition, "Economic Development & Opportunity"
  25. [23], "Marcellus Shale Coalition Jobs Factsheet"
  26. [24], "Congressman Maurice Hichney (D-NY) Letter to Nancy to Pelosi Advocating FRAC Act"; June 2, 2010
  27. [25], "Pennsylvania Department of State Lobbying Servies Search"
  28. [26], ""The Economic Impacts of the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Play: An Update." May 24, 2010
  29. [27], "Timothy J. Considine's Penn State University Homepage"
  30. [28], "PSU drilling study questioned over industry tie." Associated Press. June 14, 2010
  31. [29], "‘Fracking’ is environmentally safe." LeHigh Valley Live. June 4, 2010.
  32. [30], "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets: The Campaign Contributions and Lobbying expenditures of the Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania." Common Cause. May 11, 2010.

External Resources