Responsible Drilling Alliance

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Rider Park, Tuesday’s Election, and PA Regulatory Agencies – Nov. 8th 2010 Newsletter

IN THIS ISSUE:

RIDER PARK UPDATE, ELECTION COMMENTS, A LOOK AT PA’S REGULATORY AGENCIES

Update on the “Save Rider Park” campaign

Tom Rider never imagined that the park that bears his name would one day be threatened with gas well pads, access roads and pipelines. If Tom were alive today, the campaign to save his legacy would surely touch his heart. The outpouring of public support to save Rider Park from gas drilling has been phenomenal! The people of Lycoming County (to whom the park was bequeathed) have raised their voices in outrage with a resounding “NO!” to drilling on these cherished acres. Rider Park has truly become a symbol for all the treasured places at risk; and has provided us with a place to focus our outrage over what is happening all across the Commonwealth as the rush to exploit Marcellus Shale gas development moves ever faster. We see our land and our communities rapidly changing before our eyes. There are many other “Rider Parks” out there. A favorite swimming hole, a beautiful unbroken forest, a much loved hiking trail, a quiet trout stream, a preferred hunting spot – so many “personal” places are now threatened, So many need to be saved. The tremendous outpouring of support and energy to save Rider Park not only needs to continue, but broaden to include our endangered areas all across Pennsylvania. Rider Park is the beginning. It is a sign of our times. It demonstrates what we risk losing. It asks us what we choose to preserve. We, the Friends of Rider Park, give our sincere thanks to all of you who have contributed to this effort. We thank the Responsible Drilling Alliance Working Group and Board members for their enduring commitment to save the land we love. The First Community Foundation of PA votes on leasing tonight. The on-line petition with over 3500 signatures will be closed at 11 a.m. today and delivered to the Foundation offices this afternoon Details of the past week’s activities to save the park appear at the end of this newsletter. Dr Jennifer Slotterback Jim Slotterback

Reflections on the mid-term election

New governor promises drillers a free ride One day after the election, a conference in Pittsburgh brought 2500 gas industry representatives and allies together. Governor-elect Tom Corbett, having run his successful campaign on nearly one $ million in gas industry contributions promised the industry he would take the severance tax debate off the table. With his party retaining control of the state Senate and gaining control of the state House for the first time in four years – it looks like “No severance tax” is a promise Corbett may be able to keep. If he does, the citizens of PA will be denied roughly $360,000,000 per year in tax revenue that the gas industry is paying in every other state key drilling state. Money to repair the damage that drilling brings will continue to be paid out of taxpayer’s pockets. Commenting on Corbett’s “No tax on gas drillers” promise, Rich Weber, president and chief operating officer of Atlas Energy, said “This is a good thing for us. I know with Corbett as governor, we’re going to get it right.” Other gas industry leaders said they are eager to work with Corbett and lawmakers on legislative changes. Weber said the Marcellus Shale Coalition hopes to begin working with the administration and lawmakers right away. PA residents will need to be very careful what “legislative changes” come down the pike. Forced pooling for private land owners who refuse to lease and eminent domain for pipeline construction are just two of the legislative issues the Marcellus Coalition will be eager to see enacted by their new friends in Harrisburg. Elephant stampede in the House A net gain of 13 seats has propelled House Republicans to majority status for the 2011-12 legislative session with a whopping 112-91 margin. This is the largest Republican House majority in Pennsylvania since the 1950s. Republican candidates defeated eleven House Democratic incumbents including “Green Dog” Dave Levdansky. Local Representative Rick Mirabito was able to keep his seat by defeating challenger Dave Huffman. In response to RDA’s request for a post-election comment on drilling, Mirabito stated, “Whoever is in elected office—Republicans, Democrats, Independents and others, citizens need to be informed and educated so they shape their destiny. I am confident that the citizens of Pennsylvania will continue to educate each other at a grassroots level, so that we can shape the development of the Marcellus Shale in way that benefits and protects all communities.” Senate numbers hold The PA Senate will remain in Republican hands by the same 30-20 margin. Every member of the Senate Republican Caucus will return in 2011. And in Washington… The environment lost many friends last Tuesday and a wave of newly elected climate deniers will soon be claiming office space in Washington. These new legislators are apt to fight to continue the “Halliburton Loophole” that allows hydrofracking for gas to be exempted from the Federal Clean Air, Clean Water and Superfund Acts. Expect these freshmen congressmen and women to obstruct progress against climate change and attempt to hand precious natural places over to energy companies to despoil. Statements like this from Ron Johnson, the new senator from Wisconsin, will be echoed by the pundits, “I absolutely do not believe that the science of man-caused climate change is proven, not by any stretch of the imagination. I think it’s far more likely that it’s just sunspot activity…” Between 1998 and 2004, Exxon (now drilling for gas in PA) spent $8 million dollars to promote skepticism about climate change. Looks like their investment is paying off in more ways than one.

A Cautionary Appraisal of Pennsylvania’s Regulatory Agencies

When PA’s new administration takes over in January, we need to carefully assess the impacts on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Quite likely, the leadership of both organizations will change and recent advances could be lost. Over the last two years, a mutual education has occurred between these departments, the gas industry, and the growing environmental movement. At the start, the governor accepted gas drilling as a way to solve numerous fiscal problems. DEP held talks to establish a working relationship with the gas industry’s collective, the Marcellus Shale Committee, without including any outside environmental organizations. It was quite a bad start. DEP made major concessions; but despite being cooperative with the gas industry, saw its budget slashed by 27%, the largest cut of any state agency. Over the last two years the gas industry has behaved badly. Spills, explosions, violations, illegal dumping, poisoned well water in Dimock and elsewhere – have all made headlines. The industry’s record has increased the public’s fear of hydrofracking, ramped up the environmental opposition, and caused both the governor and regulatory agencies to become a bit disenchanted. John Hanger, DEP’s secretary can take considerable credit for the new regulations that greatly lower the concentration of Total Dissolved Solids allowed to be discharged into Pennsylvania’s rivers. Hanger quietly authored the original position paper, and with a great deal of push from environmental groups such as RDA, Chapter 95 regulations were passed, saving the rivers from considerable salt-dumping. Hanger has also dialed up enforcement, and the proliferation of gas industry violations has been prominent news. John Quigley, head of DCNR has been nothing short of a hero. During the budget crisis, he was forced by Rendell to lease state lands to make up for the lack of a severance tax. In effect, the gas industry received a double win. They were not taxed and were given cheap access to state lands. Quigley, to his great credit, has waged a public campaign to save the remaining wilderness areas. Corbett could replace Quigley and challenge the forest’s hard-won reprieve. Having filled their campaign coffers with nearly a million $ in contributions, the Corbett administration is coming into office with a strong and disturbing pro-drilling stance. We will need to be very vigilant and watch carefully who is given the responsibility for these two agencies and then monitor carefully what they do. Up until now, environmentalists have been able to find ways to cooperate with these agencies. Lets hope we don’t end up like our compatriots in Texas who have a poisonous and distrustful relationship with their state agencies.

A summary of the past week’s Save Rider Park activities

The momentum of the Save Rider Park campaign rapidly escalated this past week as many dedicated people scrambled to send emails, make phone calls, deliver flyers, and increase our media coverage. The number of signatures on the petition swelled to 3449 online signatures in just 10 days! The powerful and heartfelt comments of so many who signed the petition are compelling. Yes, you can make a difference! Below are some of the Save Rider Park events that occurred this past week:
  • Radio Interviews
    • 88.1 WPCT – WilPo Show – Barb Jarmoska, Jim Slotterback, & Mark Rider – November 3
    • 88.1 WPCT – live interview: Jim Slotterback – November 3
    • WRAK – Ken Sawyer show live: Barb Jarmoska, Jim Slotterback – November 5
  • Rider family member meets with FCFPA and delivers an updated petition – November 2
  • Friends of Rider Park ad runs in the Sun Gazette November 4, 5, & 6
  • “A Legacy in Peril” front page story by Dave Thompson runs in the Sun Gazette – November 4
  • BBC documentary interviews Ralph Kisberg & Jim Slotterback regarding Rider Park = November 5
  • Save Rider Park petition table during First Friday at The Harvest Gallery – November 5
  • Save Rider Park petition table and display at Equinox (Pajama Factory) = November 5, 6, & 7
  • Save Rider Park interfaith sing-a-long; Friends’ Meeting House in Pennsdale – November 5
  • Save Rider Park news stories appear in many area papers
  • Save Rider Park petition ranked the #1 most active petition worldwide out of thousands of active petitions
  • Numerous letters to the editor regarding Rider Park published in the Sun Gazette

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