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Legislative Response to DRBC Fracking Ban Put Agency on the Defensive

Tom Tom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


Yesterday, the UDRBC took a stand against the injustice of the proposed DRBC fracking ban. The opposition’s response told us how wrong they know they are.

It was excellent day as Wayne County Commissioner Joe Adams, Betty Sutliff, Marcellus Shale Coalition President Dave Spigelmyer, UDRBC President Ned Lang and yours truly testified yesterday before the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee. Betty’s testimony is here, mine is here and the other two testimonies will be posted here tomorrow.

The theme was equal justice, of course, but the subject was the DRBC fracking ban and two pieces of Pennsylvania legislation proposed in response to it; Senator Lisa Baker’s SB 1189 and Rep. Dan Moul’s HB 2222, the latter of which would, based on language in the Delaware River Compact designate Pennsylvania DEP as the prime regulator of natural gas development in the Commonwealth. Both pieces of legislation have obviously made the DRBC and its partners in crime very, very nervous.

The UDRBC and MSC testimony speaks for itself but four things stuck out with respect to the opposition, which came from DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini who claimed he didn’t have an opinion and the minority party members of the committee from Southeast Pennsylvania:

  1. The demand from Southeast Pennsylvania reps for a “tyranny of the majority.” You know your arguments are going well when lawmakers responsible for delivering equal justice under law instead rush to the ramparts to proclaim “there’s more of us than you, so we get to decide.” That is exactly what happened when Joe Adams brought up the unfairness of a DRBC fracking ban. Southeast reps argued that while they might have some sympathy for the concerns of Upper Delaware landowners, there were many more Philly area residents simply worried about fracking. The rights of those with speculative unjustified fears should, in other words, trump any legal or scientific realities and our Constitutional rights on the basis of numbers alone.
  2. The DRBC’s obviously orchestrated letter-writing campaign. Steve Tambini couldn’t wait to tell the committee how many organizations had submitted letters for the record indicating how much they loved the DRBC. It was quite clearly a campaign managed by Tambini himself to defend his agency. It was a tactless display of weakness and a political state of mind on the part of Tambini. Moreover, Tambini published the list and their letters, pointing out to all the world that every one of the solicited letters came from somewhere Southeast Pennsylvania or somewhere from Allentown south. The letter writers, excluding the politico’s solicited by the man with no opinion, include two consultants to the regulated community, including “water utilities, electric generation utilities, and commercial and industrial water users.” Maybe I’m wrong, but asking one set of the regulated water users to support you in trying to ban another water user is akin to asking for help in feeding the crocodile. It’s neither ethical nor smart.
  3. The phony USGS study reference from the Delaware Riverkeeper a/k/a Povertykeeper. The Delaware Povertykeeper did some orchestration of its own, as was obvious when two minority party members asked about a USGS study they obviously hadn’t read or didn’t understand. Once again, you know you’re hitting the mark when the Riverkeeper shrieks. Check out this unrestrained, over-the-top piece of lobbying against Lisa Baker’s proposed SB 1189, for example:
    DRBCSimultaneously, the Povertykeeper apparently sent out the talking points. It got two members of the minority to talk about a USGS study they seemed to have been told undercut our repeated point that the SRBC had found “no discernible impact on water quality as a result of natural gas development. This was the same sad attempt Tracy Carluccio made at the conclusion ion DRBC hearings on the ban to say “she had talked to the USGS and they had data showing this wasn’t the case.” It was a case of USGS BS from the Povertykeeper and these committee members fell for it. The USGS study to which she was apparently referring and it says no such thing. Indeed, it doesn’t say much of anything except that oil and gas development might remove forest cover but given Joe Adams’ point that we’re adding forest cover year, this is a completely issue if it even is one. The Povertykeeper is truly desperate from a science and legal perspective if it’s relying upon this one (not to mention recklessly violating non-profit lobbying rules or at least their intent).
  4. Steve Tambini’s disingenuous testimony. Steve Tambini is not a good witness. He proved that in Federal Court in Scranton, when the judge found the DRBC’s behavior, as evidenced by his and Carol Collier’s testimony, was “contradicting and confusing.” He was no better this time, obfuscating as he went.He claimed the DRBC was different because DEP Secretary Patrick MCDonnell was the actual stand-in for the governor while in the SRBC case he’s the Commissioner himself, as if McDonnell did do whatever Tom Wolf tells him in both instances.He suggested the fact the Delaware River was a state border made a difference, as if both commissions didn’t include multiple states and same governing majorities.He raised the non-issue of water shortages, as if the water to used was anything close to existing uses or couldn’t be managed with low flow restrictions as it has in the SRBC. He also demagogued by throwing Flint, Michigan into the discussion as if there was any comparison between what happened there and what has safely happened in the SRBC, as evidenced by the latter’s water quality studies, which he later acknowledged existed, even though he ignored those studies in his fracking ban rationale.

    He also claimed the DRBC had a special water quality mission not shared by the SRBC even though the latter has actually done water quality studies indicating fracking is not having a negative impact, He ignored the comparable Article 5 compact language and the fact the DRBC standards are already established, similar to those in Exceptional Value where fracking is safely talking place,. ZHe didn’t bother explaining why gas drillers shouldn’t be able to meet the same standards everyone else does or why one land use and one only should be absolutely banned.

    He threw PCBs into the discussion as if speculative concerns about fracking represented a greater risk.

    And, of course, after all this, he disingenuously claimed he has no opinion. If so, then why he is defending the indefensible?

So, how did we do? I’d say we did very well in laying the case for both HB 2222 and SB 1189 and the opposition hates it. Even more importantly, we are slowly but surely laying the case for a future lawsuit that expose what happened here and finally secure justice. A big thank you is due Rep. Jon Fritz, who asked for this hearing.


The post Legislative Response to DRBC Fracking Ban Put Agency on the Defensive appeared first on Natural Gas Now.

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