Shepstone Management Company, Inc.
Josh Shapiro is running for reelection as Attorney General this year and for Pennsylvania Governor in two years and he’s using secret show trials to do it.
Josh Shapiro is climber; the sort of climber who yanks the heels of those just above him to throw them off the ladder, so he get to the top more quickly. He’s a rather nasty fellow as can easily be observed in the way he treated our State Representative in this little colloquy. Our guy certainly handled it well, but notice the condescension and the contemptuous “how dare you question me” attitude from Shapiro. This is a man with an agenda who’s not about to let some State Rep. from the other party get in the way. Now, he’s gone full Stasi on the gas industry and Governor Wolf’s DEP using a secret show trial to do it.
Yeah, I know. How can it be both secret and a show trial? Well, that’s simple. You use a grand jury that meets in secret, present a single side of the case, one largely focused on rehash of old shibboleths and hyped up stories about cases already resolved, get it to issue a piece of political propaganda structured as a report and then run to the press to proclaim your own leadership. It’s a technique for grabbing governorships that’s been proven by the likes of previous governors, both Democrat and Republican, especially in New York, but also Pennsylvania.
Such is what has happened with the recent Shapiro production called “Report 1 of the Forty-Third Statewide Investigating Grand Jury.” We reposted Mike Krancer’s excellent takedown of the report and defense of DEP yesterday. It is a joke and has yielded nothing more than a plea of no contest to two misdemeanors along with a trivial $50,000 in fines and $100,000 in contributions to Washington County watershed funds, in the case of accusations made against Range Resources, for example.
Who knows what will happen the rest of it, but this is the perfect illustration of a Shapiro show trial; all talk with no significant results other favorable press for Shapiro. Meanwhile, consider the following:
- The Pennsylvania Department of Health has responded that “This administration has acted aggressively … and has put in place new regulations to hold natural gas companies to some of the most stringent environmental standards anywhere in the country in order to protect public health and the environment.”
- DOH also made specific comments, stating that “Unfortunately, the secret nature of the grand jury process has resulted in a Report that contains some factual errors and (in some instances) erroneous conclusions. Further, DOH has not been provided with the transcripts of testimony or the documents or other materials presented to the grand jury. These troubling times have underscored many things, including that transparency, objectivity, facts and science will always be among the critical pillars of effective public health … Pennsylvania is one of the few states that maintains a data registry of fracking-related health concerns and reports that data publicly. Despite these measures, the number of reports DOH received for the data registry was less than anticipated or desired … The Grand Jury Report acknowledges that DOH publicized its registry and encouraged participation through a variety of means (Report at p. 91), yet it suggests that the reason individuals did not report their concerns to DOH was because “the Department was not offering answers or solutions to their problems.” (Report at p. 75). That conclusion is not correct.“
- The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has responded that “Many of the recommendations in the report either mirror activities that the administration already has in place … The governor is proud of the work done by both the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Health, and he stands by the secretaries and hardworking staff at both agencies as we continue to strongly support rigorous oversight and enforcement of the laws and regulations to protect the environment and public health.”
- DEP has also responded specifically to various claims made in the show trial report, complaining “The OAG agreed to share summaries of excerpts of the draft report applicable to DEP and to give DEP a limited time period to respond in writing and present testimony before the grand jury. Upon reading those excerpts, DEP was surprised by the extent of the factual inaccuracies and confused articulation of the relevant law in the excerpts of the draft report and submitted three written statements on the issues and purported facts in the short summaries. DEP also received a limited opportunity to present testimony by one DEP employee, Kurt Klapkowski, Director of the Bureau of Oil & Gas Planning and Program Management, based solely on the topics and contents of the short summaries provided by the OAG.”
- DEP also said “In the full report, which DEP obtained only after it sought court intervention, the grand jury made no findings of criminal wrongdoing by DEP. However, it presents an inaccurate and incomplete picture of Pennsylvania’s regulatory program and how it is being implemented today. The report relies upon unidentified witness snapshots, in some cases from 10-15 years ago. It is critical of today’s DEP regulatory program while demonstrating little knowledge or understanding of it. DEP respects the work of and the mission of the grand jury. However, accuracy is necessary before criticisms can be fairly made. Likely because of the limited information presented to them by OAG during the confidential grand jury investigation, the grand jurors were not able to develop an understanding of the current regulatory program or the related law and, consequently, made recommendations that are ultimately unproductive and/or inappropriately directed to DEP … This false picture of DEP does a disservice to the citizens of the Commonwealth, generally, and to the dedicated employees of DEP, specifically. It undermines the public’s right and ability to understand whether they are receiving the protections afforded them by law and erodes the public’s trust in DEP. For this reason, DEP respectfully requests this Honorable Court attach this response as an exhibit to the report prior to public disclosure and/or publication.
- The American Petroleum Institute notes “Our industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania, furnishes tens of billions of dollars in wages and contributions to the commonwealth’s economy. Nearly $2 billion in impact fee revenue from natural gas production has gone to the state – distributed to counties and municipalities to fund public safety, water and sewer projects, environmental programs and more.“
- The Marcellus Shale Coalition has explained “A review of Pa.’s unconventional oil and gas regulatory landscape details 43 laws on the books, seven technical guidance documents, and 28 permit authorization packages just with the DEP. From 2010 to 2019, DEP inspected unconventional well sites 134,681 times, including more than 19,000 well site inspections last year with 677 unconventional wells being drilled, the highest to date. In fact, the Commonwealth’s regulatory framework has been repeatedly referenced as model for others to follow. The State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Environmental Regulations – an independent, non-profit regulatory review commission – has given Pa.’s oil and gas program high marks, citing it as “well-managed, professional and meeting program objectives.”
That pretty well establishes the fact everyone with real knowledge of Pennsylvania’s shale regulatory program—from the regulators to the regulated—sees exactly what’s going on with the Shapiro show trial. There’s no doubt. Nonetheless, to understand more fully one needs to appreciate just how political Shapiro is acting in here, because his views seem to have been acquired relatively recently, as his re-election and his future gubernatorial campaigns have approached and the Pennsylvania Democrat party have moved ever further into the green slime covered swamp.
One again, consider the following:
- One of the Shapiro show trial recommendations is to regulate gathering lines in PA. But, when he was a state legislator, he voted for legislation that became Act 127 of 2011 – PA’s Gas and Hazardous Liquids Pipelines Act. The Act precludes the PUC from regulating rural gathering lines by the definition of the term “pipeline” and by limiting the power of the PUC to issue regulations that are no more stringent than federal Department of Transportation regulations (which did not regulate these pipelines at that time). USDOT is now in the midst of a rule-making process that would regulate most of these pipelines and, therefore, the PUC will be able regulate them as well. So, what we have here is Shapiro arguing against himself to propose something that’s alreday happening anyway. No one needed the show trial except Josh Shapiro.
- Another observation from Shapiro’s voting record is that he missed a key floor vote on HB 1950 (which became Act 13) on November 17, 2011. He did show up for subsequent floor votes on the matter in which he opposed the bill, which gave DEP significant additional regulatory authority.
The combination of these facts with the exposure of the totally political statements from the show trial report tells everything we need to know about why Shapiro is making these moves; to avoid being outflanked green extremism by future political opponents. It’s really that simple.
This post appeared first on Natural Gas Now.