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White: Proposed DEP Changes Spring from Suspected Cornerstone Care Cover Up

'At this point, I simply do not trust the DEP to do its job, and neither should anyone else in Pennsylvania," state Rep. Jesse White said in his weekly column.

I recently introduced a two-bill package in the state Legislature that would change the head of the Department of Environmental Protection from an appointed secretary to an independently elected commissioner.

The bills—HB 2606 and 2607—would change the Pennsylvania Constitution to give the DEP commissioner true independence to do his or her job, much like we did in 1981 by moving the office of Attorney General from an appointed to elected position.

What’s the benefit?

First and foremost, any time the people have a direct say in choosing their leaders, it’s a good thing. Voters would be able to examine candidates based upon their qualifications and knowledge of the issues to help decide, which is much better than the current system of the inside political game of simply being approved by the state Senate.

Some critics may say making the DEP commissioner an elected position would actually be worse because of the influence of money in elections, which is a fair point.

But voters aren’t stupid. I’ll take open, documented campaign contributions over backroom deals any day. For example, it’s hard to defend the integrity of the appointment process when DEP Secretary Michael Krancer’s father donated $25,000 to the state Republican party the day before his son was confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate.

I am not suggesting anything inappropriate took place, but the timing of the donation would cause anyone to raise their eyebrows and wonder.

With the emergence of the energy industry in Pennsylvania, the head of the Department of Environmental Protection has a critical role in charting our future. The very name of the post suggests that environmental protection should be at the top of his or her concerns, serving as an independent watchdog to ensure compliance with state law.

The DEP should not go out of its way to stop or impede responsible, lawful development of our energy industry, but it cannot look the other way from anything the governor who appointed them may not like.

At this point, I simply do not trust the DEP to do its job, and neither should anyone else in Pennsylvania. By allowing a blatant political agenda to overshadow basic scientific principles and independent, objective analysis, and an appointed secretary who will never have to face the voters, the DEP is using its name and implied credibility to do much more harm than good.

My personal experience comes from the , and then DEP spokespeople lied about it to the public through the media. The DEP hid behind a loophole in the Open Records Law and still refuses to release the data, which is mind-boggling.

After months of examining the evidence available, I am left with only one possible conclusion: DEP either intentionally ignored or knowingly concealed evidence of the effects of active Marcellus Shale drilling activity in the immediate vicinity of Cornerstone Care.

I cannot say with certainty that drilling activity was a factor, but based upon what we have seen, there is no way DEP could say it wasn’t a factor. What little evidence we were given by the DEP of specific compounds in the air indicates that drilling cannot be ruled out as a possible source, but the DEP continually refused to acknowledge that drilling could have been in any way involved.

When you add in the vocal and public defense of the DEP by Range Resources, the company drilling near Cornerstone, it becomes even clearer that something was up.

Range, through its spokesman Matt Pitzarella, went out of its way to go to the media and deny involvement even though no one was accusing the company of anything at the time.

Range seemed satisfied with DEP’s work, so long as DEP wasn’t being forced to show any actual data to anyone. But if Range knew its drilling activities had nothing to do with Cornerstone’s problems, and it was satisfied with DEP’s work (even though in theory it couldn’t have seen it), wouldn’t Range be the first one pushing DEP to release the testing data to prove that drilling had nothing to do with Cornerstone’s issues?

And what possible reason would the DEP have to seal the data from the public, especially with such a politically volatile issue? If everything really is on the level, none of it makes any sense. The political motivation to conceal any information that would negatively impact the drilling industry—which has donated ridiculous amounts of money to the governor who appointed the DEP secretary—is obvious, but is really secondary to the common sense questions raised by anyone who looks at the situation objectively.

Personally, I think the DEP either found something very bad that could be traced to a potential problem at the nearby drilling sites (which would be supported by the limited testing data we do have), or knew what they might find, and ‘conducted’ its tests with a predetermined, politically motivated result in mind.

Since the DEP is dogged in their opinion that both the federal government (evidenced by strong statements against EPA) and local governments (evidenced by the overwhelming support of Act 13, which strips local control over drilling operations) should get out of DEP’s way when it comes to Marcellus Shale, the DEP has positioned itself as the only game in town, without any real accountability or checks and balances.

Truly objective science is inclusive and collaborative, not done behind closed doors and shuttered windows.

Industry loyalists and DEP apologists have and will continue attacking me and my statements about this issue, but remember that the only way to prove me wrong is for DEP to release the 400 pages of raw testing data from Cornerstone Care. Everything else is just spin and propaganda from people who don’t want you to know the truth.

I hope DEP finally does release the data, and I hope it proves me wrong, for the sake of the health of my constituents. If something is going on, the people deserve to know the truth, because it’s their health, safety and welfare at stake.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. I think DEP is hiding potentially harmful information about the impact of drilling near Cornerstone Care.

Although it remains to be seen if the drillers were part of a plan to conceal the truth, they certainly stood to benefit by it, and therefore should join me in demanding DEP release the data so we can finally know the truth.

What happened at Cornerstone Care could happen in any town in Pennsylvania, which is why we need to make the head of DEP an elected position rather than an appointed one.  The cost of failing to act to make the DEP accountable to the people could be much higher than any of us are willing to pay.

Amanda Gillooly September 27, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Proud - Thank you for your kind words! I will continue to report on these issues and attend the public meetings!! I will find the brief and attach it to this story. Just give me one skinny minute!
cecil resident September 27, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Thank you
Amanda Gillooly September 27, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Proud, My pleasure! The brief is now attached to this story!
Me September 27, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Pat Henry Thanks for posting the information on Range donation to Mr white..I wondered why Mr White decide to challenge Act 13.Mr White You did not think about the people who lives in your home town that you stop from drilling on their property.. Mr White is asking for donations on Facebook .The people who wanted drilling and Act 13 will not be donating.Mr White You decided to make known who proud america was..She also has many friends that will not be making donations .
Xavier Holden September 28, 2012 at 12:29 AM
I can say one thing for sure. My family was depending on the money that WOULD have come from gas drilling on our land. It would have SAVED us. But instead, here we are 4 years after we signed our lease, and no chance of ever seeing a dime from the resources that have been in my family for over 80 years. Both of my parents are fighting cancer...and we don't have enough money to support more expensive treatments. So they get what they get, while you people fight about non-existant claims against fracking. You know who is against fracking? The people who have no shirt in the game. The people who are jealous that they have no land to make money from. If you can't have money, then nobody else should, right? Thanks to all of you environmentalist wackos in Cecil Township!
Jesse White September 28, 2012 at 12:36 AM
This comment is simply not accurate. Cecil Township has never denied a drilling permit and never stopped drilling anywhere, so how can you say that your family's money is being impacted by Cecil Township? Please tell me who your lease is with and exactly what in Cecil's ordinance had anything to do with preventing you from getting paid. I'm not being sarcastic- I really want to know. If you signed a lease four years ago, you did get upfront money from the lease, so you can't say you haven't seen a dime- unless you negotiated the worst lease ever with no upfront payments. Maybe the lack of drilling has something to do with companies not utilizing their leases because they are in financial trouble due to the low price of gas, which has nothing whatsoever to do with Act 13 or Cecil Township. I'm not opposed to drilling- I just want it done responsibly and more than 500 feet from a school. I'm not an 'environmentalist wacko' and neither are the people in Cecil, so I would respectfully ask you to back up your claims.
Amanda Gillooly September 28, 2012 at 12:57 AM
And I am just respectfully reminding everyone to please keep it civil. Thank you all!
cecil resident September 28, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Xavier Holden first of all I'm sorry to hear about your parents. The reason they are not drilling in Cecil township is there is not a uniform law that is the reason for Act 13. These law suits are impacting the drilling in Cecil Township. The energy symposium that our elected officals failed to attend explained a lot of that. And the perfect time to have talked to the DEP would have been at this symposium they were a captive audience. It is an industry that is state wide and needs a state wide law not a different law or ordinance for each township. They are not telling them they can't drill they are just creating a uncertain playing field. Our township create and changes ordinance at the drop of a hat. They bring up the school issue but never the fact of the train with propane tanks that travel in the area of the school. Instead of working together and getting this country using our own resources it is easier to sue. People like you who are long time residents in this township deserves a lot more respect and as long time tax payers deserve to profit off your resources. Maybe the question should be how many more young men and women have to die for foreign oil while we fight the industry instead of working together to make us energy independent
cecil resident September 28, 2012 at 02:44 AM
Pat Henry that's not your real name? that is a sore subject here
cecil resident September 28, 2012 at 02:46 AM
He is the latest poll on citizens for drilling and against drilling AGAINST FOR 3 8
cecil resident September 28, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Sorry that didn't print like I wrote it sorry it is 3 against and 8 for
Jesse White September 28, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Did you seriously just post an anonymous poll with a sample size of 11 people? The margin of error of that poll has to be about 99.9%. And I'm for drilling, Janice- just done responsibly and with accountability.
cecil resident September 28, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Didn't mean to upset you Rep. White it was just a poll taken on this debate count them yourself it is not an anonymous poll it is right here in black and white. I will clarify were I got my info took all the people here that posted a comment 3 back you and 8 question your motives just a simple observation And I understand you are for drilling as you have stated many times , now it is time to show how it is not being done responsibly and how their are not laws for accountability. Just because they are not all local laws doesn't mean there are not laws out their to do this job.
Xavier Holden September 28, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Jesse -- I did not mean to imply that the township was responsible for the delay in drilling on our land...but rather the entire "anti-fracking" debate which as Proud American pointed out, is responsible for all of the law suits causing gas companies to step back. Yes, we did get an upfront payment. But that money only goes so far, as the lion share of the benefits would have come from the wells themselves. If you re-read my post, I never mentioned Cecil Township as the culprit, but rather the people of Cecil Township who have no land in the game, and attend the meetings and complain about noise from pumping stations, traffic, streams, and wildlife. While I can't disclose where our land is, I do agree with you that 500 feet from a school is a reasonable restriction. Maybe, just maybe, if the local government would get their hands out of the kitty, the gas companies would not be in such "financial trouble" to begin with. After all, the monies that Cecil may get from the gas industry are NOT CERTAINLY going toward fixing the roads in the township, or providing sewage, or water.
Pat Henry September 28, 2012 at 09:52 PM
You can attack my character all you like but it won't make the fact that you refuse to answer my question go away.  You're demanding the DEP provide answers to your questions but  here you are doing the same and refusing to answer.  If I file a RTK request will you respond or stonewall like you claim the DEP is doing?    Your tone has dramatically changed two years ago when you stopped receiving money from Range.  What was the action that Range took two years ago other than not funding your campaign that made your attitude change?  I'm willing to bet that you can't or won't identify any specific action that caused your change in opinion.  Broad platitutdes like they aren't responsible are just excuses on your part to attack them.  Like I said in my prior comment prove me wrong otherwise every last comment of yours for the last two years has been based off of anger at not receiving campagn contributions.
Jason Parks September 29, 2012 at 03:26 AM
You said repeatedly you didn't blame gas drilling for the clinic problem. Now you are. What changed? Also, you said repeatedly, in the paper and in public that townships didn't have to do anything if their ordinances were out of whack and they'd still get the impact money. Now you're saying "the only action which jeopardizes the impact fee are the baseless challenges to local ordinances filed on or on behalf of Range Resources." They're not baseless if they're in the law. So you're basically admitting that there really is something that affect the impact money. Last, you say "I'm not making it personal with Range- I just have a problem with anyone who lies. Matt Pitzarella went to the media and said that Range would keep helping..." Well, if you're not making it personal, why have you repeatedly mentioned that guy and range? And calling someone on this site delusional? You're immature and apparently can't keep your stories straight. Seriously what is your problem with Range? Why don't you just be honest? You keep accusing them of stuff but offer no facts. Is it because of the campaign money like pat mentioned?
Roger September 29, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Jason, this is how Rep White found himself in the tank a few weeks ago on this site. He wrote a piece being very critical of the drilling industry, and then went to a ceremony and spoke about how important and great it is to have drilling in the area, and how it is the industry that provides jobs and revenue. I realize it is very difficult to walk the line between trying to appease those who oppose drilling, yet recognizing the money it brings to the region through employment and impact fees. After a short time, the conflicting positions catch up. We went through the story a couple of months ago regarding the request for the 400 pages of raw data from the DEP, "... scientists and researchers ready to analyze the data...." Meanwhile, another source was clear that purpose of the data request was to show the Cornerstone problem was caused by the drilling. Nobody needs scientists and researchers to do analysis if the intended outcome was already established. The DEP knows that circulating scientific data in the political community only leads to consequences outside their control. The request to change how the DEP is structured seems like a retaliation to having the request denied. Using one incident to rebuild a department is the knee-jerk reaction that happens often in politics. It reinforces the right decision the DEP made.
Liz Rosenbaum September 29, 2012 at 12:05 PM
If you all think that the DEP is doing such a fine job protecting Pennsylvanians, then you are delusional. Not saying Mr. White is right and you aren't, only that attacking each other gets you nowhere. After reading all your comments, it's pretty clear that if the DEP would simply release the data, as they should because it is public information, paid for by the taxpayers, then there would be no disagreement here.
Jason Parks September 29, 2012 at 12:09 PM
I'm surprised that a state employee, even if he is an elected one, can make statements about a company or a person with no consequences when if I made the same statement, I'd be sued. There's also the issue of not actually providing any facts. White started this monts ago bu making the DeP the boogeyman but with nothing to back it up. Nothing there has changed. What if the DEP did provide White every bit of information? Will that change the conclusion? No. Will it change the facts? No. This is all a diversion to keep people from questioning why White lied about the impact money. He's part of the lawsuit against the act 13 that would help slow down drilling, cost people money and result in lost jobs. But then he attends events sponsored by drillers including Ranhe just so he can post juvenile comments on here and facebook. This is ridiculous. Rep White, you owe people answers.
Roger September 29, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Liz, we realize it is your position as an advocate for a certain position to take this stance. Scientific data used to have great value, carry credibility, and be useful in making decisions for the public interest. But, in recent times, politicians have discovered using scientific data is useful to advance a political agenda. For example, weather data used to be neutral, used to be considered valuable, and the sources were unquestioned. But, the global warming advocates took hold of the data, twisted it to their advantage to advance their political agenda. You can thank Mr. Al Gore for leading the parade in this regard. Putting scientific data into the hands of a politician in these times only leads to fulfilling an already established agenda. Data can be picked over, finding what is useful to confirm the desired outcome. Oh sure, one can claim that a cadre of scientists and researchers are standing in the wings to analyze. But, what choice to do they have with regard to outcome when the politician is handing them the data, and standing over them with a big stick? Yes, "been there, done that." The statement "simply release the data" reveals how little you understand about data analysis and data reduction. I'm doubting you are understanding statistical procedures, fitting procedures, etc. What would you do with 400 pages of raw data?
Pat Henry September 29, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Like they say, its all fun and games until someone gets hurt. The representative thinks that by engaging in some charade as the champion of the little people everyone will win. What he fails to realize is the effects of his actions. 1. Like it has been pointed out on multiple occasions his direct comments may cause millions of dollars of impact fee money to be lost because his words were relied upon, and 2. Shell stated that the Act 13 challenge is one of the serious concerns they have with locating the cracker plant in Beaver. Don't believe me, read this article: http://triblive.com/state/marcellusshale/2409927-74/shell-plant-carlson-company-business-able-county-ethane-officials-whether#axzz27fIkzLta Now he's affecting people outside his district as well. I hope he's ready to explain to every union employee who would have been hired on and did contribute to his campaign why he continues to deserve their support. I would say its going to become more difficult if not impossible. I know the track record I look for in an elected official is one who loses millions and kills thousands of jobs.
Jesse White September 29, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I'm not going to waste time arguing with people who are obviously planted or employed by some of the disreputable segments of the energy industry, but I want to address one very false statement I keep reading. Nothing I have said or done, or anyone has relied upon, has or will cause anyone to lose impact fee money. That's a simply false statement, and you know it's false. The challenges to the ordinances were filed by Range themselves, or Range leaseholders. Range is the one jeopardizing the impact fee money for the communities, not me. The Act 13 challenge in no way tried to limit one dollar of impact fee money. Knock off the classic industry smear campaign.
Pat Henry September 29, 2012 at 01:28 PM
How do you explain this quote then published on Aug. 1 on this site? "The impact fee is not affected. Here’s another scare tactic—claiming the impact fee money (which translates into about a 1 percent tax with plenty of gas industry givebacks) won’t materialize because of the court decision. There are no facts to back that up—the court deliberately left the impact fee language in place and struck down the zoning portions." Sounds to me like you're telling everyone that there's no need to change zoning ordinances because everyone will get their impact fee money. You can't have it both ways. Here I am providing you your own words and you are still trying to deny them. Care to try again? And maybe this time you can address the comment about your actions directly contributing to Shell questioning to construct a cracker plant in the region. Just in case you're having a difficult time opening the link up, let me copy the quote for you: "The company has big questions to answer about its ethane, but concern has shifted to a court battle over how much control municipalities have over drilling, Carlson said. If municipalities move to slow drilling, that could slow Shell’s plans, too, he said. “We’re less and less concerned about whether or not there’s enough hydrocarbon (underground). That’s become more and more clear. But there is concern about whether that gas will be able to be developed over the long haul,” Carlson said." Smearing now means stating facts?
Jason Parks September 29, 2012 at 02:16 PM
The question isn't who wrote the letter. Who cares? What matters is what's in it and the question it asks. Are the ordinances legal and enforceable and do they comply with act13? That's it, jesse. That's the only question. As for holding the money hostage, none of this would have happened if you and your friends hadn't put together a bogus and "baseless" lawsuit. So really any money being held up is because of you. You started this and then you told townships they didn't have to worry about it. You've now admitted twice on this thread the money is being held up. You're supposed to represent the whole dstrict, not a handful of jealous people. Kudos to you, amanda for acting like a journalist and getting this info out there. People need to know what's really going on.
cecil resident September 29, 2012 at 02:31 PM
You know what I have noticed the last couple of years attending township meeting and debating things on The Patch. The citizens are becoming smarting and more informed we are no longer taking things at their face values.With things like The Patch. internet, and that all famous Facebook we are able to see and compare statment and see how they vary from site to site and research facts. The citizens in the community are starting to ask questions but the elected officals don't like to give answers and when confronted with issues they get angry. I for one have nothing to do with the gas industry I am not planted just a concerned citizen with a voter ID and ready to vote. My personal belief is we need the oil and gas industry this country need to stop relying on foreign oil. We need the businesses and jobs it will create and regulations are a good thing but we don't need every township over regulating there is enough regulations thru Act 13 , state government even the dreadful DEP and the federal government. We don't need political and enviromental agendas dragging their feet and slowing up what is so needed in our township,state and country. Drill Baby Drill
Liz Rosenbaum September 29, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Yes, jobs! Yes, energy independence! I totally agree. But we also need safe drinking water and clean air. I know, for many this resource is a gift, a blessing. Yet Act 13 won't keep you, or anyone else, safe. It simply doesn't provide adequate protections for watersheds and, frankly, the PA impact fee is comparatively low. Here are some some facts (from DEP) that I find troubling: More than 85% of all active oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania go uninspected each year: 66,000 wells. Rule violators are rarely punished, even more rarely of late: on average only 20% of violators have been penalized in 2012, down from 24% in 2011. Worst violators are getting worse: effective regulatory enforcement would stop repeat violators. In Pennsylvania, repeat violations are increasing. Over 7% of wellbore seals fail right away. All of them fail eventually; 60-90 years is the expected lifespan of a properly constructed cement annulus. Cement isn't magic. It doesn't last forever, certainly not under high pressure or at high temperatures. Drill, Baby, Drill? Three generations from now, when the population is scrambling to replug and reseal tens of thousands of failing frack wellbores, that will seem like a very self-serving and short-sighted sentiment.
cecil resident September 29, 2012 at 08:52 PM
You work for an enviromental group Keep Tap Water Safe .org who lean towards wind and solar. There is nothing about oil and gas that would make you happy.
Liz Rosenbaum September 29, 2012 at 10:13 PM
I also blog on BrynMawr.Patch.com, but no one pays me. And you're right, I'm all for renewables. BUT I accept that we will use shale gas. That being the case, I'm in favor of stronger regs (eek!), stronger enforcement (uck!), and not fracking in high value, highly productive watersheds like the Delaware. I'm opposed to shipping our gas overseas because I understand that the LNG production cycle creates more pollution than domestic gas - seems like we'd be exporting all the cleaner burning benefits while incurring all the risk and toxic waste. i also think the doctor gag order in Act 13 has got to go! Thank you for not telling me to butt out of your corner of the Patch! I'm a proud American, too. I want to know where my energy comes from, and I don't think 'all of the above' is an energy policy. We need an actual plan. Americans thrive when we agree on a goal. I think you're right that exchanges like these are valuable, essential to democracy. One last thought: Conservation is the cheapest energy!
cecil resident September 30, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Liz a couple of things we do agree on I want our resources to stay in this country we need to become energy independent I don't want to see young men and women die in countries that hate us when we have all the oil we need right here in our own country. I also agree we need regulations but not to the point where it makes it unprofitable to do the job a few good regulations are better than dozen petty regulations and that is one of the reasons I favor Act 13 ,is it perfect probably not but instead of trying to stop it all together people need to work together to fix the gray areas.We need a uniform law not a bunch of little laws from every community. Oil ,gas and coal is the backbone of our country I live near the town of McDonald back in 1891 they had 300 oil wells right in people yards . I grew up in this area and I can remember even then there were still wells every where and one was right on the area i was raised we had well water it was never affected. When they drilled it was thru the water tables with not extra precautions just pipe Thru the years the industries learn from their mistakes todays those pipes going thru the water table are several layers of concrete and steel.I feel we have the technology to do this process safely There is also a place for solar and wind but just about everything we have in our home to day from the computor I'm on even to some of our medicines everything plastic in our life comes from the by products of oil and gas.
cecil resident September 30, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Liz the reason I feel our township supervisor wouldn't do a fair job on ordinances for the oil and gas industry is because of the way I have watched them handle things on an everyday basis. You get a complaint from one or two citizens and right away they try to pass a new ordinance without thinking maybe this is just two people not getting along and why should all of the residents have to pay with a new ordinance. Everything with them is a knee jerk reaction without any serious thought about the whole picture. And this would happen with the oil and gas industry no thoughts of why the complaint is happening just pass another ordinance against that terrible industry all they want to do is make money got to show then we have control.I feel when you become an elected offical you can no longer use that position for your own personal agenda and that is what is happening in this area. If you want to push your own agenda do something in the private sector. Fortunately the citizens are starting to take a more active role in our community and starting to ask some of the hard questions and they are not going to back down they want answers. They are taking a more active roles in the type of people we want to run the township and looking for people to run who they feel will benefit the township and not be afraid to look at both sides of the picture of the issues in the community today.

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