Thursday, February 13, 2014

John Hanger Wants To Be Your Big Gas Greenwash Governor: A Gander at His Gubernatorial Campaign Donors


When I came upon this campaign advertisement for John Hanger's run for the Democratic Party's governor's race nomination, I had to laugh--in that dark "this is just surreal" kind of way. It's not just that Dimock resident, "Gasland Starlet," now welcomed to the pro-gas fold ( http://marcellusdrilling.com/2013/10/gasland-ii-starlet-leaves-anti-drilling-behind-adopts-realism/) Victoria Switzer, has gone "total commitment" for Hanger. It's not even that the language of the ad is grammatically awkward, "I do not want the candidate that is given a thumbs up by the industry" (http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/01/realism-is-frack-speak-for-so-long-as-i.html).

It's that the ad's claim that "For sure, the gas companies do not want Hanger" is patently, demonstrably, laughably false.

The gas industry would love a Hanger governorship. Let's ask, for example, Hanger's campaign donors:

1. Eckert Seamans, for whom Hanger is employed as "special council," has donated $5,000. But, among other endeavors, Eckert Seamans makes a very tidy sum defending the natural gas industry. Here's just one example of Eclert Seaman's devotion to the continuing development of natural gas:


Eckert Seamans’ Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) practice group is dedicated to the development of a growing, sustainable and profitable market for vehicles powered by natural gas and hydrogen in the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic regions. We are focused on assisting and representing companies interested in the promotion and use of natural gas and hydrogen as transportation fuels or energy sources, including: local port authorities, trucking companies and transporters, vehicle and equipment manufacturers; fleet operators and service providers; natural gas distributors and producers. We will strive to help industry create and develop a profitable, sustainable and growing market for vehicles powered by natural gas and hydrogen.

Our Mission:

To be the primary "go-to" law firm for the NGV industry who reaches positive solutions through collective action; to provide sophisticated, innovative and high quality legal services, serve as a trusted advisor who will facilitate development, seek incentives for clients and successfully navigate the regulatory morass at both state and federal levels; to leverage our interdisciplinary skills, knowledge and experience from a wide variety of legal disciplines to address the broad spectrum of issues facing the dynamic natural gas vehicle industry; and to effectively guide our clients through strategic decisions, policy initiatives, commercial transactions, project financing and development, state and federal regulatory proceedings and litigation.

Clearly, a Hanger election is a win for Eckert Seamans' natural gas vehicle "mission."

In fact, when you read Eckert Seamans' "Environmental Practice" page, what you discover is that what these folks mean by "environmental" is defending its "heavy industrial and manufacturing clients against, well, folks from places like Switzer's Dimmock. Cue the dark, just surreal, laugh here:

The Environmental Group of Eckert Seamans is national in scope and is as diverse and broad-based as the subject matter itself. In addition to the firm’s traditional heavy industrial and manufacturing clients which include steel, glass, aluminum, chemical, coal, natural gas and other industries and manufacturers, as well as electric, gas, water and waste water utilities, the firm also represents financial institutions, real estate developers, food processors, construction and high tech companies. The firm’s clients range from closely held businesses to large publicly held companies.The firm’s environmental lawyers assist and counsel clients with compliance, enforcement, self disclosure, permitting, government rulemaking, responding to information requests, strategic planning and other matters that are subject to the major environmental regulatory programs, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and their state and local counterparts in numerous jurisdictions across the country.

In other words, Eckert Seamans helps keep companies like Cabot from being sued, and their lawyers like John Hanger get paid good money (say, like the 430,000 Hanger donated to his own campaign) to insure minimal compliance--what groups like Breathe Easy Susquehanna County want to sucker us into believing is a company's employ of "best practices." Then they greenwash it all by calling "compliance" environmental.

How surreal is that?

Only slightly more so than the "Practice Area" Energy page:

The Energy Group represents every segment of the natural resources industry, including renewable energy companies, traditional utilities, domestic energy companies, foreign energy companies, mineral companies, exploration and extraction companies, financial institutions, private equity firms, government entities, and other companies associated with the natural resource industry.

In other words, pay us, and we will defend whatever form of extraction you're into.

Even better:

As the domestic and international market for energy becomes more diverse and globally connected, it is important to select counsel that has the depth of knowledge, understanding and multidisciplinary experience to provide efficient and cost-effective representation.

Translation: We can't wait for those export depots like the one Dominion has planned at Cove Point Maryland goes into LNG transport.


But the real kicker is the Eckert Seamans "Marcellus Shale" "Practice Area" page where they announce right at the top their proud membership in the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry funded trade group whose membership includes not only some of the worst polluters and human rights violators on the planet, for example, Chevron ( http://ran.org/chevrons-toxic-legacy-ecuador), but the very companies responsible for the gag order agreed to by Switzer concerning water contamination (http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2013/07/30/silenced-critic-of-dimocks-water-problems-switches-to-air-pollution-concerns/).

So: Switzer (and Breathe Easy Susquehanna County) are supporting for governor an attorney who works for a powerful law firm that actively defends the gas companies against people just like her, and belongs to an organization--the Marcellus Shale Coalition--whose membership includes the company--Cabot--who is not only responsible for massive ecological and water damage in Dimock, but has somehow persuaded her to never talk about that fact. And to add surreal insult to injury--Hanger was head of DEP all the while Cabot was converting Dimock into a frack-gas extraction colony (http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/nearly-a-year-after-a-water-well-explosion-dimock-twp-residents-thirst-for-gas-well-fix-1.365743).

Talk about your facts of the day. Sheesh!

But the gas-soaked campaign donations don't stop with Eckert Seamans.

2. There's the $1,000 from discredited Penn State Professor Terry Engelder, the self-styled "father" of the shale gas boom (http://www.ragingchickenpress.org/2012/02/15/the-unholy-alliance-of-big-energy-big-university-big-state-my-exchange-with-terry-engelder/)

3. There's Seth Obitz, $5,000 of Worley and Obitz (http://www.worleyobetz.com/):

We offer a wide array of energy products and services for your home, business and fleet, including AMERIgreen Energy products, 100% American Fuels, propane, farm propane, electricity, natural gas and natural gas conversions, heating oil, biofuels, renewable energy, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) service and HVAC installations, fleet fueling, and wholesale transport trucking.

4. There's the $1,000 from EQT:

EQT has poured nearly $328,000 into Pennsylvania elections since 2001 and $281,000 into statewide races across the country since 2003. On the whole, the fracking industry has spent $23 million to influence Pennsylvania politics since 2003. What do EQT and the rest of the industry reap from this political spending? On the national level, the industry’s influence has resulted in fracking– the process of injecting millions of gallons of toxin-laced water deep underground in order to break up shale rocks and extract “natural” gas – being exempt from major environmental regulations, including the Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. In Pennsylvania, 47 percent of state forestlands have been leased to shale drillers and 80 percent of state park mineral rites have been privatized. The influence is also obvious when you look at EQT’s tax receipts. EQT’s effective federal tax rate over the past five years was -1 percent – meaning that, instead of paying, the corporation actually received $2 million back from the IRS. In Pennsylvania – where EQT is headquartered – the corporation’s five-year effective tax rate was only 0.1 percent. (http://www.citizenvox.org/2013/04/18/activists-to-fracking-corporation-eqt-elections-are-not-for-shale/).

5. There's the $1,000 from Joseph Dworetzky, an attorney from Hangley, Aronchick, Segal, Pudlin, Schiller:

We have been involved in projects to assist clients with both traditional and alternative energy projects. For example, we have assisted clients with myriad permitting aspects of wind farms, as well as permitting issues associated with the build-out of new pipeline systems. We have also been involved in representing landowners in negotiating agreements for the development of natural gas resources in the Marcellus Shale region. (http://www.hangley.com/Energy/)

6. There's $2,000 from Steven Kean, Kinder Morgan, the folks who'd build the Tennessee Pipeline that could effectively end the fracking moratorium in the Delaware River Basin:

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline—the Northeast Upgrade Project—is essential to Kinder-Stiltskin’s vision: “The 13,900-mile Tennessee Gas Pipeline serves the Northeast with access to the Marcellus and Utica shale plays” transporting natural gas from “Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico and south Texas.” (Kinder Morgan – Tennessee Gas Pipeline). KMEP promises a myriad array of benefits including the hire of local union-shop workers, revenue for local businesses, and an energy source that is “versatile, clean, and abundant” (Benefits of Natural Gas | Northeast Upgrade Project). The KMEP strategy is clear: amass as much pipeline infrastructure as possible across a wide array of extraction ventures (including, but not limited to, shale plays), distributing both risks and gains across that array, thereby defraying against production declines, and limiting competition. Then, via the advantageous corporate structure provided by the MLP, utilize incoming revenues to acquire additional pipeline. For example, KMEP “operates the only pipeline that carries tar sands crude out of Alberta over the Rocky Mountains to its tanker terminal in Vancouver. Kinder acquired the Trans Mountain Pipeline in 2005 and now seeks to expand it from 300,000 barrels per day to 750,000 bpd by building a new $4 billion pipe alongside the first. He’s already signed up nine oil companies eager to fill the proposed line with their crude.” Kinder is also gearing up for the Northern Gateway Project as well as part of the action in the Keystone XL Pipeline “to bring more oil sands crude into the U.S. and ultimately down to Gulf Coast refineries,” much to the discontent of environmentalists, (Rich Kinder’s Energy Kingdom – Forbes) (.http://www.ragingchickenpress.org/2013/03/16/kinder-morgan-energy-partners-a-new-rumpelstiltskin-tries-to-cash-in-on-the-last-gasp-of-industrialized-extraction/).


In other words, Hanger takes campaign donations from a corporation invested and committed to the Keystone XL Pipeline (http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/07/youth-plan-mass-civil-disobedience-to-protest-keystone-xl/).

7. There's $5,000 from Charif Souki--WOW! Here's just a tiny sample, "The Export King: Meet America's Unlikeliest Gas Mogul":

Souki and his top executives were becoming more committed to the idea of exporting natural gas. They were convinced that they could retrofit the Louisiana terminal to make it capable of turning natural gas into LNG for selling abroad. In the early spring of 2010, Souki and his team received an estimate from Bechtel, the global construction firm, with a cost to reconfigure their plant. Bechtel judged it would cost about $450 for each ton of LNG it wanted to export. At that price, it would cost over $8 billion to convert the terminal into one that could export natural gas using four “trains,” or liquefaction and purification units. That would be enough to ship 18 million tons of gas a year. (http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140250/gregory-zuckerman/the-export-king).

In other words, Hanger is taking money from folks committed to shipping natural gas overseas. So much for his stake in "American, cheap, natural, and abundant."

8. There's $10,000 from Steve Huntoon, Florida Power and Light--also, WOW!. I'll let you read the FERC decision for yourselves: https://www.ferc.gov/whats-new/comm-meet/2007/041907/G-1.pdf.

9. There's the $3,000 from Nora Meade Brownell: "Nora Mead Brownell is the co-founder of Espy Energy Solutions, LLC, an energy consulting firm and a former Commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from 2001–2006 under the administration of President George W. Bush."

Nora currently serves on the boards of the following public companies: Comverge, Inc. as the chair of the nominating and corporate governance committee and Spectra Energy Partners LP (http://www.forbes.com/profile/nora-brownell/).

Spectra Energy Partners, LP (http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=211014&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1729456&highlight=):


The Spectra pipeline, a high-pressure natural gas delivery system that aims to bring hundreds of millions of barrels of hydrofracked gas directly into New York City, has sparked controversy just a few short months before its scheduled completion . The $1.2 billion project will pipe 800 million barrels of natural gas a day directly underneath Manhattan's iconic West Village neighborhood. The pipeline is an extension of Houston-based Spectra Energy's Texas Eastern gas delivery network, which exploits the huge Utica and Marcellus shale natural gas resources in western Pennsylvania and Ohio. But now, with the pipeline nearly complete (construction started almost a year ago and is expected to be done by November), activists are up in arms...High-pressure pipelines are also liable to explode, as the video points out. In 2012 alone, there were 244 significant incidents on U.S. pipelines that caused a total of 10 deaths and more than $180 million of property damage, according to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA.)...Spectra's safety record isn't exactly pristine. An explosion at a large underground Texas gas facility that was owned by Spectra's parent company, Duke Energy, caused a 1,000 foot-high fireball in 2004 that led to the evacuation of hundreds of residents within a three-mile radius of the storage facility, the Houston Chronicle reported at the time. (The explosion, caused by a faulty valve, was followed by a second explosion that prompted a second, wider, evacuation.) (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/03/spectra-pipeline-fracking-new-york-city-activists_n_3209242.html).

So here's the simple upshot:

John Hanger could not be more in the tank for the gas. While he takes other money (from EverPower Wind, for example: http://www.everpower.com/), there simply is no denying that he solicits--and gets--donations from folks who will certainly expect Hanger to be every bit as frack-friendly as his predecessor.

And we have every reason to think he will be.


The only interesting question (and not very) is why all these Big Gas Companies haven't donated more. but that's actually pretty easy: they're hedging their bets. After all, they've got a pretty full slate on the Democrats side of candidates happy and willing to do their bidding. In fact the only two who won't are Paul Glover, Green Party (http://www.paulglover.org/) who, if tradition sets the standard, may get to act as a spoiler, or Mad Max Myers, whose religious affiliations and apparent anti-gay beliefs have likely already sunk his candidacy (http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2014/02/mad-max-myers-is-not-my-anti-fracking.html).

Nope, what this sad story points to--even beyond fracking--is the sheer vacuity of the political process, especially with respect to elections. I am tempted to conclude that this means we've got nobody. But the truth is just the opposite:

We have our collective will, our capacity to build community rights organizations, our commitment to stand up against both corrupt politicians who'd sucker us into believing--like the sad folks at Breathe Easy Susquehanna County (http://www.shalereporter.com/blog/tara_zrinski/article_20748998-3a98-11e3-8f50-0019bb30f31a.html)--that there's some magical causal powers attached to phrases like "best practices," and "being realistic."

As I have said many times now, "To hell with being "realistic."

No movement for anything worthwhile got a damn thing done by being "realistic." Better that we should do a little real work--as I have done here--vetting a candidate.

Better that we should risk practically everything, as Socrates advised, than lose it all to the cowardice that "being realistic" really means.

A primary vote for John Hanger is a vote for the continued march to 100,000 frack gas wells in Pennsylvania, with all the bells and whistles--pollutions and explosions and disease--that go with them. It's a vote for frack gas export. It's a vote for climate change.


And if you've read this piece, your excuse for remaining self-deluded about what Hanger really stands for is over--and it ain't you.


* Awesome poster by Paul Glover, Pennsylvania Green Party candidate for governor.







8 comments:

V Scroggins said...

Why would Engelder give Hanger $1,000? What's his motivation? and where did you find out these donations and from whom? Where do you look this up? thanks, for the research and article....

Timothy R. Ruggiero said...

To be fair, every politician I know takes money from both sides. Of course, they tend to take and receive much more from the side they align with, but Hangar isn't the first guy to take money from the 'opposing' side.

What I do have an issue with Hangar on, is one of his more recent stunts (His abysmal failure in Dimock notwithstanding) is buddying up with a local landowner who has a contaminated well. The time frame of the contamination was at the same time he was head of DEP. Did nothing. Now that he's running for Gov, he has a photo op at the landowner's place, and demands the DEP test the water. NOW he's concerned about contaminated water.

Wendy Lynne Lee said...

Hey Vera--I had that right here....it's a Google doc, finance campaign reporting....now where did I put that?

HI Tim--I hear what you're saying, but that everyone does it is no excuse--and hanger's forms a clear pattern.

Walter Brasch said...

I'm not convinced about Hanger; Wendy's article gives me even more reason not to like him. I'm leaning to Wolf. He has the right values and is NOT taking any gas money for campaign. He's a bit weak on envir. issues, but is educable--I'm working to educate him. Myers is unacceptable overall, altho he believes in moratorium. Of the candidates, I think my fellow fracktivists might look into Wolf as someone with liberal values.

Wendy Lynne Lee said...

Hi Walt--Wolf's also a millionaire--and that's one reason he's not taking that money. He's not a bit weak on environmental issues...he is QUITE weak. He MUST come out squarely and pub;licl;y for the moratorium, or I'm afraid he'll have no chance at all in this primary. And that's not because he can't win it on other issues--but because Schwartz--SADLY--will beat him to it.

Dave Meiser said...

While I know Wendy doesn't particularity like the Sierra Club, this is what the former Director of the PA chapter had to say about Hanger:

As the Sierra Club’s lobbyist in PA, I have several reactions to the comments by our former DEP Secretary, concerning the shale gas drilling situation here in Pennsylvania. If you have seen Josh Fox’s Gasland, you might remember Secretary Hanger walking out of the interview with his back to Fox….........

You should know that, since leaving office, Secretary Hanger has joined a lobbying firm (Eckert Seamans) whose clients include the Independent Oil and Gas Association of Pennsylvania.

1) One of the first actions Secretary Hanger took upon his confirmation as DEP Secretary was to unilaterally remove the County Conservation Districts from the process for Erosion and Sedimentation plan review for gas well permitting. The DEP then began automatically approving E & S plans, as long as they were signed off by a registered engineer. This had the effect of significantly “streamlining” the permitting process. No on-site review by someone who knew the soils/geology/wetlands of the area. The Conservation Districts were outraged that they had been removed from the review process, with no communications from DEP prior to the decision. That has led to improper E & S plans that resulted in surface water contamination from runoff in a number of locations. There have also been fuel and chemical spills that have migrated off-site at some well pads. The Conservation Community continues to advocate for the return of Conservation Districts to E & S review.

2) Early in the Marcellus Shale drilling boom, when Hanger was still new to DEP, Sierra Club called for a major re-write of the PA Oil and Gas Act permitting requirements and enforcement regulations. That Act, passed in 1984, did not (and still does not) reflect the reflect the new challenges presented by deep horizontal drilling utilizing the fracking process. Hanger publicly argued with me after a hearing on the subject, claiming that PA"s regulations were adequate to take care of the problems associated the new drilling proicesses. In the Propublica interview, he is attempting to rewrite history, as his legacy of needing to play catch-up with the drilling industry becomes more apparent with each new accident, contaminated well or spill. It is true that the bonding amounts need to be dramatically increased. But we also need a significant increase in the set-backs from homes, water wells and surface waters, as well as a host of other improvements.

3) Inspections: DEP is still woefully understaffed, and cannot get out to wells and drilling sites to perform the needed inspections. While DEP’s procedures call for inspections, when we tried to amend the law to make them mandatory, DEP under Hanger opposed us.

No doubt, Secretary Hanger was following instructions he was getting from the Governor’s office. In fact, Governor Rendell’s Deputy Chief of Staff left his government job to take a high-paying position with Range Resources and Hanger’s Executive Deputy Secretary left to take a position with Chesapeake. The former left government shortly after Governor Rendell dropped his support for a gas severance tax and the latter left after convincing Hanger to remove Conservation Districts from the E & S plan review process.

Wendy Lynne Lee said...

HI David--

Thanks for your comments. I do appreciate them. The first concerning Eckert Seamans makes a very valuable point highlighting the hypocrisy of this candidate--and adds even more excellent reasons not to support him.

The second is, however, self-undermining. It effectively defends one of the major premises of Hanger's campaign, namely, that natural gas extraction via fracking CAN be regulated. The Sierra Club's defense of THAT premise is effectively the defense of the continuation of a process and infrastructure whose short term consequences are profoundly hazardous to human health, ecological integrity, and human rights, and whose long term consequences are climate change. A "major re-write of the PA Oil and Gas Act" is STILL a vote for fracking because it accedes to regulation--and therefore an effective vote for Mr. Hanger.

Ditto for your point about inspections. These are inspections of a process you assume will continue. All of this promotes nothing but a bandaid, and what I have called a form of cadaver cosmetics--clean up and prettyfy-up as you go--all the while leaving the real harm to be externalized to those least able to resist the incursions of the gas companies.

All the while, moreover, the Sierra Club is playing ball with the industry--pretending to "spank" them, but then conceding to regulation, some of us out here who do the real work to achieve the only thing that can be counted as justice are getting visits from what amount to the "jackboots" of the state. There's a REASON the state police/joint FBI Terrorism task Force are not at the door of the Sierra Club--and that's because the Sierra Club poses NO real threat.

So--even as you decry Hanger as a poor choice for governor--affecting the Sierra Club modus operandi of doing something without REALLY doing anything to put an end to this catastrophe--the Sierra Club actually stands for everything Mr. Hanger does: the increasingly absurd PRETENSE to the respect for human rights, environmental integrity, and human and nonhuman health--all the while collaborating by concession to regulation with the industry and its well-bribed government lackeys, and letting the rest of us take the fall as "extremists."

The Big Greens fake leaders--who chain themselves to the White House fence just long enough for a photo-op--ought to be ashamed.

I "don't like" the Sierra Club? NO. I won't concede to climate change.

Citizen Sane said...

Dave Meiser - The reason that people like Wendy, and myself, are opposed to the tactic of the Big Greens like the Sierra Club is because the SC, and many others, are about "regulation". Regulation simply means to adjust the rate of damage, not to stop it, or protect the environment or the effect continued fossil fuel extraction, development, and use are having on climate change. Best case scenario, regulations may slow down the warming of this planet, but will never stop it. "Zoning" is the decision to sacrifice certain areas. "Regulation" is simply the rate they will be sacrificed. There is no longer any middle ground for us to dance around, and therefore regulations are no longer a negotiating point. The Sierra Club, I've no doubt is made up of well-meaning individuals, but your tactics are useless and are meant to perpetuate the debate to provide "purpose" for the organizations existence.