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.
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.
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.