Over a handful of Governor Tom Corbett's own administration have resigned more than a year before the end of the governor's first term, for reasons that remain partly cloudy at best. Department of Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander left March 2013. Inspector General Kenya Mann Faulkner left the month before Alexander. Turnpike CEO Roger Nutt left October 2012. And then there's the leadership upheaval at Pennsylvania's environmental agencies: the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in charge of oil and gas extraction and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in charge of conservation and management of forests, parks and other natural areas. DCNR has limited authority to manage oil and gas fracking on state land, since DEP issues the permits under its own set of policies and procedures. In June, then head of DCNR Richard Allen was fired after an email to his wife Patricia who then worked at DEP reached the Governor's desk. The email contained potentially-racist comments toward a high-ranking staff member of DEP, whom Allen also called a "B****" in the email. Sources say that the staff member has since quietly left DEP without announcement. Mrs. Allan has also left DEP but still works for the state. Governor Corbett has since replaced Michael Krancer as head of Environmental Protection with environmental expert Chris Abruzzo, former Chief Deputy Attorney General. Aburzzo supervised the state's Drug Strike Force and also serves as Derry Township Supervisor in Hershey, Pa.
A documentary on hydraulic fracturing drew a packed house Thursday night in downtown Mansfield. “Triple Divide,” an 18-month investigation by Public Herald, an investigative news nonprofit co-founded by two journalists, was shown at Relax It’s Just Coffee on North Main Street. Journalists Joshua Pribanic and Melissa Troutman created the film to show how state regulations and industry in Pennsylvania have been handling the effects of the process known as fracking. Fracking is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside. The film revealed how the industry and state appear to cover up water contamination. Pribanic and Troutman talked to several Pennsylvania farmers and landowners who were affected by the drilling, which resulted in health issues and significant disruptions to their land and lives.
Just as Public Herald journalists, Melissa Troutman and Joshua Pribanic, brought the results of their investigative study to the screen, the editorial touted talking points delivered by Governor Corbett on a recent visit to Erie. He was hoping to persuade voters that his job creation record is not as dismal as it seems (Pennsylvania has gone from 6th to 45th during his tenure despite the promise of Marcellus Shale jobs). Environmentalists are not “turning up their noses” at jobs in the natural gas industry for frivolous reasons. These teachers, doctors, farmers, business owners and families are concerned about mounting evidence that unconventional natural gas drilling affects the water we drink and the air we breathe. We have the right to clean water and clean air, which, by the way, is guaranteed in Section 1 Article 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Triple Divide moves beyond the sensationalism of Gasland with science, fact-based reporting and personal stories from Pennsylvania’s shale fields. The filmmakers and a former employee of a natural gas company, whose job was to mitigate and sometimes cover up “mistakes,” urged citizens to pay attention. Hold local media accountable for reporting all of the stories, not just those from gas industry insiders, they said.
A liquid concoction, often laced with toxic chemicals, is a central villain in the controversy over extracting natural gas by fracturing rock beneath the earth’s surface. Opponents fear this fracking fluid may foul water supplies, endangering human health and the environment. Adapting, the industry is responding to public concern. Giant energy services company Halliburton, in a safety demonstration at an August 3 industry conference in Colorado, had an employee demonstrate just how palatable fracking fluid can be. He drank it.