Saturday, June 27, 2020

Better Path Coalition Coalition Calls For Resignations, Fracking Ban, Transparency In Wake Of Grand Jury Report

There have been many reactions to and comments on the Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s announcement of the Grand Jury Report on regulatory failuresPA Environment Digest will continue to post those comments as they are received so there can be an informed discussion of the issues raised in the Report--

The Better Path Coalition issued this statement on June 26--

Today, the Better Path Coalition delivered letters to Governor Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro outlining concerns and demands stemming from the Grand Jury’s report on the state government’s failure to protect Pennsylvanians from shale gas development.

The letter to Wolf calls for the resignations of Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Patrick McDonnell and Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine. 

Additionally, the coalition expanded on its call for a halt to further permitting of shale gas activities first made in a letter sent to Wolf on June 17 that received no response. 

Given the extent of the failures of the state government cited in the Grand Jury’s report, the Coalition is calling for a ban on fracking. The Governor’s office has also ignored several requests from the Coalition for a meeting with Wolf. The letter asks, once again, for a meeting.

The letter to Shapiro requests a meeting to discuss the Coalition’s prioritized concerns. Among them are concerns about the reporting hotline Shapiro announced today.  

The Grand Jury recommended giving the AG’s office original jurisdiction over environmental crimes. The Coalition is concerned that Shapiro could be hindered in acting on complaints unless a change in reporting methodology aids him in gaining that authority. 

The group is also calling for the lifting of existing nondisclosure agreements and a prohibition of their use in the future.

“We are grateful to Attorney General Shapiro and the Grand Jury for the work they have done to expose the failures of the state to protect Pennsylvanians. The contents come as no surprise to those who have been profoundly impacted for 16 years. The damage to our communities, to our families, and to our natural resources cannot be undone. The only thing the state can do now is stop the madness. The results of the Grand Jury investigation thus far make a clear case for a ban on fracking in Pennsylvania and more is coming,” said Karen Feridun, Better Path Coalition.

“Fossil fuel companies have consistently operated in the belief that they are above the law and that they can willfully ignore any laws, rules, regulations, standards or even easement agreements with impunity,” said Ellen Gerhart, Camp White Pine. “They have bullied, intimidated and targeted anyone who refused to kowtow to their demands. DEP has also been complacent and has often aided and abetted these companies by erroneously issuing permits without checking the veracity of the information on the applications. When DEP has been forced to act against these companies for a multitude of violations, the result has been little more than a slap on the wrist. The DEP, the Wolf administration, and the fossil fuel industry should all be held accountable for their failure to ensure the health and safety of the people of Pennsylvania and the environment.”

“I was allowed to have phone meetings with Dr. Levine and the PA DOH epidemiology team in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to discuss the unusually high rates of cancer in areas of fracking. The meetings lasted for one hour or more each but always ended by thanking me for my time but informing me that Governor Wolf has tied their hands and they can only work on the opioid crisis. My response was that as important of an issue that is we have been Fracking in Pa for 16 years now and have ignored the suffering of an unknown amount of children and adults. I lost my mother, father, 2 grandfathers, 3 uncles and many cousins to cancer in the past 50 years and will not stand by silently while the Governor, DEP, DOH and elected officials enable these Criminals,“ said Craig Stevens, Patriots From The Oil & Gas Shales 6th Generation Landowner. 

“The permitting of unconventional gas drilling in Pennsylvania and the proven environmental catastrophes that have followed are a direct affront to Article 1, Section 27 of Pennsylvania’s constitution.  It’s time for Attorney General Shapiro’s office to do everything in its power to protect our constitutional rights and stop the poisoning of our water, air and all that drink and breathe it,” said Tim Spiese, Lancaster Against Pipelines.

“When a group of 12 interfaith leaders in Pennsylvania met with Secretary Levine in 2016, we were told that the DOH's hands were filled with the opioid crisis. Concerns about the health effects of fracking were essentially dismissed. The opioid crisis then became the COVID crisis -- the health impacts of fracking are deemed insignificant,” said Rachel Mark, Better Path Coalition.

"The Grand Jury investigation has revealed a dangerous and deeply flawed state regulatory system. Community input is integral to understanding pathways of exposure and members of the community who have signed non-disclosure agreements must be released from any penalties for sharing relevant health information," said Tammy Murphy, Physicians for Social Responsibility PA.

"Facts revealed by the grand jury come as no surprise to anyone who has lived near or closely followed the ramifications of Marcellus Shale development in PA,” said Barbara Jarmoska, Project CoffeeHouse. “For the past decade, a trail of abuses, violations, deceptive practices and outright criminal acts has been blazed by the industry and its subcontractors. Government agencies charged with protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvania's citizens and the environment have failed to fulfill their mission. In reading the grand jury report, a sign of relief and one word comes to mind....’Finally.’” 

Click Here for the original Better Path Coalition release.


-- AP-Mark Scolforo: AG Grand Jury Finds Systematic Regulatory Failures In Natural Gas Drilling

-- Don Hopey/Laura Legere: AG Shapiro: Grand Jury Report Reveals PA’s Systemic Failure To Regulate Shale Gas Industry

-- Stephen Caruso: AG Shapiro Calls Out Gas Drillers; Faults PA Agencies For Not Adequately Watchdogging The Industry

-- Frank Kummer: AG Releases Scathing Grand Jury Report On Fracking Industry, State Regulators

-- Reid Frazier/Susan Phillips: PA Grand Jury Report On Fracking: DEP Failed To Protect Public Health

-- Charlie Thompson: PA Attorney General’s Report Highlights Shortfalls In State’s Marcellus Shale Oversight

-- Grand Jury: State Failed To Protect Public From Fracking

-- Grand Jury Report Blasts DEP, Health Department Over Fracking Failures In PA

-- WITF Smart Talk: Attorney General On Police Reforms, Fracking, Child Abuse

-- AG Shapiro: Grand Jurors Praised For Report On Fracking Impacts, Govt. Oversight

Related Links:

-- Click Here For DEP’s response to the Report 

-- Click Here for the Health Department’s response to the Report

Related Articles:

-- AG Shapiro: Grand Jury Finds Pennsylvania Failed To Protect Citizens During Natural Gas Fracking Boom

-- Attorney General Shapiro: Opening Statement, Grand Jury Report On Regulatory Failures During Natural Gas Fracking Boom

-- Reactions/Comments: Grand Jury Report On Regulatory Failures During Natural Gas Fracking Boom

[Posted: June 27, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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