Monthly Archives: January 2014

UPDATED: DEP Hears Public Comments on Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations at W&J

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Quality Board on Wednesday heard testimony from residents who packed into a Washington & Jefferson College meeting room to say their piece on proposed oil and gas regulations for the state.

To read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s coverage of the story, click here:

For coverage from the Observer-Reporter’s Rick Shrum, click here:

I was unable to find coverage from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

Editor’s Note: Still looking for photos and video. If you have either, please email them to Amanda Gillooly at marcellusmonitor_editor@yahoo.com.

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PA DEP Extends Public Comment Period for Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations, Adds Two Hearings

DEP Sec. Chris Abruzzo said 90 hearings in 90 days is unheard of - and said public input is important to the process.

DEP Sec. Chris Abruzzo said 9 hearings in 90 days is unheard of – and said public input is important to the process.

Editor’s Note: The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday released the following press release on its website. -amanda

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Quality Board announced Wednesday that the public comment period and series of public hearings on the proposed oil and gas surface activities regulation have been extended.

“One of the clear messages we’ve been getting through this hearing and comment process, from both industry and environmental groups, is that we should hold additional hearings and extend the comment period,” DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo said. “Public participation is a key component when crafting these regulations, and we are happy to accommodate this extended period.”

The public comment period, originally scheduled to end on Feb. 12 is extended for 30 days to March 14.

Two additional public hearings will also be held, both beginning at 6 p.m, at these locations:

• Feb. 10: Troy High School, 150 High St., Troy, PA 16947
• Feb. 12: Warren County Courthouse, 204 4th Ave., Warren, PA 16365

“Nine public hearings and a total of 90 days for public comment is unprecedented – we are committed to understanding the concerns of all Pennsylvanians on this important state regulation,” Abruzzo said.

The hearings are being held by the EQB for the purpose of accepting comments on a proposed regulation for environmental protection performance standards associated with oil and gas activities.

The EQB is a 20-member independent board that adopts all DEP regulations and considers petitions to change regulations.

For more information on how to submit comments or how to sign up to make comments at one of the upcoming hearings, click here.

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PA Supreme Court: Sorry, GOP Leaders, You Cannot Intervene in Act 13 Case

State Sen. Joe Scarnati, seen here with Gov. Tom Corbett, left, has no legal standing to intervene in the Act 13 legal battle, the Supreme Court affirmed Tuesday

State Sen. Joe Scarnati, seen here with Gov. Tom Corbett, left, has no legal standing to intervene in the Act 13 legal battle, the Supreme Court affirmed Tuesday

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that two state GOP leaders still have no place in the court battle regarding Act 13, the law governing Marcellus Shale drilling.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati and Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Samuel H. Smith, both Republicans, had sought to intervene in the Act 13 challenge.

But the Commonwealth Court “held that the legislators did not have a legally enforceable interest in the action.”

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday, affirming the ruling.

In the order, the Supreme Court wrote:

Following review of the briefs submitted, the Order of the Commonwealth Court is hereby AFFIRMED.

In this matter, the legislators offer that their purpose for intervening is to defend the constitutionality of Act 13, and to offer evidence and argument with respect to the intent of the General Assembly in enacting Act 13 and to
the procedure by which Act 13 was adopted.

As articulated, the legislators’ interest implicates neither a defense of the power or authority of their offices nor a defense of the potency of their right to vote.

Rather, the legislators simply seek to offer their perspective on the correctness of governmental conduct, i.e., that the General Assembly did not violate the substantive and procedural strictures of the Pennsylvania Constitution in enacting Act 13.

…The interest articulated is not sufficient to support the party standing of legislators in a legal action challenging the constitutionality of a legislative enactment.

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REMINDER: DEP Hosting Hearing on Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations WEDNESDAY in WashCo

I wanted to remind my local friends about a chance to be heard by the state Department of Environmental Protection regarding what regulations should govern oil and gas activities in Pennsylvania.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to go:

When? 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22

Where? Washington & Jefferson College’s Rossin Campus Center Allen Ballroom located at 60 South Lincoln Street, Washington, PA

Why? The hearing is being held by the Environmental Quality Board (a 20-member independent body that adopts all DEP regulations and considers petitions to change regulations) for the purpose of accepting comments on a proposed regulation for environmental protection performance standards associated with oil and gas activities.

What do I have to do to make a comment? Members of the public wishing to present verbal testimony have been asked to contact the EQB to reserve a time by either calling 717-787-4526 or by emailing RegComments@pa.gov.

What if I don’t get a chance to sign up by still want to attend and comment? Those who are not able to sign-up in advance of the hearing will be given the opportunity to sign-up at the hearing and will be called upon to speak after those who pre-registered.

So, what are the rules for making a comment at the hearing? Witnesses are limited to five minutes of testimony and are requested to submit three written copies of their testimony to the hearing chairperson at the hearing. Organizations are limited to designating one witness to present testimony on their behalf at each hearing.

Damn! I can’t make it. Is there any way to submit my comments some other way? Yes. Comments and a one-page summary may be submitted to EQB at http://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/RegComments. If snail mail is more your speed, written comments and summaries can be mailed to the Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477. They can also be submitted via email at RegComments@pa.gov.

When do comments need to be submitted? By Feb. 12.

Will there be any communication after the submission date and before the board rules? Yes. The summaries and a formal comment and response document will be distributed to the EQB and available publicly prior to the meeting when the final rule making will be considered.

Where can I get educated on the proposed regulation? Right here: www.dep.state.pa.us Once there, click the “Proposed Oil and Gas Regulations” button.

 

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An Open Letter to Range Resources’ Matt Pitzarella

Dear Matt Pitzarella,

Matt Pitzarella Linkedin profile

I read with interest the statement you made to the Beaver County Times regarding my investigative report into your educational credentials (or lack thereof).

As you know, I published a story on Monday indicating that you have misrepresented your educational accomplishments. Your online professional profile and numerous stories indicate that you have an “M.S.” – or master of science degree – in business ethics from Duquesne University.

On your Linkedin profile, you list the years of attendance as 2003-2005, conveniently the length of time it would take to earn such a master’s degree (had you, of course, actually attended those courses to completion). But when I called Duquesne to check it out, they informed me that you did not earn a degree at the Pittsburgh educational institution.

In fact, they told me you were only enrolled in the program from the spring of 2004 through the fall of 2004.

As you may recall, I called and left you a message before I published the report. It wasn’t returned. I emailed each of Range Resources’ board of directors. Those weren’t returned. I emailed myriad members of senior management. Hate to repeat myself, but: None of that was returned, either.

Seeing that you are a fervent tweeter, I tried reaching you via that social network, as well.

No dice.

Then, Thursday morning, I noted the statement you gave to the Beaver County Times’ energy reporter, Rachel Morgan.

Just so there is no ambiguity about what I am referring to, here was your statement:

I’ve never stated that I completed the program.

You then went on to say this:

LinkedIn is a resource to connect with people, and I list the program of study to connect with those individuals. My corporate bio and all references to my background make it clear that I attended Duquesne and have never stated that I completed the program.

And then there was this:

Anywhere else that I’ve ever referenced that have always included that I attended the program but never stated that I completed it. My corporate bios always make that very, very clear. There’s no point in having ambiguity on that subject.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that one of Range’s top attorneys also made a statement:

“I was aware of the accusation that was made on a blog site to that effect. And once it was brought to my attention, I did what I would have done in any situation where we have an employee accused of doing something like that,” said Range general counsel David Poole. “What I determined is that Matt has not made that statement. What has happened here are a couple of published third-party references to (Pitzarella) that says he has earned a master’s degree.”

This, of course, brings us to this open letter.

Because you are absolutely right, Matt: There’s no point in having ambiguity on that subject.

So if you will kindly indulge me, I have some things I’d like to talk through with you (which I would have mentioned, of course, had you called me back. Or tweeted me back. I’m not picky).

First: When you say you never said you completed the program do you really mean, “I was never directly quoted by a news organization saying, ‘Hello, my name is Matt Pitzarella – you may remember me from such places as Range Resources and Columbia Gas. And yes, I have a master’s of science in executive leadership and business ethics from Duquesne University, a prestigious Catholic school in Pittsburgh.”

Here’s why I ask: Because I’m not buying your explanation. Not even part of it.

For one thing, you say you simply stated the dates of attendance on Linkedin. Maybe that could have worked as a reasonable answer, had you simply indicated “2004” there.

But you didn’t.

Then there is the idea of listing, not just on the Linkedin profile but in other media sources, “M.S.” or even the more specific “MSLBE” (which stands for Master of Science in Leadership and Business Ethics).

I’m going to level with you, Matt: No rational, college-educated person would consider using the acronyms for specific degrees or certifications after they had attended just a couple classes.

That would be like an attorney taking the first semester of law school and thinking it was totally legit to put a “JD” (as in juris doctor)after his name for the rest of his life. It would be like me taking a copy reading and editing course at Point Park University and forever referring to myself as Amanda Gillooly, B.A.J&MC.

That’s just not the way the world works.

I also wonder how you can say you never indicated you completed the program when you have been included in question-and-answer pieces that are written in the first person. I have written those pieces.

The subject of those types of interviews provides the answers, sometimes verbatim.

And just so there is absolutely no ambiguity here, I am referring to this story in Pop City Media http://www.popcitymedia.com/features/rangeresources120909.aspx

And this one, too: http://www.freenewspos.com/news/article/b/477250/politics/to-the-pointe

I gotta say, I also take issue with your attorney’s logic – that it’s no biggie because of the frequency with which this bad information was shared, and where.

He said, and I am quoting directly, that the mention of your nonexistent master’s in business ethics consisted of “a couple of published third-party references.”

Respectfully, I think he is paying attention to the wrong part of the story. The point is, you knew you didn’t have the degree. And since you are a smart dude, I believe you knew exactly what people would assume when you listed those acronyms.

The irony is that for a man who has called me and likely other reporters to take issue with even the smallest nuance in wording, there inexplicably is not one clarification or correction regarding the inaccurate info published about your nonexistent degree that I could find in a Google search.

Those who have been watching from home can appreciate another piece of irony: They know you and your employer are no strangers to accusing others, very publicly, of being disingenuous. Of lying. Or misrepresenting the facts.

You guys have basically gone after anyone who opposes Range Resources’ business practices, or who has questioned any part of them.

In January 2012, you claimed a Texas man who sued Range for alleged water contamination lied about problems he was having at his home. One website reports you said the man, Steven Lipsky,“deliberately falsified an internet video of his garden hose flaming.”

Then there was the time Range sent a cease and desist letter to Texas blogger Sharon Wilson.

The reason?

Bloomberg reports: Wilson’s blog “continued misrepresentations about Range, Range’s actions in the past and its intentions with regard to this lawsuit” according to company legal counsel quoted.

Did you catch the part about “continued misrepresentations?” Do you find it in any way hypocritical?

That all said, Matt, this whole thing speaks to an issue other than just “business ethics.” It speaks to your ethics as a public relations specialist.

In a feature story about your receipt of the Young PR Professional of the Year 2005 award, you said you were a “student of communication.” The story references your devotion to the Public Relations Student Society of America.

I mention the professional organization because you seemingly forgot some of the values that the parent society holds dear – and for which it holds PR professionals accountable.

“The practice of public relations can present unique and challenging ethical issues,” the Public Relations Society of America website indicates. “At the same time, protecting integrity and the public trust are fundamental to the profession’s role and reputation. Bottom line, successful public relations hinges on the ethics of its practitioners.”

While PRSA lists six core values, the one I think you might want to take a gander at this one:

Protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information.

I assume that includes information about one’s self.

This guideline was also listed as a priority for PR folks like you:

Be honest and accurate in all communications.

Again: I assume that also includes communications about one’s self.

But what did you do? You didn’t take responsibility for any ambiguity. You didn’t clarify the information that was yours to edit (such as your Linkedin profile). I assume you didn’t ask for clarification for the stories for which you submitted copy or to an interview (but please correct me if I am wrong).

So, in actuality? You are fine with the ambiguity.

That’s all for now. As always, if you have any comment, youcan reach me via email at marcellusmonitor_editor@yahoo.com.

Sincerely,

Amanda Gillooly, B.A. J&MC

Editor

Marcellus Monitor

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Act 13 Challengers: DEP, PUC Have No Basis for Supreme Court Reconsideration

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

Courtesy of Robert M. Donnan

By Amanda Gillooly

Editor

The law firm that led the legal challenge against a Pennsylvania law governing Marcellus Shale drilling activities this week filed a response to a motion two state agencies made earlier this month petitioning the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision that some of those regulations, collectively known as Act 13, were unconstitutional.

Attorneys for Smith Butz, the Southpointe-based firm that represented a handful of municipalities such as Cecil, Peters and Robinson townships, as well as a nonprofit and medical doctor in the challenge, filed the answer Tuesday, writing that, “Citizens respectfully request that this honorable court deny (their) request.”

In the 19-page filing, Smith Butz argues that the state Department of Environmental Protection and Public Utility Commission failed to demonstrate a compelling reason for the court to reconsider its position.

Attorneys wrote:

Reargument before an appellant court is not a matter of right, but of sound judicial discretion, and reargument will be allowed only when there are compelling reasons.”

(The DEP and PUC) presented no compelling reasons for extraordinary relief.

Attorneys from Smith Butz also wrote that the state agencies’ argument for reconsideration revolved around the standard the Supreme Court used to make its determination that portions of Act 13 violated the Pennsylvania Constitution – they specifically allege the court applied a “new” standard.

Smith Butz attorneys disagreed with this logic, writing:

(The standard used by the Supreme Court) follows the plain language of Section 27, which has been a part of the Pennsylvania Constitution for (more than) 40 years.

Agencies clearly recognized this standard, conceding that the Commonwealth…has a duty under Section 27 to conserve and maintain public natural resources.

Agencies also previously recognized that government agencies must ‘balance environmental and social concerns’ and even argued that the General Assembly did the appropriate balancing when it enacted Act 13.’

Yet now, agencies claim that they did not have an opportunity to show how Act 13 satisfies Section 27, and even argue ignorance of a balance test.

To the extent (the DEP and PUC) failed to raise argument in defense of Act 13, they cannot do so now.

A majority of the court recognized that Act 13 reflected that the General Assembly made no effort to account for local concerns or to mitigate localized impact of shale gas on the people ad their public natural resources.

…(the Supreme Court opinion) explained that Act 13’s primarily stated purpose is not to effectuate the constitutional obligation to protect and preserve Pennsylvania’s natural environment. Rather, the purpose of the statute is to provide a maximally favorable environment for industry operators.”

SmithButz attorneys also argue that the request should “be rejected because it would compromise the finality of court’s decision.”

They wrote:

“The court should not sanction an approach to the resolution of cases that does not comport with basic fairness and ultimately erodes finality and judicial economy. Because no compelling reason exists to justify reconsideration, (the DEP and PUC’s) current request fosters undue delay and creates the specter of uncertainty regarding the outcome and effect of this landmark case.”

Editor’s Note: I am having some issues with Scribd at the moment – will get a copy of this thing online ASAP. Sorry for the inconvenience! -amanda

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Range Resources Spokesman Matt Pitzarella Misrepresented Education Credentials

Editor’s Note: I called Duquesne University earlier today to verify that Matt Pitzarella had, in fact, earned a degree there. I received a response via email. Here is what I found out. -Amanda Gillooly

Range Resources Director of Corporate Communications Matt Pitzarella has long listed a master of science degree in leadership and business ethics from Duquesne University as one of his educational accomplishments – one he claimed to have earned in 2005.

That degree is listed under his educational experience on his Linkedin profile.

Matt Pitzarella Linkedin profile

In a profile piece that appeared on the website for the Cal Times (the student publication of the California University of Pennsylvania, where he earned his undergraduate degree),  contributing editor Casey Flores wrote:

Matt is a genuine success story. After graduating from Cal U with a major in public relations and minor in marketing, Matt went on to work his way up through the education and corporate world with a master’s degree in leadership and business ethics from Duquesne University. He attributes much of his success, however, to the internships he completed during his time at Cal U.

He also lists the degree on yatedo.com here.

However, an investigation into his education reveals that Pitzarella never earned a degree through Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

Marcellus Monitor received this email from the university’s Director of Communications, Tammy Ewin in response to our inquiry into Pitzarella’s degree:

Matt Pitzarella does not have a degree from Duquesne University. He attended from the spring of 2004 through fall 2004 in the master of science in leadership and business ethics program.

But that’s not the way he’s portrayed his educational accomplishments in recent publications.

Like this personal profile piece published in Southpointe Today:

Pitzarella interviewed in Southpointe Today

Pitzarella is the controversial spokesman for Range, a leader in Marcellus Shale drilling, who has often made national headlines for statements made in high-profile litigation cases.

In January 2012, he claimed a Texas man who sued Range for water contamination lied about problems he was having at his home.

One website reports that Pitzarella said the man, Steven Lipsky, “deliberately falsified an internet video of his garden hose flaming.”

Pitzarella also made national headlines when, at the Media & Stakeholder Relations: Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative 2011 conference he revealed in a presentation that Range hires veterans with combat experience in psychological warfare to influence communities in which the company drills for gas.

Pitzarella also made national headlines regarding a lifetime gag order on the minor children of a Pennsylvania family that settled a lawsuit alleging that drilling activity by the company led to water contamination.

Documents in what is known as the Hallowich case were unsealed after two Pittsburgh area newspapers petitioned the court.

The settlement agreement called for the ban, and a Range attorney later confirmed to reporters:

I guess our position is it does apply to the whole family. We would certainly enforce it.

But in what was referred to as a “PR debacle” Pitzarella later back pedaled.

According to MSN:

‘It was never, ever intended to apply to the children. There’s no mention of the children in the settlement agreement. It was always intended to apply to the parents,’ Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella told MSN News.

But the Hallowiches’ lawyer, Peter Villari, disagreed. ‘That may be their position now, based on the press they’re getting. That was not their position to the judge at the hearing, as clearly stated by their attorney.’

Pitzarella did not return a phone message Monday seeking comment on this story.

Emails sent to each of the members of Range Resources’ board of directors, as well as to senior members of management, seeking reaction were not immediately returned on Monday afternoon.

There are many published instances of high-profile executives being untruthful about the degrees they have earned.

In 2007, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette broke a story regarding Mylan executive Heather Bresch, who claimed she had a master’s degree from West Virginia University,when, in actuality, she did not.

Business Insider reported that Jack Grubman was Wall Street’s highest-paid analyst with a salary of $20 million per year until it was uncovered that he never attended MIT, as he had claimed.

To read more from Business Insider about executives who lied about their degrees, click here.

 

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Disney Pulls Out of Frack-Friendly Elementary School Education Program in Ohio

terry

It’s something that could be on “Saturday Night Live” skit.

A few years back a Marcellus Shale company created a coloring book featuring a character dubbed “Terry the Fracosaurus” to help “educate” kids about fracking.

But the industry’s most recent dip into the elementary education pool happened in Ohio, where it partnered with Disney Radio to bring school-age children programming that shed a positive light on fracking.

Disney – as in Mickey Mouse and various princesses.

But then, there’s a reason the industry targets such young minds.

Rbr.com reports that Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Production Program director Ron Grosjean said:

Kids are the best way [to spread the message]. They retain [information] – they remember it.

Indeed.

Problem is, while the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Production Program and shale industry have maintained that fracking is completely safe (look away, nothing to see here, folks), a bunch of environmental groups (as well as numerous scientific studies) refute that assessment.

And many of those environmental groups blasted the Ohio program and Disney Radio’s participation in it, saying it is nothing more than propaganda for the Marcellus Shale industry.

That pressure reportedly led Disney Radio to pull itself from the program.

Seattlepi.com on Monday morning reported:

A statement from Radio Disney said it would pull out of the final installments of the program after being “inadvertently drawn into a debate that has no connection” with the intended goal of fostering kids’ interest in science and technology.

Thoughts? Leave me a comment!

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Chinese Government-Owned Company to Drill in Greene County, PA

chinese flag

A Chinese government-owned company has entered into an agreement with a private U.S. Marcellus Shale drilling firm to develop 25 wells in Greene County, Pa., over the next year and a half.

The corporation, a subsidiary of China’s Shenhua Energy Co., the world’s largest coal producer, is reportedly drilling locally to “learn how to tap into natural gas embedded in shale,” according to Fuel Fix.

Shenhua’s domestic drilling partner, Denver-based Energy Corp. of America, confirmed in a news release that the Chinese company will contribute the first $90 million toward drilling the wells, while ECA will be the operator of the properties.

Any remaining capital expenditures will be split evenly between the two companies, according to ECA.

ECA Chief Executive Officer John Mork said of the deal:

It is only fitting for these operations to take place in Greene County. This area of Appalachia has been at the center of ECA’s Marcellus development, as well as a hotbed of Marcellus development. We have an outstanding track record there, an excellent reputation, respect from local community members and leaders, and extensive experience working in the Marcellus. And – we are experts in shale gas development. We are very pleased to be working with Shenhua on this joint venture and this is only the beginning of what, I hope, will be a long, mutually-beneficial working relationship.

Sen. Tim Solobay, D-Canonsburg, a vocal Marcellus Shale drilling proponent who supported the recently overturned Act 13, represents Greene County but did not immediately return a message on his cell phone seeking more information.

ECA’s media relations spokeswoman said Tuesday afternoon that no further information about the drilling plans were available, including where the wells will be located in Greene County.

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New PA Study Suggests Link Between Fracking and Low Birth Weight in Infants

A new study links fracking to low birth weight.

A new study links fracking to low birth weight. Photo Courtesy of Sara-Summer Oliphant

A new Pennsylvania study suggests that a pregnant mother’s proximity to Marcellus Shale fracking sites may increase the likelihood that her child is born with a low a birth weight.

The study, conducted by three researchers from Princeton and Columbia universities, as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was presented last week at the American Economic Association in Philadelphia, found that “proximity to fracking increased the likelihood of low-birth weight by more than half,” according to a report published Jan. 4 by Bloomberg.

The story indicated the researchers scoured birth records from 2004 through 2011 for infants born within a 2.5 kilometer radius of fracking sites.

That story can be viewed by clicking here.

It was noted that the new study builds on one published in 2012 by a Cornell PhD student published in 2012 that shows “that infants born near fracked gas wells had more health problems than infants born near sites that have merely been permitted for fracking,” according to Bloomberg.

To read more about that 2012 study, click here.

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