Tag Archives: EQT

Did A Republican Candidate in Shale-Centric PA House Race Commit Voter Fraud?

Editor’s Note: Faithful readers of Marcellus Monitor likely have noticed the vast majority of stories I’ve published over this past year have originated from southwestern Pennsylvania, or, more specifically, from Pennsylvania’s 46th Legislative District.

The sitting representative in the district, which encompasses portions of Washington and Allegheny counties, is state Rep. Jesse White, a Democrat from Cecil Township. White has been called a “watchdog” on matters pertaining to Marcellus Shale. Because of his outspoken criticism of the Marcellus Shale industry and the state Department of Environmental Protection, which is tasked with regulating it, White has been painted as the “anti-shale” candidate by some.

His opponent, Republican Jason Ortitay (who owns Jason’s Cheesecake Company) is, by contrast, largely considered the “pro-shale” candidate (in fact, EQT’s political action committee is hosting an event to benefit the first-time state representative candidate this Thursday at the Cambria Suites in Washington.

IMG_1269

By way of background, DEP recently announced it is seeking a $4.5 million fine from the company for what the department called an impoundment leak. If assessed, it will be the largest such civil penalty in state history.

All that said, this story, while a bit different from the types of investigative reports I have published in the past, is pertinent, I believe, to all those who have been following this shale-centric race, and to all those who live  or work in the 46th District. -amanda

image

(This house on Maple Avenue in Burgettstown – the home of Pam Church – is where Jason Ortitay, Republican candidate for the 46th District state House seat, said he lived when he registered to vote in Burgettstown, Washington County. Ortitay registered to vote there on the very last day he could move into the district and still, under Pennsylvania statute, be eligible to run for office during this year’s election. Photo by Faith Cotter. Taken on Oct. 13, 2014)

By Faith Cotter

Despite admitting in a recent interview that he was in between apartments at the time, Republican candidate for the 46th state House seat, Jason Ortitay, registered to vote in Burgettstown, Washington County – an address that, on paper, moved him into the district on the very last day he could and still be eligible to run for office there in this November’s general election.

photo-2 Headshot
However, state election code dictates that, by registering, a prospective voter is stating – under penalty of perjury – that they will have lived at that residence for 30 days prior to the election in which they wish to vote. But according to documents, Ortitay signed a lease in South Fayette in Allegheny – which is also in the district – just a day after registering to vote in Burgettstown. And according to documents, Ortitay never even received mail at the Burgettstown addresss.

According to a change-of-address form filled out by Ortitay on Oct. 8, 2013 – just a day after he registered to vote in Burgettstown—he had his mail forwarded from his former Pittsburgh address to his new South Fayette Township address. The change of address was scheduled to take effect just days later on Oct. 11, 2013.

photo

Had Ortitay waited to register Oct. 8 at his South Fayette address, he may not have been eligible to run for office in the 46th District because he would not have lived in the district for the amount of time required by state statute.

When asked about when he moved in and out of Church’s Burgettstown home, and why he registered there when he signed a lease in South Fayette Township only a day later, Ortitay said:

“I changed my voter registration on the last day I could. Everything I did was completely legitimate. I asked if it was legitimate, and they said yes.”

But according to obtained documents, Ortitay, on paper, was still living in a Pittsburgh apartment until Oct. 31, 2013, when the lease expired. His former Pittsburgh address is not part of the 46th District.

He then signed the new lease for his South Fayette Township apartment (in which he currently resides) on Oct. 8, 2013, the day after he registered to vote in Burgettstown.

During an interview in a Panera parking lot on Oct. 13, 2014, Ortitay was unable to provide specific dates on which he moved in and out of the Burgettstown home – or why he registered there when he signed a lease elsewhere just a day later.

Although a car was in the driveway and a light was on in Church’s home the afternoon of Oct. 13, 2014, nobody answered the door to help clarify when Mr. Ortitay allegedly resided there.

While no one answered the door there after three attempts at knocking, a neighbor across the street answered hers. The neighbor, Carrie Ferris, has resided at her home for 16 years and said that she is “pretty familiar” with the neighborhood.

After being shown a photo of Ortitay, she said, “No, I’ve never seen him around.”

According to Pennsylvania election code, a person is committing voter fraud if they, “Declare as residence a place or address which the individual knows is not the individual’s legal residence.”

If an individual is found guilty of violating this section of Pennsylvania law, which is a first-degree misdemeanor, the penalty could include a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than five years. Additionally, individuals who are found guilty of violating the statute may lose their right to vote for a period of 10 years.

According to the Criminal Law Division of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, if there is evidence of an individual committing voter fraud, the case would be investigated by the district attorney’s office in the county the individual voted in, unless there is a conflict of interest. In that case, the state Attorney General would have jurisdiction to investigate.

A phone message left with the Washington County District Attorney’s office last week was not immediately returned.

Ortitay did not return two voice mail messages left on his cell phone seeking comment on this story. He hung up on a reporter without answering during a third attempt to make contact prior to publication.

Author’s Note: Faith Cotter is an award-winning writer and editor based in Pittsburgh, PA. Her background includes working as an investigative reporter for The Innocence Institute of Point Park University. She is currently working toward a Master of Arts in Professional Writing from Chatham University. She can be reached by email at faithc3865@gmail.com, or via her website: http://faithc3865.wix.com/faithcotter

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

PA Man Petitions State to Ban Frack Ponds, Asks for Your Help

Image

By Amanda Gillooly

Pennsylvania resident Rob Slabe thinks frack pits are a travesty, a Marcellus Shale industry practice that serves as a “source of toxic waste-waters and cancer-causing agents (that) pollute our environment through leakage, spillage, and evaporation of toxic volatile organic compounds.”

His goal? To have them banned in the Keystone state.

Slabe started an online petition to that end – and as of Friday morning, more than 1,400 people had signed.

The petition reads:

Frack pits are a danger to animal, plant, and human life and have no place in our Commonwealth.

In place of the frack pit, all gas operators should be required to use some form of a closed loop system for waste storage.

We, the undersigned, demand an end to the open impoundment or frack pit and demand PA place the health and welfare of its citizens above all other interests.

To allow the continued existence of frack pits in our Commonwealth is unconscionable.

The petition will be forwarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Quality Board, which is now accepting comments on proposed regulations.

A western Pennsylvania lawmaker, state Rep. Jesse White, D-Cecil, last year introduced legislation that would ban the use of frack ponds.

That legislation is now pending, and is before the House Environmental Resources Committee.

The new Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which includes industry partners Shell, Chevron, CONSOL and EQT, have identified eliminating waste water impoundments as one of their performance standards.

Impoundments, or frack pits, are banned in North Dakota and are not used in Texas.

For more information or to sign the petition, click here.

Like us on Facebook by clicking here. Email us anytime at marcellusmonitor_editor@yahoo.com.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

UPDATED: Shale Lecture at Washington & Jefferson Explores “Social License” to Drill

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 5:22 p.m. to include information provided by W&J College about the event. -amanda

I wanted to pass along some information on a lecture happening TONIGHT at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, PA regarding Marcellus Shale drilling.

The lecture, titled “Obtaining a Social License to Operate in the Unconventional Shale Domain,” will take place at 7 p.m. in the Yost Auditorium.

Here’s how the W&J website describes the event:

The new Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), formed by a coalition of natural gas producing companies, philanthropies, and environmental groups, is a center of excellence for shale gas development. Its goal is to support continuous improvement in industrial practices through performance standards and voluntary certification. Join Andrew G. Place, Corporate Director, Energy and Environmental Policy, EQT Corporation, and Acting Interim Director of the CSSD, and Davitt Woodwell, Senior Vice President, Western Region, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, as they discuss the goals and plans of the CSSD and the challenges it faces.

The Center for Sustainable Shale Development is a nonprofit organization based n Pittsburgh. Here is a little bit of info about its mission from its website, which can be accessed here:

Focused on shale development in the Appalachian Basin, the Center provides a forum for a diverse group of stakeholders to share expertise with the common objective of developing solutions and serving as a center of excellence for shale gas development.

Funded by philanthropic foundations and participating energy companies, CSSD is intended to promote collaborative efforts by industry and its stakeholders called for by the Shale Gas Production Subcommittee of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board.

A news release from the nonprofit indicates that it was formed this past March. Here’s what Robert Vagt, president of The Heinz Endowments, had to say in the release:

“CSSD is the result of an unprecedented effort that brought together a group of stakeholders with diverse perspectives, working to create responsible performance standards and a rigorous, third-party evaluation process for shale gas operations.This process has demonstrated for us that industry and environmental organizations, working together, can identify shared values and find common ground on standards that are environmentally protective.”

While companies such as Chevron, EQT, Shell are strategic partners in this newly formed nonprofit, it appears from the website that Range Resources and MarkWest, which conduct much drilling activity in Washington County, are not among those participating.

Need more info on the nonprofit? A fact sheet can be found here.

Thinking of attending? Here’s what you need to know about getting there.

The lecture, part of an ongoing energy program at the college, is free and open to the public.

Here’s what a W&J release indicated about tonight’s event:

This evening’s lecture looks at the important issue of how natural gas producers in the Appalachian Basin achieve a social license to operate. In other words, how do they develop trust –based relationships with all of their stakeholders and with the communities within which they operate so that the communities accept or approve the producers’ ongoing presence? Recently, a coalition of natural gas producers, environmental groups and philanthropies formed the CSSD as a center of excellence for shale gas development with the ultimate goal of achieving a social license for operators in the Appalachian Basin.  The CSSD’s mission is to support continuous improvement and innovative practices through collaboratively developed performance standards and a third party certification to those standards. Representatives of the CSSD will discuss the goals of the CSSD and the challenges it faces in achieving those goals,” said Diana Stares, director for the CEPM.

Registration is suggested. Please register at http://www.washjeff.edu/center-energy-policy-management

Upcoming lectures of the Energy Lecture Series:

·         Feb. 27, 2014, 6:30 p.m.: “Thirst for Power: The Nexus of Energy & Water”

·         March 26, 2014, 6:30 p.m.: “A Vision for Coal” 

-amanda

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,