Saturday, September 18, 2010

They're Watching Us: State of PA Spying for Big Gas--Rendell Says He Didn't Know

Posted by: Noel Jones

Not quite feeling the urgent sense that your civil rights are being squeezed? Or perhaps not quite convinced that Big Gas is out to get you if you get in the way of their profits by defending your land and drinking water? If there ever was an issue to unite Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians and Green Partiers alike, it's hydrofracking for natural gas--Big Brother is alive and well in the State of PA--check out this trailer for the film GASLAND and then check out this article below from Democracy Rising:

Homeland Scrutiny

No one who knows how Harrisburg operates can be surprised that a private contractor with the state’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been discovered tracking the activity of citizens and civic groups raising concerns over Marcellus Shale drilling. More surprising is that DHS’s contractor also has been tracking the activities of religious groups, education advocates, anti-tax protesters, and just about anyone else it wants. Click here  for a column by the Post-Gazette’s Brian O’Neill.

Nor can anyone be surprised that Gov. Ed Rendell is denying knowledge of the story that first grabbed most people’s attention on Tuesday in the Harrisburg PatriotState tracking outrages foes of gas drilling . The story was based on an official bulletin leaked to ProPublica, a national organization devoted to public interest investigative reporting.

But it turns out that Rendell’s office was made aware of the contractor’s activities last week. According to ProPublica’s Marian WangRendell’s office was informed about the leaked

bulletin last Wednesday, when ProPublica broke the story and asked the governor’s office for comment.” Click here  to read her blog entry from yesterday.

Rendell captured headlines after a Tuesday evening news conference in which he described himself as “appalled” and “embarrassed” by the event, claiming he had no knowledge of the contract or the contractor’s activities. Rendell to activists: 'I apologize' , Patriot, Sept. 15.Apparently, Rendell staff didn’t think news of widespread violations of citizens’ Constitutional rights under a contract with a state agency was worth sharing with Rendell.
While the DHS has a federal mandate to seek information about potential terrorist threats to “infrastructure” and report them to state and local authorities, DHS Director James Powersacknowledged also sending information to drilling companies. "We want to continue providing this support to the Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies," Powers wrote in an email to a citizen he believed to be a supporter of drilling in northeastern PA’s Wyoming County.

Despite what appears to be a clear violation of the Constitutional rights of citizens, Rendell says he will not fire Powers. Instead, Rendell has appointed Powers to a “task force” to investigate himself. After saying Rendell would not cancel the contract, news reports now say that he has.

  • What would Powers have to do to get fired?
  • In how many other ways is state government secretly subsidizing the Marcellus Shale drillers at taxpayer expense?
  • Has Rendell received campaign contributions from the owners of the DHS contractor?
  • Was Rendell’s immediate response to this week’s Patriot story, but not last week’s ProPublica story, intended to prevent questions rather than answer them?


Anonymous said...

I got a flyer with my bill from UGI this last month updating consumers on the progress Marcellus Shale drilling. Sounded like the most innocent thing - probably something that will lower our bills. Elsewhere they are touting the business advantages to PA jobs etc. Nowhere does it say anything about ruining land and drinking water. One of the ways corporations keep getting what they want is that they know how to define an issue fast. The downside of this drilling is not getting out fast and loud enough.

noel jones said...

Anon you are absolutely right--it's not only about strong messaging strategy, but the money to implement that strategy--money for printed materials, TV commercials, campaign donations and paid lobbyists in our state government--the Big Gas companies have unlimited financial resources to draw on trying to push these permits through without safety regulations or oversight.

In my opinion, the fastest, cheapest way to spread the message about the dangers to our property rights, property values and clean drinking water is to pass around this link for the film GASLAND:

Anyone who has HBO on demand can not only watch the film, but host a get-together with friends and neighbors so that they learn about the dangers too.

Our state assembly is deliberating on this issue NOW and our state reps and senators need to hear from us in letters, emails, phone calls and letters to editors of local papers. It's critical not to wait until our drinking water is destroyed--and with it, our property values--I mean, who would want to buy a house where you can't even use the water to drink/cook/bathe in? This is what is happening just 2 hours north of us in Dimock, PA, and thousands of gas drilling permits are waiting for a green light to begin in both the Lehigh and Delaware Watersheds which give us our water. Our reps and senators need to hear from us NOW.

Links to local, state and federal government are on the right side bar of this blog--please contact our elected officials!

Anonymous said...

I think this one film isn't enough and its capacity for impact diminishing. Remember Michael Moore's film was very compelling but easy to just not see if you were predisposed to support republicans. The people who need to see this film will not choose to see it. There has to be developed another public information strategy that will cross the party lines. Maybe its really good that Towne (?) is taking a stand against because if the Tea Party people noticed how this is corporate and government overreach maybe it would make an impression on the elected officials who are trying to make it (hydrofracking) happen. Forgive the anonymous but you know? They are spying on us. And probably already know who I am anyway. I will never vote Rendell again. Ever.

Anonymous said...

State of Pa hired Israeli firm to spy on US citizens.

This is what is has come to. Our government hires a firm from a foreign country to spy on its citizens.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Here is the most disturbing statement of this story so far, from the State Director of Homeland Security to a person he thought was a pro-drilling supporter:

"We want to continue providing this support to the Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders, while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies."

So, now we get to pay taxes to pay the state salaries of people who rat out citizens to the drilling industry, who are using their independent right to question policy in open meetings.

This is the same state that cut the Pa. DER budget by 30% while over 1000 new gas wells were being tapped for operation. Is there still any doubt who Harrisburg works for?

Here is the bottom line:

They will import their key workers from out of state.

Those they hire locally will be low skill and probably end up exposed to toxins every day without disclosure.

They will steal our fresh water for fracking with impunity as the state and Basin Commissions stand by impotently.

Damage will be fobbed off on the public, as has been their MO everywhere else in the country they've touched.

Pa will become an extractive resource colony for foreign outfits like BP, Hess, etc., thwarting any effort for the state to institute investment in sustainable economic development.

And finally, when the major disaster occurs (which is unavoidable with that many wells in a dense region like Pa) they will circle the wagons, call in emergency teams from Texas and shut down the media - ensuring that the saftey of Pa residents is kept out of the hands of the sovereign citizens of the Commonwealth.

These people are goddamn scumbags and I don't care who the Hell knows I said it.


noel jones said...

Anon 8:42--very well said--you are absolutely right. What we really need is a TV commercial.

What is really frustrating me is that New Yorkers managed to secure a one-year moratorium for environmental study to establish safety standards and practices, while in PA our politicians keep telling us that a moratorium will never make it through the senate, so we should just "compromise" by going for a severance tax (meaning that PA finally stars taxing the Big Gas companies and giving that money to the state, which they haven't been doing so far, even though every other state has been for a long time).

How is paying us pennies to have our land and water and property values destroyed a good compromise?! Either the process involves 596 chemicals including known carcinogens and neurotoxins or it does not. And the sick, scared families two hours north of us who are getting clean water tanks delivered from Big Gas as a "compromise" for destroying their drinking water can tell you that it is REAL.

WE ARE ALL DOWNRIVER. 15 million of us. This is being debated in our state government RIGHT NOW. Please click the tabs on the right side bar of this blog to contact our state government officials, and also the links to Letters to the Editor pages for The Express Times and The Morning Call. If we take this lying down we will have no one but ourselves to blame when we get cancer and can't even BATHE in our own tap water. They are literally lighting their tap water ON FIRE for pete's sake. How bad does it have to get before we FIGHT?

noel jones said...

p.s. Anon 8:42--this blog is one humble attempt at another method of getting the word out, so please send a link to all friends and family so that they can not only learn the info, but have quick access to contacts to govt officials and Letters to the Editor--thx!

Anonymous said...

Well, this is where you see Bob Freeman does not hold up and thats why there were cynical disbelievers for your fandom of him during the EASC stuff. Does he stand up to the big guys? Im not seeing it.

Anonymous said...

Why is this film on demand HBO. Its ought to be on U Tube. Arent there parts that could be on U tube.

noel jones said...

Anon 7:03--good point! I found this trailer on youtube:

noel jones said...

I have posted the GASLAND trailer in a brand new post now...