Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Frack you

This is being submitted by yours truly today to the National Park Service during their public comment period on the plans to frack the living hell out of PA upriver from our drinking water.  You can add your comments to the public record here.

Public Comment on Marcellus Shale Activities Upriver from Philadelphia March 8, 2011

My name is [QuizmasterChris] and I am a lifelong Philadelphia resident. Little needs to be added from my end on the destructive and potentially hazardous activity of fracking in Pennsylvania. The plain fact of the matter, however, is that Philadelphia's government has no jurisdiction over the rest of Pennsylvania, and there is likely little more than symbolic opposition that can be registered from that quarter.

The sad fact of the matter is that Philadelphia's top ranking Democrat, Congressman and city Party Chairman Bob Brady, receives many thousands of dollars annually directly from the industries which promote and profit from Pennsylvania fracking, and at the federal level, where it counts, he has rewarded the industry with legislation and millions of taxpayer dollars which enable natural gas to be more cheaply transported and processed in and around Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District. (That is to say that the industry is receiving subsidy which makes things cheaper for them, but the taxpayer pays multiple times, through subsidy via borrowed money, the opportunity costs of how that federal funding could otherwise be spent, and any risks associated with living alongside, downriver or downwind from these projects.)

These gifts have included working to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for dredging the Delaware River largely on behalf of the petroleum industry and the shipping corporations which service them.

Although there is no stated plan at present to move Marcellus Shale gas through Philadelphia, there is no particular reason to believe that if the region actually does end up producing 20 years of gas, or anything near that, that a set of politicians on this side of the river would not be happy to continue to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the form of pipeline subsidies to see that happen. (Another alternative is apparently to move gas as CNG, which could also be moved through our port.) As is painfully familiar this would be sold as a jobs initiative, as if government monies could not be spent to create more, better and safer jobs in any other fashion. This is the line we're sold on river dregding, military contracts, and too many other similar boondoggles to name here comprehensively.

Until the quid pro quo between extractive industries and Congressman Brady, Governor Corbett and others is confronted by local politicians and activists, events such as this (public comment period) one are rendered moot.

I am appending the relevant URLs of news stories and other data to this statement should anyone wish to fact-check.

I draw your attention to an article from the Philadelphia Business Journal dated Thursday, June 10, 2010 in which it is announced that Sunoco Logistics and MarkWest Energy Partners are partnering to pipeline and ship 50,000 barrels of Marcellus Shale gas per day through the Sunoco facility at Delmont, PA.

I draw your attention to the fact that Congressman Brady, who rarely produces any form of legislation beyond renaming post offices or commemorating anniversaries, is a House Sponsor of:

Bill H.R.6524: To authorize issuance of certificates of documentation authorizing certain vessels to engage in coastwise trade in the carriage of natural gas, and for other purposes.

There was only one other cosponsor of this bill in the House, Alaska Republican Donald Young, a wholly owned pawn of the oil industry. Introduced in December 2010, this bill, which has not yet become law, would instruct the Coast Guard to authorize the vessels LNG Gemini, LNG Leo and LNG Virgo to do coastal trade in natural gas in ports such as ours. LNG of course is Liquid Natural Gas, and the three vessels, steam turbine ships built back in the late 1970s and registered in Majuro, Marshall Islands (no doubt to avoid various regulatory responsibilities), are all operated by the Pronav Ship Management corporation. The apparent proximal purpose of clearing these vessels is to bring LNG into the Port of Philadelphia, but one wonders how long that would be economically viable should Pennsylvania become a major net exporter of gas, with a Sunoco processing facility a couple of hundred miles away, all within one state whose politicians have been purchased. The industry thinks several steps ahead on these issues and we should as well.

If Philadelphia's population could count on the congressman to work this hard to derive LIHEAP fuel from his friends in the extractive industries instead of using our funds to subsidize their business we'd all be much better off for it. The natural gas industry has given over $2.8 million to Pennsylvania politicians recently, Republicans and Democrats alike. The Marcellus Shale Coalition employs Tom Ridge outright, gave over $84,000 to Ed Rendell, over $360,000 to Tom Corbett and over $60,000 to Dan Onorato. That was our choice in the gubernatorial election, vote for the guy who is bought off by Marcellus Shale or the guy who is bought off by Marcellus Shale six times as much.


At least at the state level there were two candidates, which is more that can be said for the 1st Congressional District.

Congressman Brady in the last election cycle alone received $5,500 from Sunoco, $6000 from Sunoco in the 2008 election cycle before that, $5000 in the 2006 cycle, $2000 in the 2004 cycle and so on and so forth. These tens of thousands of dollars alone, not mentioning other funds received from Chevron and other actors in the petroleum and shipping arena, are all part of the millions in campaign funding received and curiously spent by the congressman over the past decade despite facing no primary nor any general election challenger in most races. http://www.opensecrets.org/races/contrib.php?cycle=2010&id=PA01

In 2010 Brady raised $904,748 and spent $747,603 dollars with some $701,831 still in his campaign fund. Why does a man who is the only candidate on the ballot, receiving over 99.9% of the vote in a Soviet-style election take in and spend three-quarters of a million dollars in reelection campaign funds? How much of this money comes from polluting industries such as Sunoco, Chevron, Exelon and so forth, and what do they get in return? Why does no elected official in this city take note of or speak out about this arrangement?

Until the elected officials and activists of Philadelphia confront this corrupt process, including members of their own parties who are clearly not on the people's side, but on industry's side, and at the federal and state level where real jurisdiction exists and where much of the real damage is done, one wonders what good non-binding events such as this will have at the city level. We are all downriver not only from the pollution of Marcellus Shale but also from a corrupt and malignant party politics which sells out the people of Philadelphia and of Pennsylvania to the whims of business interests.

Thank you for your time.

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