The Raging Chicken Press has obtained an email and letter from Amber Benzon, Director of Government Affairs at the Marcellus Shale Coalition. The letter shows support for Representative Pyle’s and Senator Scarnati’s House Bill 1576 and Senate Bill 1047, and was signed by James Welty, Vice President of Government Affairs at the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Stephanie Catarino Wissman, Executive Director at Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania and Lou D’Amico, President and Executive Director at the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association.
In our first story on House Bill 1576, we highlighted Representative Pyle’s associations with the oil and gas industry. Representative Pyle claimed that he authored the bill because of a government shakedown against his school district during a renovation project that affected the habitat of the Indiana bat. The school district paid $61,800 to the Indiana Bat Fund and the donation was 0.1 percent of the total budgeted project. At the same time of these events, John Stilley’s – Representative Pyle’s largest campaign contributor – company, Amerikohl Mining, filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the United States Fish and Wildlife Services for a $316,000 donation to the Indiana Bat Fund. We have obtained the lawsuit in questions from the Game Commission through a Right to Know request and are currently vetting the documents received through that request. Our first story also highlighted the campaign donations that all the Republican members on the House Environmental and Energy Commission, the article states:
According to VoteSmart.org, the 15 republicans in the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee have received over $128,000 in donations from the energy industries, and some of the largest recipients include: Tim Krieger ($10,150), Donna Oberlander ($11,000), Eli Evankovich ($15,000), Jim Christiana ($21,250) and Jeff Pyle (31,660). These six representatives received close to $90,000 from the fossil fuel extraction industry. Protecting the little brown bat means that some industries, like the fossil fuel industries in the Commonwealth, would have some hindrance, but they don’t have to worry with those 6 representatives in their back pockets.
Then in our second story, we published a letter from Senator John Gordner to a constituent on Senate Bill 1047, the companion legislation to HB 1576. In his letter, Gordner claimed that SB 1047 “strikes an appropriate balance between the need to protect critical habitat and species while not putting the Commonwealth at a competitive disadvantage.” His motive behind this letter was to blame the failure of a solar farm array on the spadefoot toad, an endangered species in Pennsylvania, but is common throughout the Northeastern United States. Senator Gordner’s letter was partially correct, but the ultimate failure for that project fell on the local Chamber of Commerce and the lack of funding for the project. The article also noted that this legislation will put 62 state specific endangered and threatened species at risk to losing their protection status. The Pennsylvania Game and Boat Commission highlighted the dangers of this legislation and stated:
These bills appear to provide protection only to federally listed threatened and endangered species that are rare within Pennsylvania,but not globally rare will be protected. Effectively conserving species at the state level prevents regional and range-wide declines that require federal listings…
Sixty-two species are currently listed by the PFBC as threatened and endangered in Pennsylvania. Re-evaluating listing status within two years will be virtually impossible, which means that many species will go unprotected.
Now, the Raging Chicken Press has obtained an email and letter from Big Gas that shows support for the letter. In Amber Benzon’s email, she states:
On behalf of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association, attached is our associations’ letter of support for Rep. Jeff Pyle’s Endangered Species Coordination Act legislation HB 1576. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions.
One point of contention in this letter is the lobbying groups support of the gag order against public dissemination of habitat destruction. The letter reads:
We also support the prohibition on disclosing sensitive data to anyone other than consultants, scientists, planners associated with a proposed development or project to ensure that access to the data is truly limited and confidential.
The letter of support, which can be viewed below in a scribd bar, mirrors the same business friendly rhetoric that Representative Pyle and Senator Gordner have used when talking about this legislation. It has become apparent that this legislation has nothing to with ecology or conservation biology, and has everything to do with getting every last drop of viable natural gas out of the ground even if it means destroying the habitats of rare, threatened and endangered species in the peoples’ Commonwealth.