Governor Tom Corbett Was A “Good” Investment?
Commentary by S. Tom Bond, Resident Farmer, Lewis County, WV
An article published in 2011 illustrates the importance of political money to shale drilling. It was titled: ”How a natural-gas tycoon tapped into Corbett“
Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer used the public record to find who funded todays Pennsylvania Governor, Tom Corbett. In 2004 the now taken-down-a-notch Aubrey McClendon wrote $450,000 in two campaign checks that helped elect Corbett Attorney General of Pennsylvania.
Bunch says: That investment arguably changed not just the history but also the political direction of the state. The influx of cash helped Corbett narrowly win the closest attorney general’s race in Pennsylvania history and propelled him toward the governor’s mansion, where he has now pledged to turn the Keystone State into “the Texas of the natural-gas boom.”
Was McClendon a seer, or just lucky? By the time Corbett was ready to run for Governor the conflict between people in the areas being drilled, claiming property damage, ruined aquifers, adverse health effects, and environmental ruin, on one side, and the drilling companies on the other, claiming they never hurt anything, was in full swing. In that round Corbett received $1.8 million from drilling interests, according to Marcellus Money.
Similar generosity toward legislators friendly to shale drilling provided the new Governor with just enough support to carry the day. The details are well known, but too much space would be required to get into them here. Has it been a good investment for the shale drillers? It certainly has. The list of prerogatives is long. Taxes for them are minimal. Rather than tax drillers, Corbett signed a bill to cut Pennsylvania Schools $900M and cut social programs. The two biggest benefits were underfunding regulatory agencies and Act 13.
The Pennsylvania DEP regulatory agency has enough staffing to get permit papers worked through, but very little for inspections and response to citizen complaints. Act 13 was a catch all bill. Two of the most contentious provisions were to allow fracking in all zones set up by local governments, thus preempting development control by towns and counties, and interfering with the doctor-patient relationship.
Presently in Pennsylvania drilling can be done almost anywhere the space is not occupied by buildings. The Pittsburgh airport, state and local parks, national forest, near drinking water reservoirs, in built up areas, as well as private lands and forest. State universities are encouraged to lease, in order to have enough funds to operate. This in spite of the fact the industry is over produced and likely to remain that way for some time. There is no area reserved from drilling for any purpose.
As for the physicians, the Pennsylvania has legislated away the Hippocratic Oath, sworn to by nearly 100 percent of the Medical School Graduates today.
Earth Justice summarizes provisions this way: “Health professionals who are authorized to share Secret Information are likely to be responsible for ensuring that all persons receiving the information understand that it may not be communicated to anyone (except, perhaps, regulatory officials) not involved in the patient’s diagnosis and treatment. In a medical emergency, the health professional thus must ensure that a patient receiving life-saving Secret Information understands that they may not be disclosed to others who may be at risk, including family. If the Secret Information is released by persons who learned it from a health professional, and the health professional cannot prove that he or she exercised reasonable care to prevent those persons from divulging the information, the professional could be liable for damages resulting from the disclosure.”
Both local governments and at least one physician are litigating against Act 13. Publications about the new law are divided between the pro-industry and sympathetic-to-government camp on one side and the local residents and physicians groups on the other side.
Alternate sources of energy have been affected, too. No subsidies and more difficult permitting for wind and solar, even though they produce no carbon dioxide and are privately funded.
Thus, the corporate investment in candidates needed only change a few principal politicians and thus change the course of Pennsylvania law. Doubtless, what we see in this one state is true in other states, many states. Remember, “real politics” is how the pie is cut and who gets to pass out the pieces.