Fresh off his state’s radioactive river scandal, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has once again landed in hot water (no pun intended) over a line in his proposed budget which hands the energy executive he appointed to head the state’s economic development agency "supreme" decision-making power to fast-track gas drilling permits in the state.
The man who would be king is Bradford Energy CEO C. Alan Walker (no word on whether he’s related to a certain Wisconsin governor). He’s given $184,000 in campaign contributions to Corbett (naturally). Also worth noting is that Corbett took more gas industry contributions than all his competitors combined during his recent election.
Pennsylvania has already been doling out drilling permits fast and furiously, spurred by a regional gas drilling rush and the development of a lucrative and controversial gas extraction technique (known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking) in which drillers blast millions of gallons of chemically treated water into the ground to force gas out. In the mad dash, Pennsylvania regulators have found themselves scrambling to respond to the multiplying reports of polluted air and water.
ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten broke the story, in which Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg calls this sort of power transfer unprecedented.
“I have never seen anybody give an economic development director the authority to tell every other agency in the state what to do with regard to its statutory responsibilities … The law requires that you not pollute the waters of Pennsylvania, and if he tries to speed up an application that makes it possible that that is going to happen then I think he is clearly operating outside of his authority.”
Rachel Maddow invited Lustgarten on to her show last night in a segment titled “Handing the Environmental Henhouse To The Foxes”
In it, she asks incredulously if Corbett’s power play is even legal. A better question might be: is it even constitutional? Deborah Goldberg reminds readers that the U.S. Constitution does not allow state decisions to trump federal requirements. The oil and gas industry already has plenty of loopholes in the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and others. Does Corbett actually think he can bypass these laws entirely in order to cram as many drilling rigs into his state as quickly as possible?
If so, he’s got another thing coming.
In other fracking news: New Jersey lawmakers unanimously approve a statewide fracking ban and frack-filled Wyoming is now officially more smoggy than Los Angeles.
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