The extent to which the oil and gas industry has come to dominate policymaking processes surrounding fracking and related infrastructure is evident in the composition of a pipeline advisory panel recently set up by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.
Gov. Wolf’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force was charged with formulating a plan for the build out of the state’s pipeline infrastructure over the next decade. Although a purported goal of the task force is to plan, site, and route pipelines in a way that reduces community impact, representatives from impacted communities on the task force are vastly outnumbered by representatives of the oil and gas industry.
The Public Accountability Initiative (PAI) analyzed the composition of the task force and found a staggering level of industry representation among non-governmental representatives on the panel – 23 out of 25, or 92%, have ties to the industry. Additionally, several government representatives on the panel, including two aides to Gov. Wolf, have strong revolving door ties to the industry. Key findings are below.
PAI undertook the analysis after early signs that the panel was stacked in favor of industry. In one task force meeting, the chairman, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley, told members that the task force presented an opportunity to build an “acceptance of the [pipeline] industry” among the public. In July, news broke that an environmental activist named to the task force had been subsequently excluded from it. A DEP representative explained the exclusion by saying that “we felt others on the Task Force would better represent the wide-range of citizen perspectives on pipelines.”
The PAI analysis shows that the range of community perspectives represented on the committee is, in fact, extremely narrow, and almost entirely limited to the oil and gas industry.
PAI analyzed the industry ties of all 48 task force members, classifying members’ ties as direct or indirect. Industry ties were classified as ‘direct’ if the task force member is employed by an oil and gas company, if they currently lobby for an oil and gas company, or if they are employed by a company that is a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition lobbying group. Members with former industry positions, current positions at companies or organizations that contract with the industry (including the steamfitters union) were classified as having ‘indirect’ ties.
- 92% of the non-governmental members of the task force have oil and gas industry ties, or 23 out of 25 non-governmental task force members.
- When governmental representatives are included, individuals with oil and gas industry ties are in the majority on the panel – 54%, or 26 of the 48 members.
Governmental representatives with oil and gas industry ties include officials who have passed through the revolving door from regulating the industry to working for it or vice versa.
Two task force representatives, Sarah Battisti and Wayne Gardner, were high-ranking political officials before joining the energy industry. Battisti was former Governor Ed Rendell’s Deputy Chief of Staff before working at the natural gas company BG Group, and she is currently the Director of Government Affairs at Southwestern Energy. Gardner was the commissioner of the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission until April 2013, after which he launched his own energy services consulting firm, W E Gardner Company, LLC.
- Both task force members from the governor’s office are former employees of Marcellus Shale Coalition law firms.
John Hanger was Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection until 2011 when he joined the law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, which represents oil and gas companies and is a member of the oil and gas lobbying group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Hanger became Gov. Wolf’s Secretary for Policy and Planning when Wolf took office in January 2015.
David Sweet, for whom Gov. Wolf created a new position to oversee Pennsylvania’s energy and manufacturing sectors, was a lobbyist for companies that profit from the production and/or transportation of natural gas immediately before accepting the position. The companies Sweet represented include EQT, General Electric, Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, Koch Companies Public Sector, Norfolk Southern Railway, Navigator Holdings, PECO Energy Solutions, and The Williams Companies. Three of these companies, EQT, Kinder Morgan, and Williams, also have representatives on the task force.
- There are only three task force members representing the interests of local governments, county governments, and historical, cultural, and tribal interests.
At the same time, there are more task force members representing individual oil and gas industry segments than the above-mentioned constituencies combined. There are six task force members representing the pipeline industry, for example, and five representing unconventional oil and gas.
Even the one member whose task force role is described as “Historical/Cultural/Tribal” has industry ties. Curtis Biondich is a project manager at TRC Solutions, an environmental consulting company that is a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
- Two of the four task force members tasked with safeguarding the environment have industry ties.
Michael C Gross is an attorney at Philadelphia-based law firm Post & Schell, which represents oil and gas companies, including pipeline operators. Just 11 days after Gross was appointed to the task force, Post & Schell joined the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Davitt Woodwell is President of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and a director of the $60,600 in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests since 2014, chose Terry Bossert, a lobbyist for Range Resources, as his task force appointee.
Summary Table: Pipeline Task Force Industry Ties
|Direct industry tie||Indirect industry tie||No industry tie found||Total|
Table: Task Force Members & Industry Ties
|Name||Role on task force||Industry tie||Type of industry tie|
|Sarah Battisti||Unconventional Oil and Gas||Southwestern employee||Direct|
|Curtis Biondich||Historical/Cultural/Tribal||Project manager at TRC Solutions, an environmental consultant and member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition||Indirect|
|Terry Bossert||Senate President Pro Tempore Appointment||Range Resources employee||Direct||Dave Callahan||Pipeline Industry||Vice President of Government Affairs at MarkWest Energy Partners & Vice Chair of the Marcellus Shale Coalition||Direct|
|Keith Coyle||Pipeline Safety and Integrity||Coyle’s firm Van Ness Feldman lobbies federally for oil and gas companies, including pipeline giant Kinder Morgan||Indirect|
|Fredrick Dalena||Unconventional Oil and Gas||EQT employee||Direct|
|Joe Fink||Pipeline Industry||COO of CONE Midstream Partners, a partnership of CONSOL and Noble Energy||Direct|
|Anthony Gallagher||Workforce/Economic Development||Business Manager of Steamfitters Local 420, a union whose members install and service pipelines||Indirect|
|Wayne E Gardner||Natural Gas End User||Former Public Utility Commissioner and former PECO Energy (now Exelon) employee; represents natural gas end users||Direct|
|Nicholas Geanopulos||Conventional Oil and Gas||Unclear what his company Geanopoulos Representations does, but is listed as a representative of the conventional oil and gas industry||Direct|
|Michael C Gross||Environmental Protection||Gross’s firm Post & Schell is a Marcellus Shale Coalition member||Direct|
|Mark Gutshall||Conservation and Natural Resources||LandStudies consults and provides environmental design and build for the oil and gas industry among other clients||Indirect|
|John Hanger||State Government||Former DEP Secretary, attorney at Marcellus Shale Coalition member Eckert Seamans, incorporated the industry-backed Center for Sustainable Shale Development||Indirect|
|Walter R Hufford||Unconventional Oil and Gas||Talisman/Repsol employee||Direct|
|Thomas Hutchins||Pipeline Industry||Kinder Morgan employee||Direct|
|Cindy Ivey||Pipeline Industry||Public outreach at Williams Companies||Direct|
|Joseph McGinn||Pipeline Industry||Senior manager of public affairs at Sunoco Logistics Partners LP||Direct|
|David Messersmith||Agriculture||Researcher at Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, which is funded by ExxonMobil and GE||Indirect|
|Lauren Parker||Speaker of the House Appointee||Civil & Environmental Consultants consults for the industry and is a member of Marcellus Shale Coalition||Direct|
|Duane Peters||Pipeline Industry||Employee of TRC Solutions, a Marcellus Shale Coalition company||Indirect|
|Mark Reeves||Unconventional Oil and Gas||Shell employee||Direct|
|Cristina Jorge Schwarz||Natural Gas End User||Business Development Manager of Apex Companies, LLC, consulting firm for oil and gas companies and Marcellus Shale Coalition member||Direct|
|David Sweet||State Government||Special assistant to the governor for energy and advanced manufacturing, former lobbyist at Buchanan Ingersoll representing many oil and gas clients, on a legal team with Carlyle Group that created Philadelphia Energy Solutions||Indirect|
|Steve Tambini||Federal Government||Former VP of American Water, a Marcellus Shale Coalition member||Indirect|
|Justin Trettel||Unconventional Oil and Gas||Rice Energy employee||Direct|
|Davitt Woodwell||Environmental Protection||Board member at the Center for Sustainable Shale Development and President of Pennsylvania Environmental Council, both backed by the oil and gas industry and have taken industry-friendly positions||Indirect|