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The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is an organization that the Public Accountability Initiative first touched upon in our recent report on the revolving door between Pennsylvania’s environmental regulators and the natural


The Pennsylvania Environmental Council is an organization that the Public Accountability Initiative first touched upon in our recent report on the revolving door between Pennsylvania’s environmental regulators and the natural gas industry. The group is perhaps the most prominent voice on environmental issues in the state of Pennsylvania and often provides representatives to Commonwealth boards, commissions, and panels. Its mission statement reads:

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) protects and restores the natural and built environments through innovation, collaboration, education and advocacy. PEC believes in the value of partnerships with the private sector, government, communities and individuals to improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.

On the fracking issue, PEC has positioned itself as a moderate, calling itself “the voice of reason.” It has called for a severance tax in Pennsylvania, but supports drilling in the Marcellus asserting “[i]t is widely considered that the Marculle [sic] Shale play offers an abundant fuel to help bridge the gap between today’s energy portfolio and a future supply that reflects both a reduced carbon footprint and reduce dependence on foregin [sic] sources of energy.”

Pennsylvania Environmental Council-Natural Gas Ties

Anthony Bartolomeo, the PEC board chair, is President & CEO of Pennoni Associates, an environmental engineering firm and member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC)
Carol McCabe, vice chair, is a partner at Manko Gold Katcher & Fox, an environmental law and lobbying firm with a Marcellus Shale practice and strong ties to Pennsylvania environmental regulatory bodies. Manko Gold is a MSC member
Gary Brown, treasurer, is President of RT Environmental Services, a MSC member environmental engineering and consulting firm.
Seth Cooley is an attorney at Duane Morris LLP, a law firm with a Marcellus Shale practice that has lobbied for Aqua America, Synagro Technologies, Global Geophysical Services, MicroSeismic Inc., Burleson LLP, Elliot Company, and Pennoni Associates.
Tomlinson Fort is a senior program manager at Apex Companies, LLC. Apex is an environmental consultant servicing the energy industry providing “planning and permitting, assessment and remediation, regulatory negotiation, health and safety, transactional, rapid response, and outsourced staffing support to oil, gas, and power generation clients.”
David A. Gallogly is president of Letterle Associates, an environmental consulting firm. He previously worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (the predecessor to the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) and as manager of environmental affairs for the United Refining Company.
Kevin Garber is an attorney and shareholder at Babst Calland, a law firm and member of the MSC.
Brian Grove is a senior director for corporate development at Chesapeake Energy, a MSC board member. He is also the former chief of staff for Pennsylvania State Senator Lisa Baker (R.-20th District).
Philip Hinerman is the co-chair of the environmental law group at Fox Rothschild, LLP, a law firm that is a member of the MSC.
John T. Hines, who spent 18 years at the Department of Environmental Protection, is now the government relations advisor to Shell Oil, a MSC board member.
Michelle McGregor-Smith was previously the practice leader in environmental health and safety for URS Canada-Vancouver, an engineering and services company “serving every major active North American oil and gas basin.” URS is a MSC member. McGregor-Smith now works for Elliott Company, which “supplies and services turbomachinery for the full spectrum of oil and gas, refining, LNG, petrochemical and other process and power applications.”
Robert B. McKinstry, Jr. is a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP working on environmental issues and energy project finance. Ballard Spahr has an oil and gas practice.
Thomas E. Rodriguez is a principal geologist at ARCADIS U.S., which “provides consultancy, design, engineering and management services” to the oil and gas industry.
Steven W. Saunders is principal in Saunders Law LLC, an oil and gas-specific law firm.
E. Mitchell Swan is an engineer at MDC Systems, a consulting firm that has been active in the Marcellus Shale, especially around water treatment.
Amy Trojecki previously worked as a lawyer at Ballard Spahr and is now a regulatory strategy manager at Exelon Corporation.

Further, three directors emeriti listed on PEC’s website are from MSC companies:

Nicholas DeBenedictis is the chairman, president, and CEO of Aqua America, a water utility and MSC member. He is also on the board of directors of Exelon Corporation.
Joseph M. Manko is a named partner in the law firm Manko Gold Katcher & Fox, a MSC member. He also serves on rules committee of the state’s Environmental Hearing Board, the body that adjudicates appeals from Department of Environmental Protection actions. Another partner in the firm, Marc E. Gold, is an attorney for the MSC itself.
Franklin Kury is listed as representing the law firm Reed Smith Shaw & McClay, a MSC member, though his profile at the government affairs firm Malady & Wooten LLP says Kury left Reed Smith in 2003. Kury is a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and is registered as a lobbyist representing Northeastern Resources Development Corp and ExxonMobil.

Ostensibly dedicated to environmental protection and restoration, PEC’s permissive stance on fracking becomes more understandable in light of their extensive ties to the natural gas industry. All but two of the group’s eighteen directors work for companies with a stake in the energy industry, either as a driller such as Chesapeake Energy or as a service-provider such as the law and lobbying firm Duane Morris, which has a Marcellus Shale practice. Half of the board works for companies that are members of the gas industry advocacy group the Marcellus Shale Coalition (See table in sidebar).

The PEC is active in a wide variety of environmental issues in the state, operating “centers of excellence” in water resources, sustainable communities, and energy and climate. Though the group is not solely active in Marcellus Shale issues, the proportion of pro-fracking interests represented in PEC’s leadership raises questions about the group’s endorsement of natural gas. Does PEC back fracking to “bring about sustainable communities, protect our water resources, and address energy and climate issues?” Or is the group rather a mouthpiece for the Marcellus Shale Coalition?

Gas industry mouthpiece?

Telling, perhaps, is PEC’s decision to bestow former Governor Tom Ridge with a lifetime achievement award “for his achievements as a champion of the environment” in 2012. Ridge left the governor’s office to become the nation’s first Secretary of Homeland Security, after which he founded two consulting and lobbying firms, Ridge Global LLC and Ridge Policy Group, which were the recipients of a one year $900,000 contract to lobby for the Marcellus Shale Coalition. During this time, Ridge appeared on the Colbert Report to dispute water contamination claims and to promote fracking as a pathway to energy security. (It is worth noting that on the show Ridge explicitly denied being a lobbyist, despite being registered as such at the time and despite his firms’ contracts with the Marcellus Shale Coalition.)

Also telling is the PEC-run website Marcellus Facts, which aggregates news stories about the Marcellus Shale from local and national sources. Included among these stories are press releases from the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which is listed as a news source at the bottom of the page, without identifying them as coming from the gas industry.

The website also has, along its sidebar, a feed from the Twitter account paenvirodigest, which is “the instant news feature of,” a blog written by former DEP Secretary David Hess. Hess is now the director of policy and communications for the government affairs firm Crisci Associates, and a registered as a lobbyist for Aqua America, Exelon, Shipley Energy, Dominion, Interstate Gas Supply, Covanta, and the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association, as well as for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

Further, among the news sources linked at the bottom of the Marcellus Facts page is former DEP Secretary John Hanger‘s “Facts of the Day” blog. Hanger is now of special counsel to the law firm Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, which describes itself as representing “every segment of the natural resources industry.” Hanger appeared in the pro-fracking film Truthland, conceived of by the industry public relations group Energy in Depth, in 2012 and is currently running for governor.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Council does not only have ties to the oil and gas industry, however. The group also has a close relationship with Pennsylvania government, especially the state’s environmental regulators. Given the PEC’s capture by the petroleum industry, it is troubling that Pennsylvania’s regulators rely on the group’s counsel for the environmental perspective.

Regulatory ties

When Tom Corbett became governor in 2011, he assembled a transition team tasked with “reviewing the operations of the state government departments and agencies under the governor’s jurisdiction and [preparing] a transition report.” The Energy and Environment committee of this team included three people tied to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. Don Welsh was a former president of the council, Ellen Ferretti was the vice president of PEC’s northeast regional office and went on to become Corbett’s Deputy Secretary for Parks and Forestry at the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Nicholas DeBenedictis, who is a chairman emeritus at PEC and is chairman and CEO of Aqua America as mentioned in the sidebar above.

The Energy and Environment transition team was the precursor to the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission, which was instructed to review existing and proposed laws and regulations pertaining to Marcellus Shale development and provide recommendations on additional steps to protect the environment, efforts to promote the environmentally-sound development of natural gas resources, policies to encourage the use of natural gas and its byproducts, and proposals to address the impact of fracking on local communities. As described in PAI’s report on the regulatory revolving door, this commission was stacked with industry representatives, including Pennsylvania Environmental Council chairman Anthony Pennoni.

Furthermore, three people tied to the Pennsylvania Environmental Council – director Philip Hinerman, director emeritus Joseph Manko, and legislative counsel Thomas W Scott – serve on the rules committee of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Hearing Board, the trial court that hears appeals from Department of Environmental Protection actions.

Lastly, PEC director John Hines came to the council from a regulatory position. Prior to his job lobbying for Shell Oil and Gas, Hines was Deputy Executive Secretary for programs at the Department of Environmental Protection under Michael Krancer. While at the DEP, Hines authored a controversial e-mail detailing a new policy requiring all enforcement actions to be approved by himself or another top DEP staffer and cleared with Krancer. The policy, described by PennFuture’s Jan Jarrett as “a clear strategy to chill enforcement of gas drilling,” was rescinded after much protest.

Advocating a pro-fracking position and almost entirely captured by oil and gas industry representatives, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council seems to be part of a trend aiming to greenwash the natural gas industry. Like the American Clean Skies Foundation, the PEC presents a gas-friendly message, though perhaps more furtively than the Chesapeake Energy front group. PEC’s ties to both natural gas and to Pennsylvania’s environmental regulators represent a troubling synergy giving the industry more influence over natural gas policy in the guise of environmental protection.

The ties in this article and in the Pennsylvania revolving door report were can be found on LittleSis, PAI’s tool for researching connections between powerful people and organizations.

Data can also be added to LittleSis by clicking here to register for free.

Click here to read PAI’s full report “Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania.”