Government puts monitoring advocacy groups above protecting drinking water

Another scandal surfaced in the Pennsylvania drilling world today – this time with a twist: in an email he accidentally sent to an anti-drilling advocate, the head of the state’s Office of Homeland Security revealed he has been monitoring groups fighting to protect against health & environmental risks associated with fracking and reporting back to gas companies. You read that right.

To quote State Homeland Security Director James Powers' email directly: “We want to continue providing this support to the Marcellus Shale formation natural gas stakeholders, while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies.”

The irony here is painful. The government won’t protect Americans from health & environmental risks associated with natural gas drilling, but they will protect gas companies from those Americans. It can’t regulate this heavy industrial activity that transforms communities and threatens grave health & environmental risks – but it can let the gas companies know which public meetings concerned citizens plan to attend.

If there is a concern about violence, of course, that would be one thing. The official did indicate the groups are being monitored because there have been “five to 10” incidents of vandalism related to the industry – and that’s not an act we support. But meanwhile, hundreds of residents have reported concerns – that many could themselves interpret as violent – that gas drilling may be tied to home explosions, flammable tap water and health issues. Yet the comapnies are still operating, right in their backyards. Who’s watching them?

This raises so many (more) questions about how gas companies are operating in Pennsylvania and perhaps even around the country. As an advocate for protecting against threats from gas drilling – I can’t help but wonder:

-Whose idea was this in the first place?

-Has any of this information been reported to the federal government?

-Is this really just a ploy to spy on advocacy groups concerned about drilling’s risks?

-What information did the PA Office of Homeland Security give to the government?

-Who exactly are they monitoring and how? Are they tapping our phones? Reading our email?

-Why can’t they figure out a way to protect citizens instead?

-What’s next?