Strange chaotic things have been going on at the DRBC recently as members have been replaced, damaging info has been leaked and protests needlessly spurred.
Yesterday, I noted the rumors I had earlier heard and my suppositions regarding the same appeared to be correct. DRBC folks and friends began leaking word all over the place that the agency was set to announce pursuit of a permanent ban on Friday. Our fibbing, supposedly in the know, commenter by the name of “Alphege Hamilcar” suggested it would be on the DRBC website the next day. He/she also wrote to me later to say it was all public knowledge, except it wasn’t.
Someone also leaked to Mike Rubiunkam and told him the news would come Friday, leading to an AP announcement indicating this, which, curiously also quoted Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Povertykeeper. Yet, nothing appeared on the website yesterday, so something, obviously, went wrong but enormous damage has already been done to the DRBC as incompetence has been piled on top of corruption.
The DRBC was once a highly competent agency with a well-defined mission. Then, thanks to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, Carol Collier was made Executive Director. The rest of the story might be called “Going Bad 2” as the agency brought the Delaware Riverkeepwr a/k/a Povertykeeper inside, involved it in most of its committees and treated the radical group like a family member. It took money from the Riverkeeper’s sugar-daddy funder, the William Penn Foundation, even as the former sued it.
Despite having a majority composed of the same members as its sister agency, the SRBC, the DRBC deliberately bungled early discussion of the gas issue. This allowed the Riverkeeper and allies groups to control the narrative, build public opposition and provide an excuse for doing nothing as the SRBC was smartly moving ahead in a competent way that has now been proven to have delivered both economic development and environmental protection.
Collier’s cozy relationship with the William Penn Foundation, which later proposed to put her on its board and finally rewarded her compliant tenure at the DRBC with a golden parachute into a job at the Academy of Natural Sciences, was reflected everywhere at the end. She used its money to conduct never-ending studies on never-adopted gas regulations she had stage-managed to a standstill. It was totally corrupt, incompetence being a strategically employed asset to the greater cause.
When Steve Tambini took over, it appeared things might be making a turn for the better. A non-ideological professional engineer by training, he seemed like a good fit to slowly get things back on course, straighten out the agency and restore its reputation. I have no doubt those are, in fact, his motives, having met the man and observed him in action. He’s no Carol Collier.
Still, the problems with the DRBC remain. The corruption is deep and may be beyond the ability of one man to conquer. What’s happened the last few months demonstrates that corruption, along with a new brand of incompetence, are as rife as ever.
First, we saw both Collier and Tambini bizarrely testify in Federal Court in Scranton, under pressure from the Wayne Land and Minerals Group, that the DRBC had never taken position on gas drilling and that anyone could come in the door at any time for project review. The testimony from both was highly coached and the judge was thoroughly unimpressed, ultimately kicking the case upstairs to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals for decision on any merits. The DRBC brief in preparation for oral argument scheduled in early November is likewise singularly unimpressive and suggests the agency knows it’s at high risk of losing any authority to regulate gas well pads and much else, although it would, like the SRBC, still have ability to regulate water withdrawals and disposals.
When the Federal District Court’s decision came down, making it clear the Collier and Tambini testimony did not sell with the courts, the Delaware Riverkeeper (an intervenor in the case), together with NRDC gang allies, launched a petition drive for a permanent ban. The source of instigation for this maneuver is not specifically clear, but we can imagine it came in part from the William Penn Foundation and friends who have funded these groups as well as the DRBC. The petition effort was, it appears in retrospect, designed to give the DRBC cover for exploring a permanent ban later . It was a way to do an end-run around the lawsuit and/or demonstrate solidarity with fractivists in the event of a loss that would finally open up the region for gas drilling in a few counties.
As this deceitful strategy was discussed among the players, though, things seem to have gone awry. Loose lips in Harrisburg and leaking by DRBC folks and friends let the word out prematurely that this was in the works. This not only alerted landowners but, also, apparently, the fractivists on the dark side. Tracy Carcluccio couldn’t wait to talk. Neither could the Catskill Mountainkeeper or the Sierra Club. Now, they’re planning rallies at the DRBC meeting next week to celebrate, influence and propagandize. Chaos is about to ensue yet again and the DRBC has never looked more incompetent.
Who lets word out four to five days ahead of a meeting that an announcement is coming, when it’s clear such an announcement would betray a back-room deal? Only those who benefit by the chaos and the free publicity. That’s not Steve Tambini, who, if nothing else, is a very orderly guy who makes sure his desk is clean at the end of the day. No, this is the work of rats on the ship; other DRBC staff or the staff of DRBC members allied with the William Penn Foundation and its radical shills.
They’re maneuvering, creating the chaos they know will paralyze the DRBC and prevent it from adopting gas regulations (the only logical response to the lawsuit against the agency). Moreover, if they get a ban, so much the better; that will tie things up several years longer in lawsuits, which will allow the William Penn Foundation and its allies at the Open Space Institute still more time to lock up land and make the wilderness they so desire.
Meanwhile, Tom Wolf has taken over as DRBC chair. Wolf has resonated incompetence from the beginning of his administration. There is also a new 2nd alternate for Pennsylvania on the Commission, Lisa Daniels, as the Pennsylvania DEP becomes increasingly political not only with respect to methane emissions but, seemingly, everything.
Wolf is treating DEP as a bit of a plaything it appears and the fact this all happens as the DRBC goes into erratic overdrive is no coincidence. There’s also a new Army Corps of Engineers representative on the Commission and I have to wonder if Wolf isn’t trying to exploit the transition period when the new representatives haven’t yet caught up with the internal politics of the DRBC.
It’s all, in other words, a gigantic mess and Tambini may well have lost control; undermined by the Collier staff he retains, legal representatives closely aligned with the William Penn Foundation (as well as Collier) and DRBC committee members accustomed to manipulating the agency from outside. Wolf is also there as a useful idiot to be exploited by these folks. Several members of the Haas family have donated to his campaigns, after all.
All we know for certain is that no responsible public agency would act this way and, if honest reporters want a real story, they’ll dig into these relationship and expose the corruption behind the incompetence of the DRBC.
Meanwhile, it is urgent reader makes some calls and demand an end to this farce and defunding and eventual dissolving of this agency:
PA Governor Wolf – 717-787-2500
PA Congressman Tom Marino – 202-225-3731
NY Congressman Faso – 202-225-5614
PA US Senator Toomey – 202-224-4254
Also, when calling Wolf, be aware that person answering the phone may not even ask for your name and try to blow off your call, according to those who have done so. They apparently claim to know nothing about it at the Governor’s office. So, how was it leaked to AP and why did the Deputy Riverkeeper a/k/a Povertykeeper seemingly know about it before AP? That’s another question that might be asked when you’re calling.