Laura Legere, long-time lackey for the fractivist cause, has produced another hit piece on the natural gas industry that leaves out the most important facts.
Laura Legere is no journalist. She’s a hard-core advocate playacting as one and always has been. A weekend story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Philadelphia Inquirer, to which she “contributed,” is just the latest fusillade aimed at an industry she has long despised. When Laura was still at the Scranton Times, I once did an analysis of her natural gas coverage over the preceding year and found she had written nearly 40 stories on the subject, all but one of which were relentlessly negative. She is anything but objective and that has been proven yet again with this latest phony hit piece aimed at the industry in regard to the Pennsylvania severance tax debate. Fortunately, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) is fighting back.
The story is supposedly authored by the Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau, but a note at the bottom tells us Laura Legere was instrumental in planning this attack on the industry. Her fingerprints are all over it. Like every one of her pieces on natural gas, it takes a dozen shots at the industry before allowing any rebuttal, painting the industry as some sort of massive corporate network that overwhelms the influence of others when, in fact, just the opposite is true.
The MSC, in a very detailed response to the hit piece, notes it’s public employee unions and those who are indebted to them who are massively and “lavishly” lobbying for the severance tax to rescue a way too generous public pension system for their benefit:
The article exclusively “investigates” spending by energy-related industry groups and companies, but ignores the “lavish” – to borrow the papers’ term – campaign contributions and lobbying activity of government unions, for example.
These groups – which have aggressively lobbied and campaigned for massive energy tax increases mainly through the CLEAR Coalition – have spent more than twice as much compared to natural gas industry, according to state data.
So, why didn’t the reporters – who had this publicly available information – care to share it with their readers? We’re wondering the same thing.
Here’s one of the many data points reflecting the massive lobbying influence by public sector unions:
“The eight largest natural gas political action committees (PAC) reported spending $1.1 million in Pa. during the 2016 election cycle; however, that amount pales in comparison to government union spending. The thirteen largest government union PACs reported $7.8 million in political contributions. The Pa. State Education Association alone more than doubled the spending of these natural gas PACs combined, spending $2.7 million compared to the natural gas industry’s $1.1 million.” (2/16/17)
In fact, ramming through higher energy taxes has been and continues to be a top priority for these public sector organizations that include the SEIU, AFSCME, PSEA, UFCW, and AFT of Pa., among others. These groups continue to falsely claim that revenues from higher energy taxes would benefit classroom teachers, when the reality is it would be directed to the state’s pension deficit.
The reporters also forgot to mention that in addition to the lobbying efforts, public sector unions have invested millions in campaign contributions through their PACs and member dues to advance their efforts. Through their special interest organization – the CLEAR Coalition – they have falsely advanced a narrative that is often times untrue and inaccurate.
So who exactly is the CLEAR Coalition?
And why not – at minimum – inform readers of the lobbying and digital advocacy efforts (see below) undertaken by the CLEAR Coalition?
ABC 27: “She was speaking as part of the pro-[public sector] union CLEAR Coalition rally calling for an extraction tax on Marcellus Shale drillers. The group insists that had there been an extraction tax since 2009, state coffers would be $2 billion richer. That’s a significant number since the state’s facing a $2 billion deficit and still looking for ways to fund the $32 billion, 2017-18 budget it passed just last week. They say the answers easy and wonder why the legislature continues to pass on gas.”
Pottstown Mercury: “Standing on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse Thursday, three area Democratic state lawmakers joined members of the Clear Coalition to demand a 5-percent extraction tax on natural gas be included in the 2017-18 state budget.”
CBS Radio Philadelphia: “Local politicians, labor leaders and community activists are calling on the House to return from recess and pass a tax on natural gas extracted from the Marcellus Shale formation. As Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan points out, the Commonwealth isn’t the only state that’s drilling for gas, but it is the only state in the nation that does not place an extraction tax on corporations.”
Social Media Activism
The MSC nails it with these examples and illustrates the big lie fractivists and their media shills such as Laura Legere have been telling for a long time; that lobbying by the gas industry dwarfs that of others. They don’t count public employee union lobbying on the theory those unions spend on other issues as well but, of course, so does the gas industry. They don’t count the lavish spending of shill organizations such as StateImpactPA, the Clean Air Council, PennFuture, the Delaware Riverkeeper and dozens of other rabid fractivist groups financed by big-money players such as the Heinz Endowments or the William Penn Foundation. The latter’s money, of course, comes from the same source that’s propping up the Philadelphia Inquirer today, which helps spread these lies.
The MSC response also gets to the heart of the matter with these observations:
In the story, there’s a general lack of context around Pennsylvania’s natural gas impact tax – called the impact fee. While the reporters do mention that the impact fee raised “more than the severance taxes in Arkansas, West Virginia, Colorado and Ohio combined,” they fail to acknowledge that the impact fee is a tax, and it has generated more than $1.2 billion for the Commonwealth since 2011.
While the reporters claim former Gov. Tom Corbett’s no-tax pledge is why Pennsylvania’s natural gas tax is called a “fee,” the fact remains the impact fee is a tax. The tax revenues from the impact fee are distributed broadly across all 67 Pennsylvania counties for these communities to use for local improvement projects – not to the state’s General Fund to bankroll the causes of these special interest groups.
The reality is that many special interest groups are furious over the fact that the funds generated by the impact fee (tax) do not pass through the General Fund for their use.
Yes, the public employee unions and other special interests who have sucked off the public teat for decades at taxpayer expense want the tax money delivered to them with a bow on it, but absolutely no ribbons or other strings. That’s what this is all about. This is why the Keystone Research Center and the associated Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, both being organs of public employee unions, have been so determined to put pressure on the natural gas industry; they’re trying to leverage a severance tax out of their needling.
It’s also why the article says “Pennsylvania’s budget has been wracked with chronic deficits” but never mentions the words “pension” or “union” which is at the root of that problem. Laura Legere and friends don’t want to offend their allies among the public employee unions in attacking the industry.
Finally, it’s also why Rep. Greg Vitali, a fractivist through and through who has proposed a fracking ban, was the apparent source for so much of the story by Laura Legere and friends. He owes his political support to public employee unions and environmental special interests. Here’s the endorsements he crows about on his political page:
Three environmental groups (two of them radical) and three unions (two of them being public employee unions). Trade unions have been among the best supporters of natural gas imaginable, but public employee unions have tripped over themselves in a mad rush to any stage they can find to hit the natural gas industry in the wallet. They want what’s in that wallet. It’s that simple and it’s nice to see the MSC telling the whole story; the one Laura Legere and friends will never tell. Read the whole thing here.