Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)
Opposition to a pipeline that will serve the Shell cracker in Western Pennsylvania offers a window into the ignorant world of fractivism and offers lessons.
For three nights in a row this past week the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted hearings for Shell’s proposed Falcon ethane pipeline, a 97-mile pipeline system with two “legs” that will feed the Shell cracker plant now under construction in Monaca, Pennsylvania. It was a window into the world of antis.
We brought you a report from the first session, an eyewitness account from MDN friend Charlie Schliebs. That session was predominantly populated with antis attempting to paint nightmare scenarios if the pipeline (and Shell cracker) gets built.
Last night was the third and final session—at the Quaker Valley Middle School in Sewickley. Pennsylvania. Once again, we have an eyewitness account, this time from MDN friend Katie Klaber, former president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and currently managing partner at The Klaber Group and a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland (Pittsburgh branch). She’s also a resident of Sewickley.
Katie Klaber is a consummate environmental professional; someone with a lifelong career in environment compliance and someone who served on the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee of the DEP for more than a decade. She knows a thing or two about projects like the Falcon ethane pipeline because she’s seen a thing or two (to borrow from the Farmers Insurance commercials).
When the audience realized that Katie was supporting the project (the only one of the first 18 speakers to do so), the hissing started. She and the next few speakers who supported the project were hissed by bad-behaving antis in the crowd, with some Mother F…ers thrown in by an especially outspoken attendee. Nice people, those antis.
Here is Katie’s superb testimony (emphasis added):
Good evening. My name is Katie Klaber. I was born and raised in Beaver County, not far from Shell’s planned facility, and have lived here in Sewickley for more than 20 years. My comments this evening are made as a long-time resident of this region, with career-long professional experience in environmental compliance.
Throughout my career, I have worked on numerous efforts to protect the environment with smart regulations and permit conditions that allow businesses to thrive. My undergraduate degree is in environmental science from Bucknell University and my MBA is from Carnegie Mellon. I also served on the Air Quality Technical Advisory Committee of the DEP for more than a decade, in both the Rendell and Corbett administrations.
I have worked with many federal, state and local regulatory agencies, but none as frequently as the DEP. With few exceptions, the staff at DEP’s headquarters and regional offices are knowledgeable in the subject matter that we as taxpayers hire them to be, and they are true to their charge to be public servants, abiding by the rules and regulations they are responsible for implementing.
DEP manages many erosion and sediment control plans, like the ones under consideration this evening. I did a spot check of the ESCGPs published in Saturday’s Pennsylvania Bulletin and found 16 last week alone, with 11 of those in Southwestern PA. The agency has likely reviewed and processed more than 10,000 of these since 2011. They know how to implement the regulations. And, in the rare instance when there is a problem, they and the permitted sources do not hesitate to take action swiftly to correct it. The agency is more than capable of managing this process for us.
We are fortunate to have a world-class supply of energy here, including natural gas and ethane, the building blocks of manufacturing and the reason that companies like Shell’s are able to locate major new facilities nearby.
Many different types of pipelines have been in the news – and they all serve particular business and national security interests. But the Falcon pipeline is an especially important piece of infrastructure for those of us who live here. It allows manufacturing jobs to be created locally using locally-developed energy. It is the type of integrated manufacturing that built Pittsburgh and allowed many in this community to enjoy generations of economic security. The major difference from when our ancestors built steel and glass and other industries is that now hundreds of environmental regulations are in place. Future generations deserve to have access to the good paying jobs that have accrued to those of us in this room.
In conclusion, I support DEP’s intent to grant permits to the Falcon project that will allow for both environmental protec on and economic growth. Those of us who support the benefits of investments like Shell’s in our home towns are exceedingly passionate in our views. Environmental protection thrives in a strong economy. Communities thrive with job opportunities for all of our citizens. Projects like these are a moral imperative, to be done right, with the long view in mind. Our community stands ready to make the most of Shell’s decision to build a world class plant in this region.
Thank you for your time in holding this hearing to gather community input for this important project.
Editor’s Note: Katie’s testimony was, indeed, very good, but this hearing was otherwise a joke and there are a multitude of lessons for the industry and those of us who support it. First, why did DEP hold three hearings on what are relatively routine erosion and sedimentation control permits?
The unfortunate answer is that government agencies always seek to appease the loudest minorities in hopes this will take the steam out of the opposition or at least protect the behinds of bureaucrats from, heaven forbid, being accused of unfairness by those shrill voices. They know the hearing will produce garbage testimony for the most part, but they do it anyway because that’s what bureaucrats; they protect themselves by setting up the circumstances for antis to attack and tell the industry to go defend itself.
This is the way the DEP world works and, even more unfortunately, industry plays along, adopting the defensive posture just hoping to survive the onslaught and depending on the good will of bureaucrats to do the right thing in the end. Though it sometimes works as a strategy, it’s a long-term recipe for disaster. Over time, it produces complacency with a process that enviably bites us in the behind at the worst possible time. It’s a strategy to fail.
The greatest lesson for industry is to recognize these pipeline battles are land use battles as well as ideological struggles and they must be fought with good offenses. That is to say every oil and gas company, every pipeline company and every employee and contractor serving them, as well as landowners benefitting from natural gas development needs to be involved, getting in DEP and pipeline faces with a “Don’t even think about stopping this project so vital to my family” attitude.
That hearing in Sewickley should have been overwhelmed by union members and other oil and gas industry beneficiaries seeking to testify in support of the project, with a rally and news conference held outside the high school prior to the event. Instead, this is an example of what happened inside:
Yes, an SEIU member talking #RESIST; a public employee union member pursing radical politics and hoping, of course, to cripple the oil and gas industry in the Commonwealth with a severance tax to pay for his taxpayer unaffordable pension. The SEIU is the enemy of the private sector union members hoping to help build a pipeline. This fellow’s testimony is beyond ridiculous, yet it gets media attention because we’re playing defense instead of offense. Where are our organizers?