Natural Gas NOW
The Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation fund and orchestrate nearly all fractivism in Pennsylvania. The Rippel (sic) effects are immense.
The ever more phony case brought by Loren Kiskadden and friends in Washington County, Pennsylvania continues to produce fascinating insights into the way fractivism really works. It has involved one of the least credible plaintiffs imaginable, a junk yard owner with an unmaintained water well some 2,900 feet removed from a gas well he swears polluted his water supply, and myriad other characters who perpetuate the fractivist myths. One might say the case has also had coattails, with some equally wild claims from Kiskadden neighbors that, in the course of investigation, have led to some extremely insightful depositions of potential witnesses.
One of those deposed was Raina Rippel, the Director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project (SWP-EHP). Her deposition is now public and a reader told me my name came up in it, so I decided to check it out. What I found was some amazing insights into exactly how fractivism works and the way groups such as the Heinz Endowments manipulate events in their own 57 varieties of ways to achieve special interest objectives.
Ripple’s entire deposition may be found here and I have highlighted some of the most interesting sections so time-constrained readers won’t have to read all 289 pages. This is not the first time I’ve looked at how Rippel and the SWP-EHP operate. I wrote about the organization back in 2013, noting this:
Rippel is on YouTube with this video displaying her total bias against natural gas development and offering some not so subtle advice to the New Yorker interviewing her not to let it happen there (49:35). Moreover, her enterprise is funded by the Heinz Endowments, which has been behind numerous anti-gas initiatives throughout the Northeast. Rippel previously served as Executive Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, another Heinz-funded industry attack dog and, significantly, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project website describes her as “Trained in community organizing, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from the University of Pittsburgh.”
That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
While it does say it all, the deposition offers more. We learn, for example, on page 181, the Heinz Endowments (funder of Delaware Riverkeeper, PennFuture, Clean Air Council, StateImpact PA and a parade of other fractivist groups) funds as much as 90% of SWP-EHP. We also see how the SWP-EHP was apparently formed; at a meeting held at the house of Beth Voyles, one of Loren Kiskadden’s fellow plaintiffs:
Q. Let me take you back briefly to Exhibit No. 4, which is the deposition transcript for Stacey Haney, and direct you to page 545. At the bottom of that page, and they are talking about the meeting I believe that you were discussing, Ms. Rippel, about the meeting at Beth Voyles home and the question was “why was the Heinz Foundation there” and the answer “because they were interested in, I guess, starting the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project.” Did I read that correctly?
Q. Then it continues to “I think they were the ones funding it, and they were interested in the problems, you know, that people were having living around some of these well sites.” Did I read that correctly?
Q. So is that why you left the Center for Coalfield Justice and became the director of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project?
A. Is what why?
Q. Because you believed the natural gas industry issues to be far more problematic than what you were addressing with the Center for Coalfield Justice and Heinz Foundation was interested in starting the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project?
Q. How did that — what was the chicken and egg scenario? Was that your idea or someone else’s, or the Heinz Endowments’ idea? It says foundation, do you believe it is the Heinz Endowments?
Q. How did that come to pass?
A. The meeting that we had at Beth Voyles house was really the first time that a lot of these people were in the same room, and that included Dave Brown, my toxicologist, who is on our team, Norm Anderson who is also now on my team. And the idea after sitting down in that room and speaking with those residents was that in terms of there being a public health approach, and what the public health issues were, of greatest concern there was consensus amongst many of us in that meeting that this was the most important public health issue that we could work on, and I already expressed interest to Norm Anderson in getting back into working on public health as opposed to what I was working on which was having more to do with environmental issues and coal mining. So this was an opportunity for me to take my training with Physicians for Social Responsibility Maine, and start to work more on health-related issues.
Q. So then is it fair to say that out of that meeting at Beth Voyles house, some of you who had worked together before and others were getting together there for the first time, in respect to oil and gas issues, that was the genesis, that was really how the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project came to be?
A. Ultimately, yes.
Earlier, on page 36, we learned who was at this meeting. It was attended not only by Raina Rippel, but also by another plaintiff (Stacey Haney), David Brown, Norm Anderson, Conrad Volz, Philip Johnson, Caren Glotfelty, Dorothy Bassett, and Charles Christen.
Dr. David Brown is a professional crank. He’s opposed synthetic turf fields, wood furnaces, community beach fire pits and auto touch-up paint, while being engaged in trendy projects such as the Green Village Initiative. He’s also a signer on an overtly political letter to New York Governor Cuomo that was organized by Sandra Steingraber and urged the governor to ban fracking, which, of course, he did seven months later, after the election. (Steingraber was, readers will recall, one of the phony “peer reviewers” of the political “science” used to provide cover for Cuomo.) Brown is, too, an advisory council member to the Park Foundation front PSE Healthy Energy, largely run by fractivist natural gas user Tony Ingraffea. He’s no neutral party or independent scientist; he’s an advocate.
Norm Anderson is an “environmental health advisor” to the Heinz Endowments.
Conrad Volz (later essentially fired for his advocacy while pretending to be an academic) and Charles Christen were from the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, a Heinz Endowments outpost at the University of Pittsburgh.
Philip Johnson and Caren Glotfelty were Heinz Endowments staff members.
Charles Christen apparently arranged the meeting and Norm Anderson invited Rippel:
Q. I am just confused why if the meeting, and if your reason for attending the meeting was involving coal operations, why you were present with Beth Voyles and Stacey Haney?
A. We were looking — the reason why I had been approached by Norm Anderson was to understand the public health concerns in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Q. Okay. Could you explain that a bit more? What you mean by that?
A. Norm Anderson and David Brown were in conversation with people at the Heinz Endowments in determining what public health impacts were impacting people in southwestern Pennsylvania, and at the time, they were interested more specifically in Greene County, and in conversation with myself, Norman Anderson approached me and said could you approach a tour of coal mining impacts. I said yes, and as part of that tour, was going to another portion of the tour which was related to natural gas, and so I participated in that portion of the tour as well.
Why is all this important? Because it establishes that the Heinz Endowments wasn’t merely funding the SWP-EHP; they created it as an advocacy organization and own it. It’s part and parcel of a broad fractivist initiative that is designed to be an echo chamber. SWP-EHP is a junk science outfit intended to create headlines in StateImpact and elsewhere and to contribute to the work of other Heinz outfits by proving a public health shine to their positions. The Heinz Endowments is supposed to be a charity only minimally engaged in advocacy and lobbying, but it’s using the SWP-EHP to do it for them. It’s a total sham.
What else has the Heinz Endowments been funding? Have they also been indirectly funding the lawsuits themselves? Attorney John Smith, trial lawyer for the plaintiffs and, also, periodically for the Delaware Riverkeeper and some of the communities who went to the Supreme court to overturn the zoning provisions of Act 13 as well one of the attorneys recommended by the Center for Coalfield Justice, the Mountain Watershed Association and PennFuture (three heavily Heinz funded groups), was evidently worried about that:
Q. And have you retained John Smith or the Smith Butz firm as your counsel?
Q. What did John Smith tell you?
A. John Smith informed me what he felt this case might be about or what this subpoena might be about.
Q. What did he tell you?
A. That there was the attempt to create a connection between funding and his legal services.
Q. Okay, how long of a conversation did you have with Mr. Smith?
A. 10 minutes.
Q. And what did he tell you about the attempt to create a connection between this case and funding?
A. That he didn’t understand or that he didn’t see a connection and I agreed I didn’t see a connection either.
Q. Did Mr. Smith offer you any advice?
Q. What did Mr. Smith tell you to do in response to the notice of subpoena and deposition?
A. I don’t recall.
Q. When was this conversation?
A. Three weeks ago, maybe more.
Q. So you do remember that Mr. Smith told you that he thought that this notice of deposition and subpoena was an attempt to create a connection between funding and the lawsuit, this lawsuit, but you don’t recall anything else about that conversation?
Q. Why did you call Mr. Smith?
A. I had professional knowledge that he was likely to be representing these plaintiffs.
Readers can be the judge of this conversation but Raina Ripple seems to have recurring memory problems at convenient times. She resorted to “I don’t recall” a total of 44 times, in fact. She also exhibited an absolutely reverent view of Attorney John Smith:
Q. Did you or your organization ever perform any independent evaluation of the notes you made here including those statements to determine whether or not what you were told by John and Kendra Smith was true?
Q. Would you say you accepted everything John and Kendra Smith have told you as true?
Q. Do you have any reason to doubt or question anything John or Kendra Smith has ever told you as true?
Q. Are you that trusting with everybody? Do you accept that from everyone you speak to?
Q. Why did you take that from John and Kendra Smith but you are not that trusting of others?
A. My understanding was they were truly looking at the health impacts associated with this case.
Q. But they are lawyers who are representing the plaintiffs.
Not only is SWP-EHP doing the bidding of the Heinz Endowments, but it is also kow-towing to trail lawyers enmeshed in the Heinz Endowments web. The remainder of the disposition demonstrates just how little validity there is to anything SWP-EHP does. Research and testing is a matter of taking notes from and the word of trial lawyers representing plaintiffs against gas companies. And, it’s all part of elaborate ruse that begins with groups such as SWP-EHP and ends with a StateImpact story, every bit of it financed by the Heinz Endowments – a “Rippel effect,” if you will.
Before ending this long post, I owe you an explanation of how my name came up:
Q. And as part of what is termed disinformation by the Environmental Health Project, it represents that there are sources of information that show there have not been health effects from the gas industry; is that true?
A. Can you reference what those were exactly, reference what you are referring to on that page?
A. I need to know more specifically.
(Exhibit 7 was marked for identification.)
Q. It is a two-sided document.
A. Which one are you referring to?
Q. Let’s take the EHP Disinformation Watch List that’s on the back of that.
Q. Why does the Southwest Environmental Health Project consider those websites? Let’s take the first one, “A Closer Look at the SWPA Environmental Health Project” by Energy In Depth. Why is that on the EHP website as disinformation?
A. I would have to look at the website to know why that made the list.
Q. Would it be the same thing for the “Environmental Health Project, An Example of Unhealthy Community” by Tom Shepstone?
What has been ballyhooed in the press as “one of the first long-term attempts to monitor drilling-related health impacts” is just another community organizing gimmick, a pseudo-scientific collection of stories without substance, prepared under the direction of an urban studies graduate.
Based on this deposition, I’m standing by it.