Will the Real John Quigley Please Stand Up?

John Quigley - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

John Quigley, Tom Wolf’s nominee for DEP Secretary has a mixed record as a fringe environmental activist and as a pragmatic administrator. Who is he really?

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has said he wants John Quigley, former Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) to be his new Secretary for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Should the Pennsylvania approve this appointment? Well, it depends on which John Quigley we’re talking about – the humorless environmental activist and consultant or the pragmatic administrator with the business background. The man shows evidence of a split personality in that regard so it’s like that old television program, To Tell the Truth (which ran in syndication until 2001); we have to wait until the real John Quigley stands up and when he does we have to hope he was telling the truth to the senators questioning him.

A Hazleton Native and Mayor

John Quigley is a Hazleton, Pennsylvania native, according to a 2004 story from the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader. Hazleton is coal country and still has active mines. It’s the site of the Latimer Massacre, hometown of actor Jack Palance and current residence of about 25,000 people. Quigley grew up there, went away to college and then came back to head the Alliance to Revitalize Center City Hazleton (ARCH), a downtown revitalization group.

Quigley was serving as Executive Director of ARCH in 1987, when he decided, at the age of only 28, to run for Mayor on the Democrat ticket. He had served on the local United Way committee and been active in negotiating with developers to bring a condominium project to Hazleton. He won election in an upset, yielding this photo and headline in the local paper:

John Quigley

It’s one of the rare photos one will find of John Quigley smiling. More often, he appears with a somber face of the kind so many unhappy environmentalists on the far side of the movement wear as they ponder the shallowness of everyone else for not automatically accepting their opinion and putting them in charge.

Quigley was in charge of Hazleton for eight years. He served as Mayor from 1988 through 1995 and apparently forged political partnerships with some Republicans on City Council, an indication of his pragmatic side. He was defeated for re-election, though, and was brooding a bit about that in 2004 when he decided to leave the city to launch a new career as a lobbyist for PennFuture, an environmental special interest group. It is funded by the Energy Foundation, Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation (sugar-daddy to the Delaware Riverkeeper), three of the biggest funders of radical fractivism today, not to mention the taxpayer ripoff grants they have received. He blamed his defeat on false rumors revolving around Hazleton’s problem with illegal immigration, offering this self-serving perspective:

“Hazleton is my hometown. Even though it might not objectively be the greatest place in the world, it’s home,” Quigley says. “It was real tough to swallow watching the city spiral down over the years, and watching all that I had done get undone.”

Nonetheless, the years between being Mayor and joining PennFuture revealed more of his practical side as he went to work for Wise Foods (the potato chip people) and Alcoa KAMA, while writing a column for the Times-Leader and teaching economics at the Penn State Hazleton campus. He evidently has administrative abilities.

The DCNR Years and After

Following his two-year lobbying stint with PennFuture, John Quigley went to work for DCNR under Governor Rendell, working his way through various positions, presumably on the strength of administrative ability, to become Secretary in 2009, in which capacity he served until early 2011. His six years in DCNR were relatively unremarkable. Revealing, though, is that on his resume (attached to some work he did post-DCNR), he repeatedly emphasizes he “lead carbon/alternative energy work for the agency.” He’s a true greenie committed to the idea global warming is one of our biggest threats.

John Quigley

Also revealing is that work in which he was engaged after he left DCNR. It included a report he prepared on behalf of Earthjustice, et al for a filing with FERC against the Marc-1 Pipeline. He argued the FERC Environmental Assessment for that project didn’t adequately address forest fragmentation, cumulative impacts and the like. (See Exhibit F starting on page 176.) He offered the following observations:

“The wave of natural gas development that is sweeping over Pennsylvania will have profound economic and environmental impacts on the Commonwealth. As a former policymaker and leader of the agency of state government charged with being the chief steward of the Pennsylvania’s natural resources, and having studied the issues carefully, I am convinced that the cumulative impacts of the Marcellus play will dwarf all of Pennsylvania’s previous waves of resource extraction – oil, timber, and coal mining – combined.”

“I have not only witnessed first-hand the significant impacts – the damage – of gas development on state forest lands; more importantly, I have listened intently to the concerns of the professional foresters and land managers at DCNR, whom, I believe it is fair to say, are extremely concerned about the cumulative impacts of natural gas and pipeline development on Pennsylvania’s public and private forests.”

Quigley has economic development training and experience and was careful in his Marc-1 work and subsequent activities to stop just short of taking the complete company line of his allies on the environmental left, but his positions and associations are still deeply troubling. He tends to be 95% anti-development in nature with 5% held back to give the impression he’s balanced, but it’s not much of a balance.

Interestingly, his Linked-In profile mentions very little of his business background and then in the most general terms. He describes himself as a “self-employed consultant (sustainable development, alternative energy, carbon management, strategic planning) and doesn’t even mention that it was Hazleton where he served as mayor. It also features a link to an article heavily critical of Marcellus Shale development.

A Troubling John Quigley Blog

Quigley also has published a blog entitled “John Quigley’s A Green Thing,” which takes a slightly pragmatic but always critical tone, and recently included these troubling statements (emphasis added):

“I think that when it comes to deploying waterless fracking technologies, full recognition of and accounting for all of the costs and risks associated with the use of water and chemicals in fracking is the key. It’s also the key to smart regulations governing the practice.”

“Here in Pennsylvania, the New York report should add great weight to the already self-evident case for tougher, more comprehensive regulation – and for the urgent study of the the many unanswered questions about the public health, environmental, and socioeconomic impacts of unconventional oil and gas development.

“Demands for thorough disclosure by investors is a movement that merits close watching, if for no other reason than the weak industry response to it, according to a report issued last year.  Has it gotten any better since? According to a just-released analysis, there’s been some dramatic improvements at some companies, but the oil and gas industry as a whole has a long way to go.”

“In the last of a series of reports, the Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative’s Findings and Recommendations proposes an exhaustive list of requirements and practices. I’m very proud that they include a number of recommendations – including mandatory comprehensive gas development plans – which result from my work on the Governor’s initiative with the professionals of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.”

“Clearly, the impacts and consequences of climate disruption will be unevenly and inequitably felt, with the poorest nations suffering the most. That is ethically unacceptable, and by itself demands vastly more of affluent nations.  But the impacts will be felt by all of us. Are we willing to allow the world that our children inherit to be a completely different world than we are living in today?”

“Major US environmental groups have detailed how the federal government could cost-effectively cut methane emissions from oil and gas facilities by as much as 48 percent annually. Waste Not: Common Sense Ways to Reduce Methane Pollution from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry is a summary of a report that will be released later this fall.  It’s aimed at shaping new standards for methane pollution that the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue later this year. The summary was prepared by the Clean Air Task Force, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club and has been endorsed by the Environmental Defense Fund, Earthworks and Earth Justice…The report should be required reading for Federal – and state – regulators.

“Goal-Oriented Disclosure Design for Shale Oil and Gas Development was written by Kate Konschnik, Policy Director of Harvard Law School’s Environmental Law Program. Kate is an authority on the subject of chemical disclosure and last year published a seminal study of the serious shortcomings of FracFocus as a regulatory compliance tool…That mark has so far been badly missed by state and federal regulators. The article is a must-read.”

“Why misleading and simplistic? First, the article says that “Though the fluid is mostly water and sand…” That’s true – on its face. But a typical frack job, in Pennsylvania at least, uses four to six million gallons of water – and that number is growing. And if you do the math, each frack job uses on the order of 25,000 to 120,000 gallons of chemicals. So, while the fluid is “mostly water,” I’m not convinced that the use of tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals – even diluted, and some that are “no more toxic than common household items” – is inconsequential. Much more importantly, surfactants are only one component of the fracking cocktail. The nature of the other chemicals are of serious concern.”

These excerpts all indicate a guy buying totally into climate change arguments that have failed to pan out as the climate has stayed the same for 18+ years. It’s fair to say he’s somewhat obsessed by the issue and uncritically accepting of fractivist arguments, notwithstanding the fact natural gas is a solution for anyone believing it really is a problem and many of our readers do.

Time for the Senate to Demand Answers

He was, of course, writing for an audience he wanted to please and appeal to as a prospective consultant. His business and economic development background suggest the remarks he made as DEP nominee (where he condescendingly said there was finally an opportunity to get Marcellus Shale right) are probably closer to his true philosophy but there can be no doubt he’ll be trying to take DEP in a dangerous direction with a view to compromising somewhere to the environmental left of where we are now. My guess is that he will be somewhat like John Hangar in that regard, with his nose in the air, but smart enough not to listen to everything his stupid friends would try to sell him. Hangar was tolerable, but it’s hard to know with John Quigley. Hanger, at least, smiled once in a while and was willing to take on Josh Fox. Would Quigley?

john quigley

It’s important that he lost re-election as mayor in 1995. A dose of humility is good for any politician. One hopes he learned something about kow-towing to his politically correct supporters. I suspect he did, but he’s also one of those cocky know-it-alls who is likely to be a source of deep frustration throughout his reign. The best thing that can be said is that it could be worse, but not much.

If you have any doubts, read Jim Willis’ excellent analysis at Marcellus Drilling News. Like me, he’s a cynic on the subject, but we’d both like to be proven wrong. One hopes members of the Senate will also read his blog, ask him some very tough questions and demand the real John Quigley stand up. While they’re at it they ought to absolutely demand he separate himself from EarthJustice, Heinz, William Penn and the Delaware Riverkeeper, among others, and commit to getting the Delaware River Basin Commission to lift its moratorium so as to remove the stain of second-class citizenship on residents of Wayne County, Pennsylvania where I reside.

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