Why I Am Supporting John Hanger for Governor of Pennsylvania

I write to support John Hanger in the Democratic primary for Governor of Pennsylvania. If I write truly and honestly here, John will appreciate that I am pledging my vote for him next May, yet no doubt will also be a bit uneasy, maybe more than a bit, about aspects of my endorsement.

That is okay. We can be uncomfortable together because this endorsement is likely to cause some robust criticism to be directed at me – as one who has become known by many for my “one-man ban on fracking” at my farm in Jefferson County, and for my vow to use all available nonviolent means to resist fracking and other extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction. For me the potential outcome that some may judge me negatively for what I do here is much preferable to being silent about this most difficult of issues in the 2014 election cycle. I risk the disapproval of people I know and respect, even some whom I love. I accept that as part of a necessary process and look forward to comments and dialogue on this blog and elsewhere.

This gubernatorial election is far too important for those who oppose fracking not to show our cards among ourselves while it counts and to engender the deepest possible debate on what we shall do as a movement to end fracking, using the electoral process as one of our tools. The only position I find hard to accept is the position of abstaining from the election booth, but that too is a conscientious position for some. Not for me. For me that just means we risk four more years of a Governor Corbett, which would be disastrous on many fronts, or a Democrat who does not place the highest priority on climate change and sustainable energy solutions, which I believe are the preeminent issues of our times. If we as a movement are not mature enough to unite behind a gubernatorial candidate, in such a manner that the candidate will owe us something when she or he is in office, then we have some growing to do.

I am recommending John Hanger for Governor. If someone else has a stronger argument for another candidate, then let’s hear it; but they should please not limit their response to stating only why they think I am wrong. They must also state who does make sense to them for Governor and articulate the positions of their choice.

I could not write this if I did not think that John Hanger is a man of integrity, at his essence a good and decent man. I read him as a “good government” actor occupying a highly ambiguous political and historical space, a space within which we all live ambiguously at the end of the fossil fuel era. That has been my experience interacting with him personally and through emails over the past month. I am also well aware of negative reviews some have given him on integrity.

At the bottom line I am supporting Hanger because I believe that, among all the Democratic candidates, he is the one the gas companies fear the most. He is the one that could best slow up the gas industry’s rush to drill. He knows how to constrain their reckless behavior. He knows their games and their trickery. These companies turning huge portions of Pennsylvania into sacrifice zones look at the other candidates and, it appears to me, they are confident they can handle them.

Hanger is not calling for a blanket moratorium, but as I note below he does support two quite important moratoriums. He and I disagree about not having a blanket moratorium right away. I am calling for a cessation to all drilling until the long-term environmental impacts are fully studied and understood. That is because I see long-term unacceptable risks to aquifers under half of Pennsylvania, as well as other predictable water, air and public health calamities at the surface where we live, in the here and now, and we dare not forget about the climate change impacts.  However, Hanger is calling for pieces of what any moratorium should include, such as keeping drilling out of the Delaware River Basin (more on that below), making it harder or impossible to drill in state forests and parks, and pledging to shut down bad actors and prohibit them from operating in our state. Even Hanger cannot stop the 6,000-7,000 new wells already permitted. Senator Ferlo’s moratorium bill cannot do that, so there is much work ahead to make sure the permitted wells and other facilities do the least amount of harm. However, if new permits are slowed up, if gas companies find that they need to focus more on safety and better practices at existing facilities, and especially if they must devote more time and resources to retrofitting leaking infrastructure and emissions-spewing machinery, that all works to the good of slowing them up.

There are reasons Hanger supports drilling for natural gas, most of which appear to revolve around his analysis that coal-fired electrical generation kills too many people now with particulates in the air, whereas gas does burn cleaner, even if it may be as bad or worse than burning coal in terms of its greenhouse gas emissions. Hanger sees fugitive methane and other emissions problems quite clearly, but he also thinks these problems can be much better controlled than they are now.

I have come to believe that Hanger’s concern for those who suffer and die from coal emissions is genuine, as genuine as his belief that he can clean up and mitigate the worst impacts of the natural gas industry. He also sees that enough gas is already flowing to achieve the one major goal he has in mind, reducing smokestack emissions of generating electricity. There is no need to speed up gas production. It is the gas companies that want to expedite new permitting and get their claws deeper into our future.

The fact that Hanger does not support a complete moratorium on all unconventional drilling bothers me, but it is not a sufficient reason to refuse support of him as a candidate for Governor, given the alternatives. There are many other issues of concern to all progressives where this election matters – education, affordable healthcare for all, jobs in clean energy, poverty, union rights, conservation, LGBT rights, women’s rights, and protection of voting rights to name some – where John and other Democratic candidates are more alike than they are different. There is the medical marijuana issue where John is out front of other candidates and leading, in order to reduce the suffering of cancer or AIDS, and to reduce mass incarceration for minor drug offenses. That is why he gained the endorsement of NORML. However, on the energy and environment issues he stands out very much from the others, if for no other reason than that he offers specifics about what he plans to do. The technocratic, spreadsheet-wielding, good-government side of him by which he authored the Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment is present throughout his platform. That means he is not all empty or nice-sounding promises and rhetoric. He has put out plans by which he expects to be held accountable. And as noted below, there are at least two, or you could call it three, moratoriums on drilling that he does support

That, and his personal history as a man who was there when fracking got underway, make him a responsive candidate, willing much more than others to dialogue with those who oppose his positions. When I ask how responsive other mainstream Democratic candidates are, I do not know what to expect from them. Hopefully they will tell me and others more about what they plan to do on the energy and environment fronts in real, measurable terms. Until they do, Hanger has set the standard for that kind of accountability, and thus I believe he will actually respond to the people of Pennsylvania if he becomes Governor. I also believe it matters to him now and will matter to him when we present clear evidence of harm to our families, our land, our water, our goats and cattle, and our trout-laden streams and rivers.

If we look closely at the Hanger for Governor website, there are items in his energy and environment plans that will cause the gas industry to huff and puff their usual threats that they must leave the “anti-business” state if regulations are tightened and a fair severance tax is enacted. John will call their bluff on that. I wish they would leave, but if they stay, which they will, then there are better ways to control what they do and protect the health of Pennsylvanians and the environment.

I do not think I will have to make this point much longer. If Hanger’s campaign moves up in the polls, then we need only watch as the gas industry’s PR machine kicks into action to cripple him. They will kneecap him, to use an old organized crime term. This is the man they least want to be sitting or walking about in the Governor’s office.

Let me be frank about what my endorsement of John Hanger’s campaign means. I do not look to the Governor of Pennsylvania to stop fracking, or even the President of the United   States. That will come from “we the people,” or not, as coming months and years will tell. It will come as we succeed, or not, in building a people-powered resistance to fracking. It will come from organizing from below, from municipal bans and moratoria, from smart legal fights (like the one that just gutted parts of Act 13 and breathed new life into the state constitution’s environmental rights amendment), and from nothing less than the overthrow of corporate control of our democracy, which many of us are working on in many ways. As I have written before, I think we need full spectrum resistance to fracking (and to all the related ills it represents), and it is my opinion that choices within the electoral process must be a part of that spectrum. Efforts to build up citizen-based science or to gather the evidence of harm (air pollution, water contamination, health impacts) must be a part of that spectrum. Efforts to wrest additional voluntary controls, real and measurable controls, from some gas companies are in that spectrum.

With this endorsement of John Hanger’s campaign for Governor I am no less for a moratorium now than ever I have been before. I stand with the Democratic State Committee and its call for a moratorium. I have repeatedly stood up clearly for a ban on fracking, if necessary a “one-man ban” at my farm, even as I recognize that collective action is the best route to ending fracking. I gave away a significant portion of the economic value of my 50-acre organic farm when I recorded a unique conservation easement in the name of my late wife (whose ashes now nourish the high pasture) to protect it from fracking, along with Nature and all her children as she and they exist and flourish on my farm. I am prepared to defend my farm with all my energy and perhaps even my liberty if that becomes necessary. I will act to protect my children, my grandchildren and the Earth from fracking, because it is part of defending the Earth from escalating climate change that makes unsustainable the future of all earthly life as we now know and enjoy it. My barn is topped by a $100,000 solar array that powers the farm’s operations. I will continue to act daily to educate people to reject all extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction, and to demand a sustainable future built on renewable forms of energy. I will keep making changes in my personal consumption of energy to reduce my carbon footprint.

So even though he does not support a blanket moratorium, I think that John Hanger more than any other candidate will slow down the drilling, examine the permits more carefully, put more staff in the field to monitor, schedule more inspections, take more measurements and in manifold other ways slow up the fracking. That gives our movement more time to grow and gain power.

With 18% of the United States’ natural gas coming from the Marcellus Shale alone this past year, and with the prediction that all electric power generation plants will be converted to natural gas by 2035, we are up against a massive industry that will not quickly be stopped. Report after report show natural gas as the cheap (and getting cheaper) feedstock of chemical agricultural fertilizers that are ruining our soils and expanding the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico (adding to what BP already killed). Natural gas is the next big thing in exports to reduce America’s balance of trade.  We delude ourselves if we think we can have now a Governor in 2014 that will stop the fracking with a moratorium or ban. We have a long slog ahead of us, and our victories will be stepwise, not in leaps and bounds.

It matters when a candidate tells the people of Dimock who have remained there after their wells were ruined, that as a personal promise to them he will see to it that all compressor stations be retrofitted with technology to reduce dangerous emissions into the air by 90%.  It matters when a candidate says that he will regulate out of existence open pit impoundments of frack waste, or stop flaring, or set up a special ombudsman office to handle complaints from citizens about how gas drilling has impacted them.

Coming to this endorsement has not been easy for me. John and I have dialogued in person and through a series of phone conferences and emails about his positions and his history.  I will share a little of what he has told me that, take it or leave it as others may, I believe to be true representations of what he will do:

  • On the question of moratorium, or to be more precise “moratoriums” of different sorts, these appear to be the facts: Hanger wrote with John Quigley, former director of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the moratorium on fracking in state forests and he promises to continue that moratorium. He says he is the only candidate who has advanced a real proposal to keep drilling out of state parks. That is true. He wants to establish an impact fee of $3 million per well for drilling on state lands where the gas resources are owned by private parties. This is important because in some cases there is so-called “private property” below the forests; thus by law the state must allow drilling, but there are actions at the surface that the state can take to discourage the drilling or, if drilling happens, have the resources to clean up the mess. Furthermore, as Hanger sees it, he established in Dimock, PA a company-specific, geographic-specific moratorium against Cabot Oil and Gas in 2010 that continues in part to this day. He has said that he will again impose company-specific moratoriums where warranted by the bad behavior of the company.
  • Hanger does not believe that fracking in the Delaware River Basin (DRB) is inevitable. There is ample drilling in other parts of Pennsylvania that must be proven safe and that occupy the state’s attention now (too little attention, which he will increase). He agrees that a comprehensive environmental impact study must be done for the DRB before any drilling is allowed. He is prepared to offer state resources for such a study. He is not satisfied with DRBC rules on fracking as they now stand. He has written the Delaware River Basin Commission advising them to maintain the moratorium because the state of Pennsylvania is presently incapable of regulating more wells in the DRB.  He has told me that his plan to increase DEP inspectors by 105 positions immediately after becoming Governor does not include enough new inspectors to monitor new development in the DRB. He will recommend as Governor that all future decisions of the Delaware River Basin Commission require a 4-1 vote for passage of any decision, versus the current 3-2 voting rule, so that decisions are less political and more consensus-based on the science at hand.
  • Hanger will identify funds for a comprehensive public health study at least in the southwest and north-central/northeast areas of Pennsylvania where drilling has been most concentrated. He will support efforts by Geisinger Healthcare and others to collect and analyze existing data so that we have a scientific assessment of public health impacts in proximity to gas drilling infrastructure.
  • Hanger will increase, in the first year after taking office, the DEP oil and gas staff by another 105 employees and even more thereafter.
  • Hanger states that he will stop the discharge into streams and rivers of all drilling wastewater that is not fully treated.
  • On ramping up renewable energy, Hanger has told me that his goal is “getting us out of the box of relying on the four traditional energy sources for the 90% of our energy that they provide now… (and will) fight like hell to increase PA’s 24 wind farms and about 1,400 megawatts of wind energy by four times in eight years; (and he will) increase solar in PA at least ten times from today’s approximately 200 megawatts and 7,000 solar facilities.” These are essential goals if reliance on fossil fuels is to be reduced and eliminated.
  • As for Gasland 2 pointing out that Hanger went to work for the Eckert Seamans law firm that is a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), that part is true – Eckert Seamans is part of MSC and Hanger does work for them. But the movie’s implication that this was a “revolving door” move by which Hanger profited from his former public service is not a fair criticism in my view. Hanger told me that his work at Eckert Seamans included going after the drilling company Range Resources in the Parker County, Texas case that is highlighted in Gasland 2, defending proposed EPA Air Toxic rules (testifying to Congress in support of the rules), representing Pennsylvania’s largest wind developer, working for solar companies to build solar generation, and writing a green economic development plan for Harrisburg. True, his work also included helping to promote the Center for Sustainable Shale Development collaboration between some large green groups, some foundations and the gas industry. Many of us have been sharply critical of any attempt to claim that shale development can be done safely and recoil at the idea that it can be sustained with voluntary “best practices,” but Hanger sincerely believes in the ameliorative effects of working collaboratively with the industry. So Hanger’s work at Eckert Seamans is a mixed bag as it often is in larger law firms. In his view it was all directed toward doing some good for the environment and protecting public health, a point of view that I leave to others to judge. I have come to believe he intends to do good in an arena where doing good is complex and easily subjected to good-vs.-evil lines of demarcation. The Eckert Seamans website lists two primary contacts for its Marcellus Shale practice. Neither one is John Hanger.

Lastly, let me say this. In the final analysis this essay is not about John Hanger for Governor, but about my life (and the lives of many others) living above the Marcellus Shale. This endorsement is most of all directed toward all those wonderful people I have come to know and love in the put-Nature-first, anti-fracking, pro-renewables, pro-energy-conservation, pro-sustainability, anti-fossil fuels, reverse-climate-change movement (we are trying to move so much, it is hard to call it a simple name). It is in that context that I write about why I support John Hanger in the here-and-now array of political choices for Governor.

The anti-fracking community, it seems to me, is fractured and in significant ways demoralized when it comes to electoral politics.  I believe that is partly the success of the gas industry in presenting a behemoth of an industry that seems unstoppable, and that appears to have thoroughly bought our state government. Our activist community, like the communities in the gas fields of PA, is easily rendered ineffective by internal squabbles based in some significant extent on the manipulations of the gas industry. They laugh while we argue as to the purity of our resistance or the necessary accommodations with the gas industry that some of us are making to protect our homes and families. The industry has $20 million in the Corbett war chest to make us all look silly as we argue ourselves into irrelevance.

As a practical matter, I want a candidate who can win and, after winning, act to slow down the rush to drilling. I am confident that we as a movement to stop fracking can take advantage of that. For me that man is John Hanger, but one question remains: what about the others?

Here is how I see them. I look at all candidates for Governor through the lens of climate change and what they have to say about that. Every political leader we elect from here on out needs to focus in a major way on energy issues and climate change. We do not have another decade to waste in Pennsylvania or in the world to preserve the planet for future generations. This is not a side issue, not an optional issue whose solution can wait any longer. With less than one-fifth of 1% of the worlds’ population, Pennsylvania contributes 1% of carbon emissions worldwide. We have a responsibility to get our energy and greenhouse emissions under control, and soon.

Rob McCord is an effective speaker, a man espousing basic values we should expect from a Democratic Party candidate, and a candidate whose populist flair is fun to witness, but his website says almost nothing about energy and climate change issues. He seems not interested in it. That is not acceptable. He needs to wake up to this issue of energy and climate.

I liked Max Myers as a man when I met him, and I appreciate his sincere support of a moratorium, but his soft touch will not cut it with the natural gas industry. They will eat him up. He is not in any case, as best I can tell, a viable candidate for Governor.

Tom Wolf sees almost nothing but good coming from the Marcellus Shale development “if done right” (as he says on his website), but again he is one who sees the shale gas industry through the rose-colored glasses of “jobs” for the economy and “better regulations” to reduce environmental harm. He offers on his website not a word about climate change – only a brief nod toward “renewable energy technology” – nor does he offer specifics about what must be done to control a complex and powerful industry. How would he do that? He would be starting from scratch when it comes to controlling the natural gas industry and I cannot detect a deep understanding of the energy issues.

If Allyson Schwartz is the leading establishment candidate of the national Democratic Party, she may win, but as one who has said “shale gas is here to stay” I’d like to see her challenged to be more specific about this shale gas that she thinks is “here to stay.” She needs to say how the health of Pennsylvanians and the purity of our water and air will be protected in the future she imagines for our state. She needs to show that she is conversant on the issues of climate change that are involved in committing ourselves to yet more fossil fuel extraction and combustion. Right now she echoes the Obama Administration’s full-throated support for fracking, and she has not yet admitted (to my knowledge) that she lives in an area exempted from fracking. So what does she really know about it? Not much, it appears. Yet she feels confident enough about fracking to say other parts of the state should have it, and to label as “misguided” the state Democratic Party’s vote for a blanket moratorium.

As for Kathleen McGinty, who should have the bona fides on energy and climate issues, she failed to impress me as a member of the Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board when I went there to testify.  Like the rest of them she was there to make natural gas extraction happen, not to consider whether an outcome of the subcommittee could be a recommendation to stop the drilling. She was part of a process with a foregone conclusion, and that was a disingenuous process in my view. When she says it is “Pennsylvania’s time to shine” or that Pennsylvania should become a “blue collar Silicon Valley,” she has natural gas extraction right at the center of those rosy visions.

At least John Hanger speaks of natural gas as one of the “ugly choices” for dealing with Pennsylvania’s energy needs. At least Hanger has a clear program for moving beyond the ugly choices with due haste. At least he wrote the state’s Climate Action Plan and has a set of clear proposals to reduce pollution by 30%. He will not be starting from scratch.

Until someone else in the field can show themselves as a viable candidate with a specific plan to get the natural gas industry under tighter control, while ramping up renewables and energy conservation efforts toward reducing global warming, and offers the specifics that John Hanger has offered, and possesses the credibility that they know enough about this natural gas industry to control it better, then my vote goes to John Hanger for Governor.

J. Stephen Cleghorn, PhD

ParadiseGardens and Farm

Reynoldsville, PA

About jstephencleghorn

My name is Dr. J. Stephen Cleghorn. I am now a resident of Baltimore, MD. I continue to own a 50-acre certified organic farm in Jefferson County, PA that I operated with my late wife Lucinda between 2005 and 2011 when she passed away from cancer. The farm is now under lease to organic farmers and protected by "The Dr. Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez Conservation Easement” which protects it for organic agriculture and against the threats of industrial development that would violate the Rights of Nature. The blog’s name is taken from the writings of Saint Augustine who believed “Hope” to be the greatest of spiritual gifts. And, says Saint Augustine, Hope has two lovely daughters: Anger and Courage. Anger so that what must not be may not be; courage so that what should be can be. Anger and Courage. Now in late 2016, after the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, these are the spiritual gifts that must come to the fore if we are to have “Hope” for a loving culture and a sustainable world for future generations. When I first created this blog it was focused on the extreme form of fossil fuel extraction known as “fracking” that was threatening much of the state of Pennsylvania and many other parts of the United States. At the root of that struggle was and is a struggle to halt and reverse climate change. Now the struggle has turned to resisting an incoming Trump Administration that is an existential threat to the climate with its plans to ramp up extraction and use of fossil fuels. This blog will be about having the courage to stand up to the massive global corporations that would ruin our planet and its climate, take their profits and leave the mess to future generations of to clean up. We need to rise up, my friends, and be not afraid.
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29 Responses to Why I Am Supporting John Hanger for Governor of Pennsylvania

  1. Thank you for an exhaustive breakdown of potential choices for Pa governor. Corbett has the name recognition and all of the Fracking industries money to paint a rosy picture without showing the ugly results. John came to Beaver County and met with over 30 concerned political activists. They loved him. The Progressive Democrats of the 12th Congressional District sponsored the event. I agree with you when it comes to getting everything each of us wants, we have to do a reality check. Corbett has to go, and don’t replace him with the same platform, no matter what party. The latest Supreme Court decision on Act 13 has also given Pennsylvanians a new and refreshing guidance of what path we shall take. The Constitution is the glue that binds all of us. It is the game plan for all elected officials. They have become misguided by payoffs and bribes to win the next election, they have forgot how and why they have those positions of responsibility and Trusts. The Supreme Court has stopped time for a while for all to digest what this life is all about. It was explained that the health, safety, and welfare of ALL of the Citizens is utmost ! Its about US. My fears still lie in the fact that the seal from the radio-active and chemical laden waste waters will eventually rust and break through to the aquifers. Just like the strip miners who closed down when the coal ran out, just like the gas will, eventually leave the people in harms way. Those responsible will have taken their moneys and moved on or died from disease. Who then will be responsible for the cancers to our children, families, and ourselves ? Who? All of the money received will NOT buy us out of this situation. The Industry is self regulated. Example : The fox calls the farmer to report that all is well in the hen house . We have a very short time to put something together. Don’t Agonize, ORGANIZE ! Bob Schmetzer

    • There may be other choices, Bob. Pawlowski and Conklin need to be considered, too. It is my view, right or wrong, that Hanger possesses the most comprehensive knowledge of the issues I care about – from fracking to single payer healthcare – but as my essay says, there are positions he takes that I will continue to resist. Some will think I have given up on a blanket moratorium, but I think the essay makes it clear that I have not. John Hanger is, in my opinion, setting the standard on being forthcoming about all his positions. I just think we as a far-flung community of people resisting the frack must speak out and speak out early in this gubernatorial contest, calling for serious action (and forthcoming position statements) from every public office holder (or candidate for same) on the issue of climate change. Right now the needle for my vote points to supporting Hanger. But even John knows that I will stand against him if his actions do not match his words, and he knows that I will remain active in the movement to shut down fracking altogether because of the facts we have now about its current impacts on air, water and peoples’ health, as well as it long-term risks of irreparable harm to our aquifers as all those well bores inevitably break down and leak. As I say in the essay, our movement does not look at Governor or President of US to stop the frack. Our movement must make that happen. Yet along the way we must make reasoned choices about political opportunities, and I want to get a conversation started that will force John and all the candidates to speak directly and at length about our concerns. My endorsement of John at this point is a challenge to all the other candidates, and to our own community of “fracktivists,” to engage fully in this electoral process by putting our cards on the table to shape events in this election cycle, instead of being forced into a “lesser to evils” choice.

    • Thank you, Bob. Did you see what Hanger wrote about the Supreme Court decision on his blog? This tells me he won’t be getting any gas money to fund his campaign. http://johnhanger.blogspot.com/2013/12/pa-supreme-court-knocks-down-bullying.html

  2. Reblogged this on Progressive PA Rising and commented:
    Lots of leaders on the ground are cohering around John Hanger. He is a progressive and honorable man. And us getting behind him, is about us winning.

    • Thank you, Gary. I agree with your assessment of Hanger as a person, but you will see here that others vehemently disagree. Hard as it may be for some to take in as sincere on my part, I am so pleased to see even the negative comments about Hanger’s candidacy. That shows passionate involvement, which is a good thing in my book. I think we in the anti-fracking movement have more power than we realize. Sage observers of politics say 30% of the primary vote will decide the Democratic candidate. Hanger says that, too. He has no big money, he has poor name recognition among the general public and negative name recognition among many in the anti-fracking groups. He should have no chance. My essay is about whether we as activists concerned about fracking and the larger context of climate change can come together to deliver the most critical votes, which could be only 10%-15% of all voters, to get someone running for Governor that actually knows what to do about addressing climate change. The other D-candidates are much too quiet in my view, afraid to draw the ire of the gas industry. John is speaking out in a way that tells us from where he comes and what he will do. That is political courage, which is a rare commodity these days. Who else is doing that in the big-D field? Here is what I see so far in the D-campaign – a lot of people who will speak in platitudes about how they will “do it right” on fracking but want the big bucks of a severance tax to fill other important holes in the state budget along big-D priorities. They may “do it right” or they may cave to the pressure of the industry which will whip them up for the tax, but essentially could live with that and wants much more to keep on doing it the way they do now with nobody holding them all that accountable. The other candidates’ minds are far more closed to the concerns and the science about long-term impacts of fracking, or else looking only at the “politics” of winning, which says they should stay quiet on fracking. So although Hanger does not see a reason to stop it right away, he does plan to take aggressive steps to make stopping it more possible with a major new investment in renewable energy technologies. And although he says he will not stop it any time soon, he is the only one I see who has enough courage and integrity to stop the industry in its tracks if there is a confirmed case of chemical migration from the fracked sections of the shale into the groundwater aquifers, or to stop it if a health impact study (which he says he will fund) says people are getting sick and dying from it. Who else has said they will fund a health impact study?

  3. Alex L says:

    Someone who might be convinced that the Delaware River Basin *might* be a good place to frack is pathologically insane. He could just say “I don’t think the Delaware River is a natural resource that should be endangered by this industry” or “I do not support fracking in the DRB” or “the people who live in the DRB have been preyed upon for generations of resource extraction and fracking should not proceed in their backyards.”

    I will never support John Hanger.

    • Hey, Alex. Thanks for writing. I think I know how you feel, and I think you know that you can call on me anytime to defend the DRB, whatever that takes. But to be clear about what John has told me, here it is: “I don’t support drilling in the DRBC without the environmental assessment…and without regulations and enforcement that would protect water resources. PA needs more regulatory oversight–hiring another 105 employees immediately– for the areas where drilling is now taking place. Any expansion into new areas would require even more hiring. Major changes in rules (banning drilling wastewater pits, use of pollution controls on compressors, flaring limits to list just three of many) need to be made in areas where gas drilling is now underway. As far as the DRBC area, I am not satisfied with DRBC proposed rules at this point. They are not sufficient. I have also said any change in DRBC policy must have the support of 4 members of the DRBC and not be the result of a 3-2 vote.” Now this is clearly not enough for you, but who else even comes close to being this specific? Sage observers of politics say that John has no chance to be governor taking a position like this, that the gas industry will do what it must to slay him if he has any chance of acting on his thinking he shared with me. I know you have told me before that you do not think it wise for anyone in a movement such as ours to support any candidate, but what happens then if we sit out the vote? Maybe you do plan to vote. If so, why not say out loud who seems best to you, given the alternatives. And also please note that part of my essay that says that I do not plan to rely on John or any other political leader to stop fracking. That will be up to us, just like 70,000 people are signed up to resist the KXL Pipeline if Obama dares to approve it. I’ll be on that risking arrest line if called to it. And I hope you know I’ll be with you all the way to resist fracking in the DRB. Speaking out as I have on the relative merits of John Hanger implies in no way that I am seeking a political Daddy (or for that matter, a political Momma) who will take care of things for me and make it all better. I’m with Bruce Springsteen on this one: “We Take Care of Our Own.” With deep admiration for you and all that you do to stand up to the natural gas industry and to protect the Earth, I wish you all the best.

  4. John Trallo says:

    “I do not look to the Governor of Pennsylvania to stop fracking, or even the President of the United States. That will come from “we the people,” or not, as coming months and years will tell. It will come as we succeed, or not, in building a people-powered resistance to fracking.” On this statement I agree. Unless the people of PA “grow a set” and start “leading our leaders” this will never stop. On thing I’m sure of is, we will never stop it by making Faustian concessions. i.e. A severance tax, more regulations, stiffer fines, best management, etc., all of which are part of Hanger’s campaign mantra.
    As for his cozy relationship with the gas industry, let’s not forget that much of the damage caused in PA was under his watch as head of the PA/DEP, and his participation in the industry funded 35 minute infomercial disguised as a “documentary”, “Truthland”, and his decision to go “on tour” with it.
    Some states have a 7% severance tax… and it doesn’t slow them down. Also, it will never be “too expensive” for them because a severance tax can, and will come out of the royalty owners end. It won’t cost the industry a dime. This state has never restricted any activity that generated tax dollars, and it never will. The oil and gas industry is not here because there isn’t a severance tax. They’re here because the gas is here, and unless we shut this industry down, they’re going to get it, and turn this state an industrial wasteland for future generations to pay to clean up. We can’t say… we want to stop this industry, but if we can’t we’ll settle for a tax and more “regulations” that won’t work even if there is an attempt to enforce them. I have come to the conclusion that it is an “either/or” situation. “Either” we stop it, “or” we get out of the way. There is no middle round to dance around, and there never will be.
    I too, met with John Hanger, and was not at all impressed by his “plan” on managing the expansion of oil and gas in PA.
    His entire campaign could be summed up by this very short statement: “Gas is bad, but I think coal is worse. Corbett sucks, but I’ll suck less,”
    I will not abstain from voting, but my vote will not be cast for John Hanger. I will vote Green, Independent, or write-in. No candidate who will not at lease support a moratorium is worthy of my vote.
    The only difference I see between NY and PA is the resolve of the people. In NY, 5000 people show up in Albany and present their list of DEMANDS. In PA, the same 50 people show up at every non-event and ask the legislators and now the clown car of democrat candidates “politely” what they’re going to do about unconventional gas drilling.
    ALL politicians are pragmatic. ALL politicians want your vote. ALL politicians [presumably] want to get elected. The people need to tell them what we demand from them, not ask what they might do for us.

    • John, when I think of people in PA who have been my personal or online tutors, if not mentors, in helping me form my understanding of fracking and the politics behind it, I always think of you among my top-10 list. Your writing has been essential for me. I respect your decision to vote only for the candidate that aligns most closely with your values, but I am also mindful that we had 8 years of George W Bush instead of Al Gore in the White House because of Nader votes in Florida. I do not blame Nader for that, don’t get me wrong. Gore had his own failings. But my point is that Gore was much the better choice (as a viable candidate) for dealing with climate change and making it a priority than was Bush. There was a chance to get into power a man who actually understood the issue. The “green” vote did not mobilize and coalesce enough in FL (and elsewhere) to make a real difference on our concerns in the national dialogue, did not educate and mobilize the people among the almost 50% of registered voters who did not vote, and so lost an opportunity to get us started on reducing the carbon footprint of our nation.

      As for missteps or mistakes Hanger had made in positions of public responsibility, I cannot think of anyone in the public arena who does not screw up, sometimes quite badly, from time to time, despite being a basically good and well-motivated person. I asked John about Truthland. That bothered me, too. He told me “I have had a policy of talking with anyone who asks and giving interviews to any and all. I have modified that a bit, having learned the hard way.” Shall I take his word on that? What about the way our movement sometimes paints him with a broad brush, as I think happened in Gasland 2? (I mention that in my essay, so you know what I mean). Have you looked at Hanger’s bio at Eckert Seamans? http://www.eckertseamans.com/directory.aspx?View=Detail&DirectoryID=800 Does he get no credit for some of the things he has done to protect the PA environment? Does he get no credit for some of the new controls he put in while at DEP? Keep in mind that he worked for Rendell. a true revolving-door guy. Was he asked to do something that offended his conscience so much that he should have resigned? Or did he try to do what could get done within the overarching politics? I really have no firm answers to those questions. Does it matter now? Bottom line for me is not John so much. As I wrote to Alex Lotorto, and as I said in the words you selected from my essay (at the top of your comment) with which you agree, there is nothing stopping our movement from growing large enough and powerful enough that we make the government heed what we have to say and learn what we already know. As for PA vs. NYC, I’d suggest it is much harder to stop something once it gets going than it is to prevent it in the first place. PA and WV got whacked before we knew what was hitting us. NYC and Ohio have a shot at keeping the frack out.

      Who do you see in the big-D field or among the Greens and Independents that looks like you would support them? There are those candidates who say they will do what we want, and then will likely not do it under the pressures of the office and the horse-trading that will go on around how fracking gets regulated and taxed. John tells us precisely what he will do. But more than that, he intends to set up an ombudsman office to get feedback from people who are harmed by fracking, and he says he will fund a health study where it matters. I could be wrong, but I think he is a man who is open to new information and would change course if he sees that irreversible environmental harm or a public health crisis is underway. Our job is to convince him of that, push him to fund the studies that could confirm that, and then demand that he act appropriately, up to and including a moratorium of ALL fracking. Do I dream? Am I naïve? Who else might make a mid-course correction? Others will manage the problem not to hurt them politically, having other fish to fry, working the usual fields of policies that have nothing to do with the planet cooking right now to what will soon be beyond recognition and perhaps inhabitability. I think John has the fight in him, perhaps even “the set” to which you allude, to confront the issues of global warming. I think he will at least think about it every day, and do something about it, as a top tier priority. I just don’t see that in anyone else.

      • John Trallo says:

        When I asked John Hanger point blank what his “world class regulations” were, he responded in generalities: better set backs, more inspections, tougher enforcement, etc. When I asked him to be specific, and tell me what regulatory model he was studying, he couldn’t answer me. All he said was: “At the end of the day, we’re faced with ugly choices, and that nat/gas will have some negative impact on the environment and public health – which he claimed was unavoidable, but it would be better than coal. Now, when you study the science, as the reports by Howarth, Ingraffea, and Santoro, on climate change, or climate instability, it’s NOT better than coal and may even be worse. Another thing to consider is, as these export deals are being negotiated, once they are solidified, we will have no choice but to deliver the “product” at all costs to China, India, Great Britain, Norway, and Japan.

        The ONLY thing that will save us is a moratorium on all new permits until independent comprehensive public health and environmental studies can be completed, peer reviewed, and made available to the public, which will likely lead to a ban. It is my opinion that is why Hanger will not sign a moratorium, but has agreed to conduct studies will the industry expands. To admit that studies need to be conducted, while allowing this industry to continue ruining people’s lives is morally indefensible.

        When I asked what was his solution for the well casings that 100% will ultimately fail over time, he response was, “we can’t worry about the problems we may face 100 years from now.” I’m thinking… really? How irresponsible!
        Stephen, I can send you an unedited DVD of the meeting we had with Hanger, and you can hear what he told us, which is clearly in contrast to what he has told others. At our meeting with him there was an eclectic collection of environmentalists, educators, and a bio-habitat restoration specialist, and not only did Hanger not win anyone’s heart’s and minds, he turned-off those who were on the fence. http://pacitizensane.blogspot.com/2013/09/john-hangerright-off-rack.html

        As for it being easier to stop it were it hasn’t begun, that may be true, but it’s also irrelevant. Colorado has recently banned in half the state, and Dallas Texas has effectively banned it by making it impossible for them to drill in and around the city.

        I would also like to point out that when John Hanger left the DEP, his company, Hanger Consulting immediately took on the MSC as a client. Conflict of interest?

  5. Thank you, John. This is some pretty tough stuff. I would like to see the DVD if you can send it to me. My address is on my farm website. One question. Other than being sure that Hanger is not the one for your vote, who is out there vying for the Democratic Party vote that you might support? What is the best on the moratorium issue that you have heard from any of the potentials that have a viable shot at winning? If none are suitable for support in your view, who outside the Democratic Party makes sense to support? Is it better to vote your conscience with the clear knowledge that the candidate will lose and no tangible good will come of voting for them, unless you think that a “green” choice will someday prevail and certainly will not prevail unless we start voting that way while denying all support to any party or candidate that does not reflect our values totally and completely? You have read my argument. I have not backed off moratorium whatsoever, and John knows that, but I do think his intent to mitigate the worst effects of drilling will slow down the permitting and the drilling, and he promises (sincerely, it seems to me) that he will require new pollution controls on gas infrastructure that is already in place and harming people right now with emissions. That’s why some in Dimock support him, at the price of being vilified by others for being “sellouts.” For me the slowing of the industry is a practical good that will improve the lives of many while buying us time to build the momentum toward stopping the drilling. Do we have hope for much more than that among the mainstream candidates? Do we have a strategy as a movement to get people into the legislature that will vote for a moratorium? Why are all the other candidates so very silent on how they would move PA toward a serious response to climate change? I know Hanger is familiar with the climate change impacts of unconventional drilling, but he thinks he can clean up the industry act to some significant degree, and he sees current day harms of coal. I am surprised to hear you say he has said the problem of casings failing over time is a problem for 100 years from now. Is that on the DVD? John, I hope you know this – that I have stepped out with my essay with some trepidation and a lot of thought (and even stress) because I think we have to engage in the upcoming political choice as a community of people who oppose fracking. Inaction is wrong action. I may come to learn more about John that troubles me, but I am more troubled right now by the other candidates who offer no specifics about what they will do to control the drilling, first and foremost, and to build the green infrastructure needed to get past the extraction of fossil fuels. Who has been as clear and specific on that as John has been?

  6. With all due respect to everyones right to an opinion, I have to take issue with Hangers promises and pronouncements. I was at the Shale Justice meeting that John Trallo speaks of. I recorded the entire proceedings and posted them on my You Tube account. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMPiC0wCMr4&list=PL61A058369B3056F7 When I asked Mr Hanger if he supports a BAN on drilling in all of our State Forests, Parks and Protected Public lands, and a Moratorium on Fracking Statewide until comprehensive impact studies can be done, he explained that existing leases would be honored by the Courts. He did promise that nomore leases would be allowed , which is ludicrous considering that most of these areas are Already leased and are being fast-tracked thru the Permitting Process by the DEP he used to head! If we must choose the lesser of several evils, we MUST Demand that they Protect the Health, Safety, and Property Rights of the citizens of Pa, and preserve and protect the environment! If Hanger refuses to take a more aggressive stance, he does not deserve to be elected! Period.

  7. Mark Heuer says:

    All candidates should commit to not taking any campaign support from the oil and gas industry. That is a necessary precondition.

  8. jenny l says:

    Your early support of Hanger scares me. I don’t agree with you when you say we are deluding ourselves about a moratorium.
    I think we are making real headway, as evidenced by the recent PA Supreme court decision. “…development of the natural gas industry in the Commonwealth unquestionably has and will have a lasting, and undeniably detrimental, impact on the quality of these core aspects [life, health, and liberty: surface and ground water, ambient air, etc.] of Pennsylvania’s environment, which are part of the public trust.”
    “By any responsible account, the exploitation of the Marcellus Shale Formation will produce a detrimental effect on the environment, on the people, their children, and future generations, and potentially on the public purse, perhaps rivaling the environmental effects of coal extraction.”
    There is, as you know, a global resistance that is unprecedented. Romania, Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Belgium, Poland, Australia, New Zealand to name a few. To come out in support of a candidate that just promises to raise the fees, and add more agents is unsettling. Impoundments were set to be illegal already. Hanger shouldn’t be taking the credit for that.
    Has Hanger said anything specific to you about exports? What will he do about banning the export of PA’s gas? What will he do to keep a gas pad going in only 200 ft from one’s home? He won’t answer those questions.
    If Hanger was up to speed on the dangers we know of, he’d be supporting a moratorium. Someone has to man up!! Ingraffea in his newest research has startling figures on well integrity and reminds us that they are all going to fail. How is Hanger going to make cement last permanently. Yes I know you are saying he is the lesser of evils but I’m hoping someone has the courage to call it like it is, support the party, call for sanity in our absurd reality of now being an extraction colony. And most importantly take the bull by the horns and make PA the example for the world as far as renewables go.
    A vote for the lesser of evils is an act of submission. If this were a fight against one of our recent wars, would you say… I am opposed to war, many innocents are sacrificed, lives are ruined, families are displaced but I am willing to vote for the candidate who is willing to hire more men on the ground whose job it will be to write up violations for damages done? Willing to vote for a candidate who will support studies to determine if bombing is harmful? You might think the analogy is farfetched but I beg to differ. Toxic poisons are being injected through our aquifers, methane leakage is fast pacing us to the point of no return. Life makes no sense when there is no future in it.
    Why isn’t Hanger supporting a moratorium? Why? Why will he not support his own party’s platform? Why is he willing for this mess to continue, the methane emissions, the radon bound with the gas, The storage fields being huge radon emitters. The deforestation of PA’s public lands, the ruination of our rural character, the continued problem of not having adequate waste treatment facilities? The possibility, the likelihood, that new pathogens are being introduced into our environment. We don’t need support for health studies, the evidence is already in. it IS harmful, there ARE toxic emissions. So it doesn’t make sense to publicly support someone who is alright with all this and only wants regulation. It doesn’t make sense to me.
    You say we risk four more years of a democrat who does not place the highest priority on climate change and sustainable energy solutions. Although Hanger does promote or says he promotes renewable energy, he has also said publicly that he supports Pennsylvania’s heritage of extraction. Like Bill McKibben says…” building more renewable energy is not a useful task if you’re also digging more carbon energy – it’s like eating a pan of Weight Watchers brownies after you’ve already gobbled a quart of Ben and Jerry’s.”
    You say that — Even Hanger cannot stop the 6,000-7,000 new wells already permitted yet you say he will make it impossible to drill in our state forests… just how is that?
    Why do you feel that the gas companies will fear Hanger? Has Hanger taken any industry campaign money? Is Hanger going to fire Abruzzo and the rest of DEP and start afresh? Will Hanger dismiss the Marcellus Shale Commission? Will Hanger take away the industries’ exemptions? If not -why not? The suite codes started with Hanger as DEP secretary, although he claims no knowledge of this. What is Hanger’s reasoning in perpetuating this highly toxic and risk filled process ripe with unknowns? Surely it’s not that we need the gas, there is a glut of that; surely it’s not about the jobs, economists have proved the figures grossly exaggerated and green technologies will provide healthy jobs; surely it’s not about property rights as yours, mine and countless others have been taken away from us as well as our property values when explosive and toxic, radioactive industry moves in next door. If it’s like he says- coal is harming people- is he going to stop the mining, use and exporting of coal from PA or is it ok that people in China are poisoned instead? Will he prohibit the use of CNG for vehicular use? Does he not know that in India when CNG was mandated nitrous oxides increased, smog forming nitrous oxides that are 300 times a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2? If I can know that smog and thus lung diseases such as asthma, increase in areas of gas production why doesn’t he know? Will he have a climate commission who might be comprised of the twenty of the nation’s top climate scientists that urged California’s Gov. Jerry Brown to impose an immediate moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing as a means for extracting oil and natural gas?
    I agree that Hanger is more apt to respond than the other candidates, but I find that as a good politician he is good at evasive answers that often just skirt the question and he just won’t deeply engage.
    Again, I know you feel he is the lesser of evils, but it’s time we end that practice, we have to demand a stop to the continued destruction of our state and planet! I will not be voting for someone who is going to toss us some crumbs, even if it does mean not voting.
    “Either we begin to practice a fierce moral autonomy and rise up in multiple acts of physical defiance that have no discernible short-term benefit, or we accept the inevitability of corporate slavery. The choice is that grim.” Chris Hedges
    “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.” Einstein

    • My dear friend Jenny: I will be doing a new post in the next day or so that responds to your comments. (They are in fact most welcome. I even have some answers for you from John on your criticisms of him, and I am seeking more answers that he has not yet given me. Those will be in the new post.) But just let me say one quick thing right now. I did not say we are deluding ourselves about a moratorium. What I wrote was: “We delude ourselves if we think we can have a Governor in 2014 that will stop the fracking with a moratorium or ban.” That is a fact as I see it. Ironically, Hanger has already been involved in partial moratoriums, but gets no credit for that whatsoever. No other viable candidate is as openly committed as Hanger to real objectives in the agenda items that matter to us – massive increases in renewable energy technologies and achievable, immediate harm reduction from fracking. If someone out there sees such a viable candidate who has as strong a platform as Hanger’s on the major energy & climate change challenges of our times, then speak up for him or her, please, or at least for their position. Yet in a way even this is not the main point I am trying to make. In fact I do think we will achieve a moratorium, and not because of John Hanger, but because of us, because we are building the movement to demand it. I just happen to think that being involved in the gubernatorial process is part of how we make our movement matter. – Steve

      • Mark Heuer says:

        A useful starting point would be to get commitments from candidates that they will not (and have not) take(n) any campaign contributions from oil and gas companies. This can be an unequivocal yes or no answer. Why don’t we start here?

      • Good point. I’ll ask John and see what he says. If you know Dory Hippauf’s work, she may know who is getting what from whom. I’m not sure that campaign finance reports are out yet.

  9. John Trallo says:

    I totally agree with Jenny on getting campaign finance commitments. I believe the campaign finance reports won’t be released until early spring, however it is important to understand that many corporate campaign contributions are laundered through the party, and others are funneled through the “Friends of….” organizations, and unless you do the painstaking research to investigate these organizations. Case in point: State Representative Tina Pickett likes to say she only received $7500 from the oil and gas companies. However, when I investigated who the “Friends of Tina Pickett” were, it was Chesapeake, Consol Energy, Talisman, UGI, Chief, Anadarko, Inergy, and others who “donated” more than $85K to her re-election “campaign”, via the Greenlee Group [even though she ran unopposed], but then got appointed to be on the Marcellus Works Committee, and has voted in favor of every gas-friendly bill including HB 1950 which became Act 13. *Remember, Hanger was “compensated” for his participation in Truthland. So, you have to determine where campaign contributions end, and bribery begins. It’s “pay to play in PA”.

    • John, as I said to Mark in reply to the previous comment, I will put the question of O&G support to John Hanger. It is a fair question.

      • In the blog post I am releasing today (January 1, 2014), I state that John Hanger has told me that he gets no money from the gas industry and does not seek any, nor does he think the gas companies would be at all interested in supporting him.

      • John Trallo says:

        The question should be, would he accept funding from the gas industry, either directly, through the party, or through any support groups or organizations. Would he pledge not to accept, and to refuse funding for his campaign from the gas industry, or any of their front groups? If he accepts any funding from them, they’re going to expect some ‘quid-pro-quo’. That’s a problem.

      • Mark Heuer says:

        Thank you. That is meaningful. I also doubt that all of the other Democratic gubernatorial candidates can claim that they have not, or will not, accept campaign donations from the oil and gas industry. When Hanger equivocates, we should at least be confident that his motives are not based on a calculus of how his campaign funds from the OGA will be affected. I think the no campaign pledge should be a bar all candidates should have to clear before we spend any time on them.

  10. John, the new post about Hanger has a direct reply from him about you comment. He will not take gas industry money or related PAC money. – Steve

  11. steventodd says:

    Reblogged this on Steve Todd – Passionate about things that matter. and commented:
    Please read my friend Steve Cleghorn’s well considered blog. It mirrors many of my own beliefs, misgivings, and my resolution of them.

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