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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Lies About Marcellus Shale Gas Reserves

Energy Department reduces Marcellus shale gas reserves estimate by 66%
In its Annual Energy Outlook report released yesterday, the U.S. Energy Department decreased its estimate of recoverable gas in the Marcellus shale from 410 trillion cubic feet to 141 trilliona reduction of 66 percent, according to an article in Businessweek. Estimates of the amount of gas that can be produced from shale basins nationwide decreased 42 percent from 827 trillion cubic feet to 482 trillion, the article said. The Marcellus reserves are now projected to be capable of meeting U.S. gas demand for six years, down from the estimate of 17 years reported in last year's outlook. For more read the Businessweek article here and the early release version of the Annual Energy Outlook report here. (Read the report.)

Read a great site called Shale Ohio.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Fracking Company: EPA Decision to Test Contaminated Wells in Dimock "Undercuts" Obama's Commitment to Natural Gas

From Truth-out.org by Michael Ludwig 1-27-12

President Obama proclaimed his support for safely expanding gas and oil drilling on public lands this week, and the announcement received an uncomfortable applause from a fracking company ensnarled in a ongoing controversy over poisoned water wells used by dozens of families in rural Pennsylvania.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week its plans to sample and test water from 60 homes near Dimock, Pennsylvania, to determine if residents are "being exposed to hazardous substances." Cabot Oil and Gas, a company that was fined $120,000 in 2009 for fracking mishaps and contaminating water in the area, sent a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson on Wednesday complaining that the water testing "undercut the president's commitment to this important resource."
Victims of contaminated water have sued Cabot and fought for more than two years for clean water, and, until about two months ago, Cabot was under state orders to deliver fresh water in giant vessels to several of the affected residences. State officials ruled in early December that Cabot could stop making water deliveries, prompting activists, Gasland director Josh Fox and actor Mark Ruffalo to deliver fresh water in a recent media blitz.
There is a moratorium on fracking in the area, but resident Craig Sautner, who leased his gas rights to Cabot a few years ago and has since become an anti-fracking activist, said his well water is still discolored and contaminated. In December, Sautner told Truthout the gritty details of a struggle that has consumed his life.
"I don't want to use that water again," Sautner said about his well, which was first contaminated with methane in 2009. "My daughter said it best. She said, she told my wife after the fact, 'Mom, I don't want to go back on that contaminated well again ... I don't want to get sick again. I don't want to get all these hives and rashes. And besides that, I want to have kids someday.'"
Now the EPA, which is testing water samples as a result of a direct request from residents, is delivering fresh water to the Sautners and a handful of other families.
Obama Calls for Safe Fracking
In his State of the Union address, President Obama said America should safely expand natural gas drilling and create 600,000 jobs in the process. In a speech in Las Vegas on Thursday, Obama made a vague reference to expanding controversial fracking drilling operations with new federal rules to prevent environmental harm.
"Some of you may not have been following this, but because of new technologies, because we can now access natural gas that we couldn't access before in an economic way, we've got a supply of natural gas under our feet that can last America nearly a hundred years," Obama said.
Obama said drilling must be done carefully, and announced new rules that would require fracking operators drilling on public lands to disclose the chemicals they pump in the ground.
Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, a rapidly expanding and largely unregulated - at least at the federal level - natural-gas drilling technique that involves injecting water and chemicals deep underground to break up rock and release natural gas. The practice has been linked to water contamination and earthquakes across the country, and several wells have blown out in recent years.
For some environmentalists, Obama's announcement is a blessing and a curse. Many are opposed to fracking in general, but activists have been fighting for years to force gas companies to disclose the ingredients in fracking liquids, and the new rules proposed by the president could be a signal of more federal regulation to come.
Cabot Jumps on Obama's Statements
After Obama's State of the Union address, Cabot CEO Dan Dinges wrote to Jackson complaining that the EPA's decision to determine if Dimock residents are still being exposed to poisonous water sends the wrong message about fracking and could compromise the Obama administration's priorities.
"The president made a strong call to all Americans last night to take advantage of these new opportunities in shale gas development," Dinges wrote. "To prevent uncertainty and take advantage of the new opportunities, in our view, what is needed is an objective approach to dealing with community concerns - something missing in recent EPA actions."
EPA spokesperson Terri White said the agency is just doing its job.
"In his State of the Union address, President Obama made clear that he is committed to tapping America's natural gas as part of a new era in American energy," White told Truthout in a statement. "He also affirmed our commitment to 'developing this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.'"
White said the EPA does not hesitate to take action when Americans' health could be at risk.
"Our priority is the health of the people there, and our actions are guided entirely by science and the law," White said. "We are providing water to a handful of households because data developed by Cabot itself provides evidence that they are being exposed to hazardous substances at levels of health concern."
The EPA decided to test the water wells after reviewing data submitted by state officials, Cabot and Dimock residents. White said the samples collected at the residences will be reviewed under the highest scientific standards, and data provided by Cabot and state officials will be taken into account in the final review, which is due out in about seven weeks.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Tom Corbett And Republican/Democratic Supported Legislature of Pennsylvania Legacy

Tom Corrupt-bett and his legislative followers might end up creating a poisonous wasteland in Western PA. My legislators: Mark T. Mustio, and John Pippy have been a Corrupt-bett supporter. There is absolutely no proof that Fracking will not poison our drinking water aquifer, or poison our lands forever after a spill, but these two rally along with Tom Corrupt-bett.

After Battling Fracking and Cancer, Lucinda Lost, and Found

by: Stephen Cleghorn, Truthout | Op-Ed

Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez with her chickens. (Photo: Howard Nuernberger)
Her joy was in sustaining our farm against the threat of fracking. After Lucinda's ashes become a part of this piece of the good earth, it becomes sacred ground to me, and the company that owns the so-called "rights" to the gas in the shale below our farm is advised to keep their hell away from this place.
I have previously written in these pages about the potential loss of our organic farm in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, from Marcellus Shale gas extraction ("Wagering With Our Lives," February 17, 2011). The sustainability of our farm has been put "in play," to use the flippant terminology of the companies who gamble with geological exploration and environmental risk as if they were one and the same. Multinational corporations are looking at the ruination of our farm - this labor of love that my wife Lucinda created - as an acceptable and a barely relevant contingency of their phenomenal drive for profits. As a result of this corporate occupation of our perceptions of home, our sense of well-being took a major blow.
As my wife Lucinda posted on our farm's web site at the time: "At best, it will forever change our idyllic landscape. At worst, we could lose our clean air, our health, our herd, our water, our organic status and our farm. We have already lost our peace of mind."
On November 14, 2011, at about 2:00 AM while she lay in bed beside me, I lost Lucinda.
She died of cancer - sudden and swift. From what source, nobody knows. Just last June, she was thriving in our goat dairy, sharing her cheese making skills with our dairy intern from Nepal. Then, after a sudden pneumonia, came the dreaded diagnosis. Now, after a brutal season of pain, all that is left of her is ashes in a box, awaiting the spring of 2012 when we will go to that high hill on our farm that she loved so much and return her to earth.
Since she died, I have sat in my upper room going through Lucinda's things, especially her pictures and writing, looking out at the top of our farm, while two lovely interns take care of the goats and chickens and all things farming as I grieve.
Not knowing at the start of 2011 that her time with me would be so short, I am especially angry that she had to spend a single moment of her last year worrying about this farm's destruction. But my Lucinda was not one inclined to anger. This was a woman cut straight out of that same joy God is reported to have expressed upon considering the Creation and proclaiming, "It is good." Looking through her pictures I see this - always, always that huge smile of hers.
Before she became ill, Lucinda was writing a book about her love for our farm. The chemotherapy foreclosed any possibility of her ever finishing it. If I finish it for her, it must be titled "Lucinda's Book of Joy." Try as she might, as much as her scientific mind knew about the ravages sure to come with shale gas drilling, as much as she understood the broad dangers posed to our food system and our environment by oil- and natural gas-based fertilizers and genetically modified seeds, Lucinda was just so tickled that she had become an organic farmer that she wrote almost exclusively in the key of joy.
So, yes, I will have a difficult time finishing "Lucinda's Book of Joy" because I am angry.
My anger is not unique. Dr. Simona Perry, an ethnographer at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute, recently presented her study of Bradford County, Pennsylvania - the second most heavily drilled county in the state - showing that anger, confusion, a deep sense of loss and bitter divisions between neighbors have seized the people there.
Her study is entitled "It's like we're losing our love," taken from what one Bradford County resident told her about what was happening in their community. Her presentation can be found by Googling that exact phrase in quotes and it will come right up.
I have lost my love, too, but in my case it is my wife of whom I speak. I have not lost my love for the farm we made together. In fact, between the tears I have found my love of this place growing deeper as I consider the pictures and memories of our time here together. How she loved her silly chickens or labored through difficult births with our goats.
There is not a natural gas company on this planet that will take that away from me.
So, it was with a determination rooted deeply in Lucinda's joy and the strength it gives me that I recently completed a work we started together.
It is a presentation that makes a case for a moratorium on unconventional gas drilling in Pennsylvania (or anywhere) until there is a scientific consensus that it cannot cause irreparable environmental harm to one-half of our state and all its living populations of people and creatures. I do not believe such a consensus is possible because there are too many facts arrayed against this type of drilling ever being safe. But first we have to stop it. (That presentation is here.)
On its last slide, I invoke Lucinda's name, ending with a direct challenge to the gas company that owns the so-called "rights" to the gas in the shale below our farm. After Lucinda's ashes become a part of this piece of the good earth, it becomes sacred ground to me and they are advised to keep their hell away from this place.
I have found my partner Lucinda again in this struggle. And, I am happy to say, some of her joy.

Changing Priorities: Science Funding Slashed Under Corbett Administration

From StateImpact.npr.org by Scott Detrow on 1-18-12 

Mem­bers of Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Corbett’s admin­is­tra­tion rou­tinely insist their Mar­cel­lus Shale drilling pol­icy is based on science.
But doc­u­ments obtained by StateIm­pact Penn­syl­va­nia, as well as inter­views with more than a dozen peo­ple who work both inside and out of state gov­ern­ment, high­light top-level deci­sions to dimin­ish or defund drilling-related sci­en­tific research in the com­mon­wealth. Sci­en­tists say the decline in government-funded research dur­ing the first year of the Cor­bett Admin­is­tra­tion leaves open ques­tions about how ani­mals, wildlife and the cli­mate are affected by Pennsylvania’s drilling boom.
Emails and inter­views show Cor­bett appointee Richard Allan, who serves as Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Nat­ural Resources Sec­re­tary, over­saw sig­nif­i­cant changes to a state sci­en­tific research pro­gram and removed projects exam­in­ing the impact of nat­ural gas drilling and cli­mate change from a rec­om­mended fund­ing list.
Last month, Allan slashed the bud­get of the agency’s wildlife research pro­gram by nearly 70 per­cent. He did this with­out con­sult­ing the four-person staff respon­si­ble for vet­ting sub­mit­ted pro­pos­als and rec­om­mend­ing them for funding.
Allan has said that too many of the research projects were already being addressed by agency employ­ees. In a state­ment to StateIm­pact Penn­syl­va­nia, the depart­ment attrib­utes its cuts to declin­ing rev­enue in the con­ser­va­tion program’s fund. But the state­ment did not address how Allan selected which projects to keep and which ones to cut.
In 2010, under the admin­is­tra­tion of then-Gov. Ed Ren­dell, the agency’s Wild Resource Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram funded four stud­ies inves­ti­gat­ing drilling’s impact on song­birds, sala­man­ders and other wildlife and helped pay for nine cli­mate change stud­ies. This year, just one drilling-related effort will receive state fund­ing. These changes came after the  con­ser­va­tion program’s ini­tial call for research pro­pos­als specif­i­cally asked researchers to sub­mit stud­ies exam­in­ing the effects of cli­mate change and energy extraction.
The reduc­tion and revi­sion of a rec­om­mended projects con­tra­dicts the governor’s insis­tence that his drilling pol­icy is dic­tated by sci­ence, some say.
“It would seem that he doesn’t really mean what he says,” said Cyn­thia Mor­ton of the Carnegie Museum of Nat­ural His­tory, whose research on how cli­mate change will affect Penn­syl­va­nia plants was green-lighted for a $34,055 grant before agency offi­cials culled the list. “Sci­ence is based on facts. At least the kind of sci­ence I do is based on facts. I really wasn’t one hun­dred per­cent sure cli­mate change is going to hap­pen. But I want to have the infor­ma­tion there.”


Here’s how the con­ser­va­tion program’s grant fund­ing typ­i­cally works: Each spring, the pro­gram posts its tar­geted grant pri­or­i­ties. Researchers sub­mit appli­ca­tions, and a team of three state employ­ees works with the program’s exec­u­tive direc­tor to review sub­mis­sions and arrive at a list of rec­om­mended projects and grant totals. In mid-October, the Wildlife Resource Con­ser­va­tion Board meets to vote on which projects to fund. The board has seven mem­bers: the agency’s sec­re­tary, the exec­u­tive direc­tors of the Fish & Boat and Game Com­mis­sions, and the major­ity and minor­ity chairs of the state House and Sen­ate envi­ron­men­tal committees.
Dur­ing the admin­is­tra­tion of Ren­dell, a Demo­c­rat, the con­ser­va­tion program’s projects focused on the impact of cli­mate change. As nat­ural gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s Mar­cel­lus Shale for­ma­tion picked up steam, the pro­gram began solic­it­ing research in that area, too.


Last year, the process was no dif­fer­ent. The request for pro­pos­als went out in March, a bit more than a month after Cor­bett, a Repub­li­can, took office. “Penn­syl­va­nia species and nat­ural sys­tems are fac­ing an increas­ing num­ber of envi­ron­men­tal stresses,” the tar­geted pri­or­i­ties doc­u­ment read, “includ­ing habi­tat frag­men­ta­tion and loss, inva­sive species, cli­mate change, and the effects of energy extrac­tion and distribution.”
Through mid-October, it was busi­ness as usual. The three state employ­ees who vet projects reviewed 46 appli­ca­tions, which included five Mar­cel­lus Shale projects and four cli­mate change research plans. On Octo­ber 13, the program’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, Greg Czar­necki, emailed a list of 21 rec­om­mended projects to Sec­re­tary Allan and the program’s board.
The rec­om­mended projects list shows Czar­necki and his staffers wanted to fund two projects ana­lyz­ing plant growth along the gashes left by newly-installed nat­ural gas pipelines. They rec­om­mended $36,000 for the sec­ond year of a Penn State Study assess­ing drilling’s impact on birds. The pro­gram had already allo­cated $37,709 to fund the first half of Pro­fes­sor Mar­garet Brittingham’s project in 2010.
Brit­ting­ham is tak­ing a look at what hap­pens to birds when for­est acres are cleared out for drill pads and access roads. “This would serve as base­line data,” she said.“We’re hop­ing from our results we’d be able to say these pat­terns of devel­op­ment are bet­ter than some other pat­terns. Or if you get up to a level of ten wells or five wells in [one area] you start to see changes in the bird com­mu­nity.” Brit­ting­ham hopes her data can help guide drilling within Pennsylvania’s state forests, which will rapidly expand over the com­ing years.
Two stud­ies research­ing cli­mate change’s impact on plant life and soil were rec­om­mended for fund­ing, includ­ing a pro­posal authored by the Carnegie Museum of Nat­ural History’s Cyn­thia Mor­ton. Her idea: to test the nationally-recognized Cli­mate Change Vul­ner­a­bil­ity Index, which uses fac­tors like species his­tory and geog­ra­phy to pre­dict how a plant or ani­mal would adapt to cli­mate change. “We’re try­ing to look at pat­terns,” she explained. “Try­ing to fig­ure out what is the cor­re­la­tion between where these plants live and their rank­ings in the Cli­mate Change Index … If we can start to see this is good mod­el­ing, it could really help us.” The list rec­om­mended $34,055 to help fund Morton’s research.
Other projects rec­om­mended for fund­ing included cat­a­loging the state’s bog tur­tle pop­u­la­tion and assess­ing an endan­gered species of rattlesnake.
A meet­ing to vote on the rec­om­men­da­tions was set Octo­ber 19 but never hap­pened. Allan can­celled the vote the day before because of sched­ul­ing conflicts.
That’s the last any­one in the Wild Resource Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram office heard of the mat­ter for three weeks. On Novem­ber 10, a agency staffer emailed the board with a new date: Decem­ber 6. She noted “there have been some revi­sions to the list of grants rec­om­mended for funding.”
The revi­sion, it turned out, was the elim­i­na­tion of 13 rec­om­mended projects, includ­ing both cli­mate change pro­pos­als, and two of the three drilling-related efforts. The Con­ser­va­tion Program’s bud­get had been slashed from $780,000 to $251,683.
(Scroll down to the bot­tom of the arti­cle to read the ini­tial and revised lists of rec­om­mended projects.)
An email writ­ten by admin­is­tra­tive assis­tant Debra Miller blamed the reduc­tion on “cur­rent bud­get con­straints,” and claimed the remain­ing projects had been “care­fully vet­ted and selected by our Wild Resource Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram office with addi­tional input from bureau per­son­nel within agency.”
Mul­ti­ple sources say that’s not true. Those involved in the grant rec­om­men­da­tion process say Miller’s email was the first time any­one typ­i­cally involved in the vet­ting had heard of the changes. The new list did not include any of the con­ser­va­tion program’s ini­tial priorities.
Only one energy or cli­mate change-related study remained: a project eval­u­at­ing plant growth along nat­ural gas pipeline routes.


Why did Allan and other agency offi­cials elim­i­nate 68 per­cent of the program’s funding?
StateIm­pact Penn­syl­va­nia sub­mit­ted a list of ques­tions to the agency press office, ask­ing why Allan delayed the board’s ini­tial vote for a month-and-a-half, and why he trimmed the con­ser­va­tion program’s bud­get and fund­ing rec­om­men­da­tions, with­out con­sult­ing its staff.
We also asked how agency offi­cials selected which projects they’d fund, and which they’d remove from the rec­om­mended list.
In an emailed response, agency spokes­woman Chris Novak called 2011 a “tran­si­tion year,” and said Allan had other agency bureaus review the fund­ing list. She said the amount of money the depart­ment spends on research is dis­cre­tionary – it’s up to the secretary.
Since money going into the fund was down, Novak wrote “a deci­sion was made by agency lead­er­ship to ded­i­cate a smaller amount of fund­ing for the grants.”
She didn’t explain how projects were selected, and why the con­ser­va­tion pro­gram staff wasn’t involved in the fund­ing decision.
The con­ser­va­tion program’s fund­ing doesn’t come from the state’s gen­eral fund bud­get. Ded­i­cated dona­tions are the program’s pri­mary source of fund­ing. The next time you do your state taxes, look for the check-off box on the bot­tom of the form – you’ll be asked whether you want to con­tribute part of your tax return to the con­ser­va­tion pro­gram. The pro­gram also receives $15 every time a Penn­syl­van­ian buys one of those license plate fea­tur­ing an otter.  (The con­ser­va­tion pro­gram played a crit­i­cal role in revi­tal­iz­ing Pennsylvania’s river otter pop­u­la­tion in the 1980s and 90s.)
Corbett’s bud­get esti­mates the con­ser­va­tion pro­gram would have $445,000 avail­able for spend­ing this year: $278,000 in funds car­ried over from the 2010–2011 fis­cal year, and $167,000 in new rev­enue. A por­tion of the $80 mil­lion Envi­ron­men­tal Stew­ard­ship Fund is also avail­able for con­ser­va­tion pro­gram grants.
Penn­syl­va­nia law appro­pri­ates the fund money to agency to carry out the research autho­rized by the 1982 Wildlife Resource Con­ser­va­tion Act, which directs the program’s seven-member board to “approve projects or pro­grams for fund­ing as nec­es­sary to pre­serve and enhance wild resources.” The board is also autho­rized to use money from the Envi­ron­men­tal Stew­ard­ship Fund for research projects.
A week after the board vote, an agency press release announced $31.5 mil­lion in grants for “con­ser­va­tion and recre­ation projects designed to pro­tect nat­ural resources and revi­tal­ize com­mu­ni­ties across the state.” Some of the money came from the Envi­ron­men­tal Stew­ard­ship Fund.
Allan also told the board he was con­cerned too many of the projects rec­om­mended for fund­ing were dupli­cat­ing work already being car­ried out by Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Nat­ural Resources staffers. Repub­li­can Scott Hutchin­son, who chairs the House Envi­ron­men­tal Resources and Energy Com­mit­tee and sits on the con­ser­va­tion pro­gram board, agreed with Allan’s argument.
“If there are other fund­ing sources – other inter­nal ways for the depart­ment or their part­ners to do those kinds of stud­ies with­out using that fund­ing then we should take advan­tage of those,” he said in an inter­view.  “And the depart­ment felt that many of the projects that were on the orig­i­nal list were things inter­nal staff could or already was doing.”
The agency has recently expanded its staff of biol­o­gists, and now employs at least two researchers who devote all their time to mon­i­tor­ing nat­ural gas drilling and its impacts. But many of its other sci­en­tists have mul­ti­ple respon­si­bil­i­ties, and, accord­ing to one depart­ment employee, sim­ply don’t have the time or resources to carry out research projects like the ones ini­tially rec­om­mended for con­ser­va­tion pro­gram grants.
Hutchin­son thinks Allan can­celled the meet­ing as soon as he real­ized what was being pro­posed. “I don’t know that it was looked at in-depth by the upper lev­els of agency much before that orig­i­nal meet­ing was sched­uled,” Hutchin­son said in an inter­view. “And then they said, ‘oh my gosh.’ We all have to look twice – three times – at spend­ing money. Let’s look at this pro­gram, too.”
Hutchin­son sup­ported Allan’s revi­sion, and said he wouldn’t have voted for the ini­tial list.  In fact, the Venango County Repub­li­can made his oppo­si­tion to cli­mate change-related research very clear, dur­ing the con­ser­va­tion pro­gram board’s 2010 vote.


Min­utes from the Octo­ber 2010 meet­ing, held dur­ing the final months of Gov­er­nor Rendell’s tenure, when Democ­rats held five of the board’s seven votes, shed some light on why the Cor­bett Admin­is­tra­tion slashed the con­ser­va­tion program’s funding.
In 2010, nine of the rec­om­mended research projects exam­ined the impact of cli­mate change, and four looked at nat­ural gas drilling’s impli­ca­tions. Before the board voted, a staffer rep­re­sent­ing Hutchin­son at the meet­ing read a state­ment express­ing “deep con­cern and reser­va­tion” about the rec­om­mended projects. “In the past the [con­ser­va­tion pro­gram] has sup­ported projects that sought to restore a vari­ety of plant and non-game species to their habi­tats. It seems to me that this theme is not being car­ried for­ward,” Hutchin­son had writ­ten. “Instead, it appears to me, that the com­mit­tee is being asked to rec­om­mend projects for fund­ing that…[are] based upon advanc­ing spe­cific pub­lic pol­icy agen­das rather than one that is more neu­tral and sci­en­tific based.” Hutchin­son said he was refer­ring to the cli­mate change projects.
Patrick Hen­der­son rep­re­sented Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Mary Jo White at the meet­ing. He had a prob­lem with the projects, too. The offi­cial min­utes, approved by the board dur­ing its 2011 meet­ing, read, “Mr. Hen­der­son expressed con­cern about nat­ural gas extrac­tion being iden­ti­fied as an envi­ron­men­tal impact.” He said, “these projects may not war­rant this grant money,” ref­er­enc­ing sour­ing bud­get conditions.
Hen­der­son, of course, went on to become Gov­er­nor Corbett’s point man on energy and drilling poli­cies. As Energy Exec­u­tive, Hen­der­son sat on Corbett’s 2011 Mar­cel­lus Shale Advi­sory Com­mis­sion, and wrote the bulk of its final report.
In an inter­view, Hen­der­son said the impli­ca­tion that he, as energy exec­u­tive, played any role in the con­ser­va­tion program’s fund­ing reduc­tion “is not a fair char­ac­ter­i­za­tion at all.”  Hen­der­son said he had noth­ing to do with the cut, which he said was likely “a mat­ter of 1) [the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Nat­ural Resources] hav­ing a new sec­re­tary, and 2) avail­able dol­lars. Beyond that, agency can speak to it.”
As for his com­ments in 2010, when he was rep­re­sent­ing Sen­a­tor White, Hen­der­son dis­puted the meet­ing min­utes’ account. “The characterization…is not accu­rate,” he said. “Unless you were at the meet­ing, you can’t draw that conclusion.”
In 2010, Hen­der­son and Hutchin­son were in the minor­ity. The research projects were ulti­mately approved. A year later, when Repub­li­cans held con­trol, nearly 70 per­cent of con­ser­va­tion pro­gram fund­ing was cut.


Frank Fel­baum served as the con­ser­va­tion program’s exec­u­tive direc­tor for two decades, but left shortly after the pro­gram was folded into the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and Nat­ural Resources. He was wor­ried about polit­i­cal fac­tors creep­ing into research deci­sions – a sit­u­a­tion where the depart­ment brass would reduce fund­ing for projects they didn’t like.
Asked why these projects mat­ter, Fel­baum brought up the scar­let tan­ager, a bright red bird with black wings, who migrates to South and Cen­tral Amer­ica every win­ter. “Right now, these song­birds are really tak­ing it due to Mar­cel­lus [drilling],” he said. “The wells are rip­ping apart these inte­rior for­est areas for these song­birds that are com­ing back from South Amer­ica. One gas well is OK. But when you have thou­sands of gas wells? … The tan­agers are going to be impacted.”
Nearly 20 per­cent of the world’s scar­let tan­ager pop­u­la­tion breeds in Penn­syl­va­nia, and Fel­baum said it’s impor­tant to fig­ure out what the well pads and access roads and pipeline clear­ings will mean for their habi­tats. It’s the exact study Mar­garet Brit­ting­ham of Penn State was car­ry­ing out, before her sec­ond year of fund­ing was elim­i­nated by agency. (Brit­ting­ham says she’ll be able to con­tinue her project, but its scope will be dras­ti­cally limited.)
Research, Fel­baum argued, “gives you the best avail­able sci­en­tific infor­ma­tion to make those deci­sions that will ben­e­fit the com­mon­wealth of Pennsylvania.”