Capitolwire’s Pete DeCoursey made quite the impact yesterday, when he published a story quoting DCED Secretary Alan Walker endorsing the idea of expanded drilling in state forests.
Much of the early reaction centered on Walker’s comments. But as the day wore on, Republicans began focusing on House Democratic Chairman Mike Sturla’s angry response to Walker, which was quoted in the article.
In an email to Capitolwire ($), Sturla expressed some skepticism – to put it mildly – over drilling’s value to communities.
[A]side from building roads so their trucks can get to drill sites and doing a little stream work to mitigate damage from their road building, exactly what are all those things the drillers are doing for the local communities? Patronizing the bars at night? Driving up the cost of rental housing? Spreading sexually transmitted disease amongst the womenfolk? Causing school districts to ask local governments to ban truck traffic on local roads during school bus pick up and drop off times so kids don’t get killed? Upgrading emergency preparedness equipment to handle a well blow out? Running compressor stations that have decibel levels equal to a jet engine?…really community oriented stuff.
The “womenfolk” line caught the attention of Republicans. Labeling him a “D, 19th Century,” the state party issued a statement labeling Sturla’s comments offensive and out-of-touch. “First of all, I understand that Democrats are shocked and awed that jobs are being created during President Obama’s tenure, but Rep. Sturla’s comments have no place in political discourse and he should be ashamed of himself,” said GOP Chair Rob Gleason. “The truth remains, Pennsylvania industries continue to grow because of business friendly, fiscally responsible policies like those that Governor Corbett has championed. Considering the Marcellus Shale industry, it’s a simple, inarguable fact that natural gas drilling has generated billions in revenue and supports nearly 140,000 jobs in our Commonwealth.“
Terminology aside, Sturla’s STD comment was grounded in fact: a report presented to Governor Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission by a Bradford County hospital found “an increase in sexually transmitted diseases” in the drilling-heavy county, compared to pre-boom data. Update: here’s the report, with the STD references highlighted. Speaking in Harrisburg today, Sturla stood by his comment. “That’s all I said,” he argued. “I may have done it in a rather insensitive way, and if anyone was offended by the insensitivity, I apologize for that, but I won’t apologize for saying there’s higher STDs in those areas. That’s a fact.”
“I don’t make this stuff up,” he continued. “Should we not have drilling in the state because of that? No, but it’s one of those impacts that we need to deal with. In the Marcellus Shale Commission report, it says we should deal with it.”
House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin didn’t dispute several rural communities have dealt with increased crime levels and higher rent, since drillers have moved in. But, he objected to Sturla’s message and tone. “What he’s doing is painting Pennsylvania workers as sex-starved, disease-riddled drunks.”