Energy. Environment. Economy.

Skunk At the Garden Party: Rendell Delivers Harsh Message During Shale Conference Speech

Getty Images

Former Governor Ed Rendell at a less confrontational event this year

Those anti-drilling protestors finally found someone inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center who had their back: former Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.

After a day filled with speakers who dismissed or mocked their concerns – former Republican Governor Tom Ridge called it “phony hysteria,” and Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon essentially labeled them luddites – Rendell took the stage and told the room that “fractivists” had a point. “The things they’re talking about are not incorrect,” he said. “They’re raising serious and legitimate issues. They express the fears of not just a few militants, but the fears of a lot of good, hard-working Pennsylvanians. About what’s going to happen to their neighborhood. About what’s going to happen to their water supply. About what’s going to happen to their waterways. Those are things that we can’t continue to ignore.”

Rendell then proceeded to lecture the energy industry for twenty minutes.

He argued drilling companies have hurt their public image by opposing a severance tax on gas extraction, and by not taking enough steps to protect the environment. “People care about the air they breathe. They care about the water that they drink. They care about the waterways that they fish in, and they swim in,” he said. “And that’s true whether it’s in Tioga County, or the Delaware River Basin. People care very much. And the industry has not made the necessary investments to ensure a safe environment.”

He pointed to hundreds of Department of Environmental Protection violations racked up by drillers in recent months. “These violations, and this record of seeming carelessness about violations and about environmental security have created a bipartisan coalition that cuts across party lines, that cuts across geographic lines against shale drilling,” he said.

Josh Fox speaks during an anti-drilling rally

The Marcellus Shale Coalition – the hosts of the garden party that Rendell skunked all over, that is – disputed his argument. In a statement, president Kathryn Klaber said, “Pennsylvania natural gas development is dynamic, fast-moving, and strictly-regulated, and the former Governor’s attempts to rehash issues that have since been resolved is stale and outdated.  As the former governor has noted [ and here she linked to a New York Times op-ed he authored in March] Pennsylvania has the strongest enforcement program of any state with gas drilling.  Period.’  We agree.”

Rendell also harangued the industry for not supporting a severance tax on gas drilling, calling the companies’ refusal to embrace a levy “a great disappointment.” He argued it’s hurting their public image. “The fact that the shale companies do not pay a severance tax has become well-known by virtually every advocacy group in the commonwealth,” he said. “And it is the whipping boy for those groups.” By balking at a tax at a time when lawmakers are cutting billions of dollars from the budgets, Rendell said drillers are, “turning the tide of public opinion against [them].”

Rendell supported a severance tax during his administration, but took the issue off the table during 2009 budget negotiations, when it was gaining momentum. Republican Governor Tom Corbett has called the issue a non-starter, making it a political longshot in Harrisburg these days. The most realistic levy possible is likely a low-level impact fee, which would drive money to local governments hosting drilling rigs, and possibly to a handful of environmental cleanup efforts.

We’ve now heard from two of the three former governors slated to speak at the Shale Gas Insight conference. Both Rendell and Ridge made their own bold arguments. Will Corbett continue the trend?


  • Marty

    The only person Fast Eddy should be lecturing is his cellmate. He should be locked up for all the money he stole from the state for himself and his friends.

  • Sharon

    Why is anyone listening to Fat Eddie? This is the man, who in 8 years, damn near bankrupted the state while paying off his cronies. He either needs to go away quietly or face charges of corruption.

  • Anonymous

    Why in Heaven’s name was a skunk invited to the party?
    Why give him the air-time?

  • CitizenKane

    What has Corbett done for the Commonwealth? Let’s see, he has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from the gas drillers and refused to impose any kind of extraction tax– taxes that would helped save our education system and improve our infrastructure. Instead, Corbett has slashed education and offered no solutions to fixing our failing roads, water and sewer systems. Pennsylvania is now on the path to economic ruin. Our population will be poorly educated and we will have no viable transportation system or other infrastructure. No businesses will want to locate here. Our future looks bleak under the present plan of action. I think Rendell sounds like a much wiser Governor than our current guy.

    • Anonymous

      Oh please, give us all a break. First off, PA businesses pay some of the highest taxes (that’s why most won’t locate here, along with having to deal with strong union opposition) in the nation so these gas companies are paying their share. As far as the education system, the educators are taking us all to the cleaners with their unions and retirement requirements. We have been on the road to economic ruin for some time because of public employees numbers/demands. Now for my other viewpoint. The shale industry is making mistakes and more stringent laws are needed. They do pollute air, ground, and water. They claim the act of fracking doesn’t pollute but accidents happen and more stringent laws need to be passed concerning frac pits and fracking water, in general. As it is, the EPA and DEP have removed mostly all controls from local government so we must depend on the actions of “big government.” I say get moving, big government, much is at stake in our state.

  • Anonymous

    The concerns Mr Rendell echoed are real. I am sad to see the comments below that stoop to name calling. The gas industry has the money and the political connections to stiff arm public debate, overwhelm the media (unfortunately even Newsworks) with public relations statements, control our political institutions, and basically get virtually everything they want. It is not healthy for our state, not healthy for our environment, and not healthy for us to have this huge, powerful industry dominate our institutions with so few boundaries and so little accountability.
    That some folks hate Mr. Rendell and call him names or snipe about him does not say anything at all about the truth or falsehood of his statements.
    That the gas industry held a huge conference where there was virtually no disagreement and no meaningful conversation tells me that they do not really care to discover the real truth or be held accountable for the adverse impacts of their behavior. In the end, once again, it seems to be all about money and not about safety no matter how many times the industry spokespeople say it is safe.

    • Marty

      It is not the message, it is the messenger. Fast Eddy is a thief who left the state holding the bag. His highpoint was when he stole the Barnes Foundation $25 Billion in artwork to pay off Lenfest and Pew for past favors. You don’t invite a corrupt hack to speak on how a vital industry should be regulated when his only interest is in what he can extract in political contributions.

      • Anonymous

        Not sure which corporation will give Ed Rendell political contributions for raising critical questions about gas drilling. Hmmm, perhaps Green Peace, but I think their gifts would be way smaller than Range Resources. So the evidence does not support your contention. If anyone cares to comment on the content rather than the atmospherics I would be interested. All over the internet, about shale gas, deep sea drilling, the tar sands, and mountain top removal, there seems to be an infinite amount of people who are willing to call names, attack those who raise legitimate questions, make alarmist (and unfounded) comments about living in caves and eating berries. But no one wants to defend the practice on scientific grounds or explain why it makes sense to burden our great grandchildren with a world bespoiled.

        More comments about how you hate Ed Rendell are simply not relevant.

      • Anonymous

        Would you like to comment on the political contributions that Mr. Corbett will be getting out of all this? How does that affect your appreciation for him as a politician?

  • Anonymous

    Eddy needs to take a hike. Preferably to another state. He set the state up for a $4 billion deficit using the failed stimulus money from Obama in a way that the state would have had to continue to fund if Corbett had not made the cuts he did.

    The state stands to gain a lot of money from the gas industry whether there is a gas tax or not.

  • Anonymous

    We need more democrats. That’s the point.

  • Briget Shields

    The frightening part of this story for me is that there wasn’t much substance to the conference other than name calling and profits. The serious issues of water contamination, health issues for the people living near the drilling, contamination of land and air, accidents (many fatal) both to the environment and workers is not important enough to the people in the room to have even been addressed. If it was, I think that the CEO’s and politicians would be engaged in intelligent discussion on how to prevent much of this irreversible damage rather than name calling and arrogant judgements against those who do care. I was there, I saw and heard first hand some of the most horrific stories. Reports of a total lack off moral values, compassion, respect or care given to the people who are suffering. There is some very serious damage being done where ever this industry is doing business. if this wasn’t about greed than I would expect to hear some intelligent discussion on how to fix and avoid this damage. Now I am almost certain that the reason for not confronting the issues is a sign that these IMPORTANT issues are not and never will be addressed or fixed. It is astounding to me that these men would want to leave a legacy of death, destruction and irreversible damage for the future of many generations that will come after us.

  • Bonita_e_jones

    Rose Ruhl, a citizen of PA Facebooked this piece a little while ago. She also posted this comment…. ” I saw on the weather channel last night that Jim Cantore was standing on a bridge over the Susquehanna River in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and a strong odor of gas or diesel fuel was coming from the river. This morning a news reporter was in Marietta, Pa. which is in Lancaster county and that reporter was getting a strong gas odor from the river also. The gas wells up north are under water in places and toxic frack ponds have spillled over. These gasholes are killing our state!!!! AND the state government is looking the other way!!!! Time to speak up people!!!! That is our drinking water!!!

    Just think of it, “fracking,” … 600 chemicals plus water and silica sand pressure driven down into geological rock to fracture the rock and draw the gas up and out…. you see all the warm and fuzzy ads fm Exxon/Mobil w/black/white film of a guy named Eric Oswald, a dimple faced smiling engineer for E/M assuring that they are doing this “right.” All the propaganda about going a mile or down in concrete encased pipe or tubing etc. Well the gas wells noted above are under water and frack ponds of waste spilled over. What is the matter with you people. I get the Big Ed Rendell sarcasm. And now he’s making money being a pol consultant for MSNBC bec Chris Matthews loves him. But as another poster said, the issue is this awful destruction of land, water and air. And don’t even get me started on Keystone XL II…. but on the other hand…. if the system will let this work I’m copying in this video… I’m in Maine retired a yr or so now and get the CBC (Canadian) channel…

  • Bonita_e_jones

    Bridget I cldn’t have said it better. Everyone, make sure you see this video …. tarsands is coming if Obama signs off on it. As former NASA weather expert said…. “it is game over for the environment if Keystone XL II goes thru.”

  • Bonita_e_jones
  • Bonita_e_jones
  • Bonita_e_jones

    Bridget I cldn’t have said it better. Everyone, make sure you see this video …. tarsands is coming if Obama signs off on it. As former NASA weather expert said…. “it is game over for the environment if Keystone XL II goes thru.”

  • Diane Pagen

    From Delaware County, New York: Here’s to people with some guts! The industry “leaders” should be forced to live next to PA’s fracking sites. Then let’s see how “clean” and “safe” they think fracking is.

  • Cassandra

    Maybe, just maybe we can start to turn our attention to biomass, folks. You know the kind of energy that is carbon-neutral, easy renewed and not harmful to the earth, air or water….
    Can you say, switchgrass? This ridiculous spin by a sinister industry to come off as our energy savior is a bunch of malarkey. There is nothing good about fracking. Natural gas is the Methadone America has turned to as it comes to grips with the fact that we are ADDICTS…to oil. This cannot be a long-term solution. It will not be a panacea. Natural gas and it’s cost will ultimately break our hearts with the reality that we have irreversibly screwed up – again. Republicans & Dems, alike need to get it straight – sustainability is all that actually matters. an Otherwise we are just going to go through all of this mess again when the costs are too high. How many pipeline explosions, house explosions, polluted water-tables, and earthquakes are justified? All for what? Oh, right…so we can drive a big-SUV, use plastic everyday and throw it away and generally walk around in denial…
    I would like to think that we are smarter than that. And that we can out smart these corporations who hand us poison and say it’s medicine.
    Our energy would be better applied to finding and building REAL solutions to the problems. Read up on biomass/biofuels/biopolymers – created from GRASSES! This is not New Age artsy-fartsy stuff, peeps. This is the real deal and it’s right in front of us. The problem is, the corporations can’t lay claim to grasslands that an American farmer tends to and sells at the market – that directly impacts his community.
    So, like any addict – America will have have to confront her demons and learn to live a different way.

  • Erwin Dale Brown

    As long as the big corporations pour money into the pockets of the regulators of the gas industry there will never be enough control over them. I have to ask the obvious question that makes the point. “When the gas lines between the wells are no longer flowing with gas are they going to make a point of coming back (at their expense) and remove it all from the land?” To infer that Environmentalists who are focused on the very real problems that come with the gas greed are “MILITANTS” is a very bad choice of a word and a concept. Environmentalists are “Citizens in Service to America”. They are out there working for free and doing the research that the “paid for government shills” are trying to ignore. What can you call a government that spews hate and doubt onto the citizens that are trying to do the same work that we “PAY” the government to do and they are only willing to do a tiny piece of what is needed? “Environmentalists and Fracftivists are also Patriots to the wellbeing of America”. Always steady, always vigilant, always true to the needs of their nation. ‘We the People” need to realize who is actually doing the work of conserving the quality of life and the environment we live in. .

  • Danny Shuman’s

    Amazing! CNN has a 24 hour cycle of news yet never a mention about fracking other then commercials from the gas companies. I have called them,suggested story’s to CNN about the subject,written to their reporters blogs yet they not only don’t do stories but as far as I can see no one else is writing and p[posting to the reporters about Fracking. Why?. Maybe they think I am the only one who is aware or angry about this .but if others would go to the bother of calling or writing to CNN it wouldn’t hurt. One post represents many other unwritten ones . By the way I have 15 acres and it sure would help to have gas money! However, leaving my legacy as poisoning the earth or killing animals, ruining the water supply ,sure isn’t hard to think about the rights or wrongs of the matter.What always gives me the biggest laugh is the jokers who cant wait to be fracked ,get money and tell all who will listen how good the it will be for the community. Sure some waitresses will get a better tip and those with homes can sell them very fast ,fast food (to well paid drillers) will sell well,but other then drilling supported jobs its no boon to the community. When the drilling is done only maintenance jobs are left.Terrible roads,and torn up area with no chance of anyone moving in and those there,STUCK THERE!

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »