Marcellus Enters the Attorney General's Race, Sort of…
The race for the state’s next Attorney General may not be grabbing the attention of masses of voters. In fact, few could probably name the two candidates. So here they are: Democrat Kathleen Kane is running against Republican David Freed, the Cumberland County District Attorney. If Kane wins, she would become the first woman, and first Democrat, to serve as Pennsylvania’s Attorney General.
In September, the race made headlines when a Republican group based in Washington, D.C. ran a false ad about Kane’s record as a Lackawanna County prosecutor, claiming she was “soft on rape.” When confronted with the inaccuracies, the Republican State Leadership Committee pulled the ad off the air.
Now another false claim has emerged – this one relating to the Marcellus Shale.
Last week, the Republican Party of Pennsylvania sent out a press release saying Kathleen Kane was a hypocrite on Marcellus Shale drilling. The release said that Kane, while critical of the gas industry, has made “millions” off of shale-related business.
“Kathleen Kane’s hypocrisy by publicly criticizing Marcellus Shale while privately making millions off of this expanding industry is a bait and switch for Pennsylvania voters,” said GOP chairman Rob Gleason.
The GOP referenced a Scranton Times-Tribune article written in January with the headline “New truck fleet to help company compete in shale era.” The piece says the company Kane Is Able spent more than $6 million to buy 50 new tractor trailers. The company is run by Kane’s husband.
But the reason for that purchase proved to be a labor shortage in Northeast Pennsylvania that made it more difficult for the company to hire qualified drivers. The new trucks were not purchased to haul anything related to natural gas production.
Kane Is Able’s marketing director, who was quoted in the original Times-Tribune story, told StateImpact Pennsylvania that the company does not ship any shale related products.
“We don’t truck water, we don’t make any money from shale,” said Alex Stark.
Stark says keeping good drivers, who may have chosen to work for the natural gas industry, was part of the reason behind the purchase of new trucks.
“It was a soft story,” said Stark. “I wanted to make the point that we have an 82-year-old company that is still investing in this region.”
The author of the article, James Haggerty, says the piece was written to illustrate competition for qualified truckers due to an increase in gas drilling.
Kane’s husband Chris helps run the family business Kane Is Able, which was founded back in 1930 to truck goods around Northeast Pennsylvania. Now it operates 16 warehouses across the country, shipping food and dry goods nationwide. The Kane Is Able website lists their main customers as Hershey’s chocolate, Kimberly-Clark, Kraft, PepsiCo, Sam’s Club, Procter & Gamble, Topps, and Walmart.
Kathleen Kane does address Marcellus Shale drilling on her website, where she says protecting leaseholders, and the environment is a priority. There is no mention of environmental issues on David Freed’s campaign site.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has an environmental crimes division, but its power is limited. The office does not have original jurisdiction, which means any environmental case brought against a company or individual has to be referred to the Attorney General by the Department of Environmental Protection, or a county district attorney. So, although it’s an independently elected position, the Attorney General cannot begin a criminal investigation into an environmental crime on its own.
In 2011, the Attorney General’s office prosecuted two cases regarding illegal dumping of drilling waste water.