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Report Examines Ties Between Pennsylvania’s Regulators and the Oil and Gas Industry

Bruce Leighty

A new report from the Public Accountability Initiative called "Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania" questions regulators' ties to the industry.

Are state regulators across the country too cozy with the industry they’re in charge of overseeing?
The Huffington Post takes a look at the issue, highlighting a recent report about Pennsylvania, by the Buffalo, N.Y.-based Public Accountability Initiative:

Robert Galbraith, a research analyst at the Public Accountability Initiative, said public officials may indeed be trying to “leverage government regulatory positions into possible future high-paying jobs.”
Since 1995, his group found that three previous Pennsylvania governors have had connections to the oil and gas industry since they left office. Every Department of Environmental Protection secretary since then also has had ties.

The story quotes DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday criticizing the report as not telling the full story:

Sunday added that it should be “no surprise to anyone that some of the most highly qualified and experienced public officials involved in overseeing responsible shale development in Pennsylvania have a background in the issues they will oversee and regulate, and further may be interested in careers after concluding their public service.”
“To protect our taxpayers, Pennsylvania has strict ethics and disclosure laws to guard against undue influence in the policymaking arena,” Sunday said.

Pennsylvania’s state ethics law requires public officials to disclose gifts. Last December StateImpact Pennsylvania reported Governor Corbett accepted a vacation to Rhode Island in 2011, which was paid for by a central Pennsylvania businessman with ties to the state’s gas industry.

Elsewhere, state regulators rely on advisers who may also work for the oil and gas industry.
New York, which has a temporary ban on fracking pending an environmental review, hired a geologist who spent two decades working as a consultant for the industry, according to Bloomberg:

It’s the second time the agency under Governor Andrew Cuomo has picked a consultant on fracking that raised concerns. A 2011 study on the economic effects of fracking was conducted by a firm that says it helps companies secure permits for pipeline and gas-storage projects.


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