Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

Report: police sharing intelligence on activists with gas industry

Protesters outside a gas industry trade conference in Philadelphia last year.

Kim Paynter/ WHYY

Protesters outside a gas industry trade conference in Philadelphia last year. According to the Pittsburgh City Paper, a private security firm watching them sent an update to the Pennsylvania State Police.

According to the Pittsburgh City Paper, state and federal law enforcement have joined in an intelligence-sharing network with the oil and gas industry to follow the activities of environmental activists.

The paper cites documents it obtained showing a state trooper giving a presentation to industry representatives with photographs of several anti-fracking groups.

According to the article, the same trooper visited the homes of activist Wendy Lee, a Bloomsburg University professor, and crossed state lines to visit the home of Jeremy Alderson, publisher of the No Frack Almanac, at his home outside Ithaca, New York.

From the Pittsburgh City Paper:

The photo, presentation and house visits are part of a little-known intelligence-sharing network that brings together law enforcement, including the FBI, Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security, the oil and gas industry, and private security firms. Established in late 2011 or early 2012, the Marcellus Shale Operators’ Crime Committee (MSOCC) is a group of “professionals with a law-enforcement background who are interested in developing working relationships and networking on intelligence issues,” according to an email sent to group members by James Hansel, regional security manager for Anadarko Petroleum.

The MSOCC has taken a keen interest in environmental activists and anti-fracking groups, according to documents obtained through a state Right to Know request. The collaboration raises questions about the increasingly close ties between law enforcement and the natural-gas industry in Pennsylvania, and whether law enforcement has violated the civil liberties of protesters and environmental groups in its effort to protect the state’s most controversial industry.

The paper reports the MSOCC sends updates to more than 150 recipients, including all of the major drilling companies in the Marcellus Shale, the FBI, state Homeland Security, and state and local law enforcement.

There have been instances of hazardous materials– including pipe bombs— being found near gas drilling sites, but the incidents have not been linked publicly to environmental activists.

According to the article, a private security firm also sent an update to the Pennsylvania State Police about protesters outside the gas industry conference, Shale Insight, last year in Philadelphia. State Police spokesperson Maria Finn declined to comment on the email to the paper. She could not be immediately reached by StateImpact Pennsylvania.

“We do not have a policy regarding contracts with security firms — as we do not contract with such firms,” Finn wrote in an email to the paper.

She also told the paper the trooper who visited the activists’ homes was responding to questions about activist groups in the Marcellus Shale region.

Earlier this year, the governor’s office intervened to stop the state police from performing routine inspections on buses which transported members of the industry to a pro-gas rally in Harrisburg.

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