Energy. Environment. Economy.

Anti-drilling group settles surveillance litigation with state

"We believe that collecting and disseminating information about groups engaged in lawful activities ... can and does have a chilling effect upon freedom of speech," says Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition vice president Diane Dreier

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

"We believe that collecting and disseminating information about groups engaged in lawful activities can and does have a chilling effect upon freedom of speech," says Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition vice president Diane Dreier.

An anti-gas drilling group from northeastern Pennsylvania has reached a settlement agreement with state law enforcement officials, after it accused them of conducting unconstitutional surveillance on its members.

The litigation stems from 2011 when the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Homeland Security issued intelligence bulletins labeling the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC) as a potential terrorist threat. The agency had contracted with an Israeli-American security firm– the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response– to compile the bulletins.

Then-governor Rendell publicly apologized and cancelled the firm’s state contract.

GDAC vice president, Diane Drier, says the group has always behaved in a lawful and peaceful manner. She describes its mission as educating the public about “the negative consequences of natural gas extraction.”

“This conduct by the Pennsylvania state government was tantamount to trampling on our constitutional rights.” she told reporters at a press conference Thursday in Harrisburg. “Disseminating information about groups engaged in lawful activities can and does have a chilling effect upon freedom of speech.”

While the terms of the settlement agreement are confidential, former PEMA director Glenn Cannon sent a letter to GDAC last month clearing the group of any wrongdoing.

“This agency has no information or reason to believe that GDAC at any time in the past or currently could be fairly characterized a ‘terrorist organization,’” he wrote.

Cannon was a Corbett appointee and was recently replaced by Richard Flinn, who serves in Governor Tom Wolf’s new administration.  A PEMA spokesman tells StateImpact the agency is simply “glad to see the matter put to rest.”

GDAC’s attorney Paul Rossi says the group intends to continue its lawsuit against the former head of the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response. Rossi says he’s also disturbed to hear about recent reports state law enforcement officials are working with gas companies to collect information about other environmental groups and activists who oppose drilling.

“I’m about as flabbergasted as an attorney can be at the serial violations of First Amendment rights in this state,” he says. “It’s not that hard to comply with the First Amendment.”



  • Jack Wolf

    Yea, but what about the Marcellus Intelligence Group working with the PA State Police?

  • Dean Marshall

    If you hike near a Gas Pad on Public lands an take pictures, you may get a visit from a law enforcement officer who intends to Terrorize YOU and pump you for information on alleged, “Vandalism”, or “individuals who Might engage in trespass etc.” This is Gasfield Gestapo tactics and is unconstitutional repression of free speech, freedom of assembly, and right to privacy!

  • Marigrace

    On July 25, 2012, an armed security guard working for Templar Protection, an unlicensed company, was illegally patrolling Hope Hollow Road in Springhill Township, Fayette County. I was invited by two families who live on this road to take pictures of a natural gas compressor station that was built in 2005 without a permit from our county. The security guard got out of his outdated police car with LA plates and began taking pictures of me and my car. I asked him who he was and why was he taking pictures of me and my vehicle. He would not answer my questions. I contacted the PA State Police. The officer who responded to my call was not interested in the illegal activity of the security guard. He was only interested in questioning the two families who live close by that have been suffering for several years from the pollution from this facility. He asked them if they were upset with the industry and if they were going to file a law suit, details, etc. He questioned the families for over 45 minutes. Before the left, his comment was, “If I am called back out here, someone’s going to jail” I don’t think he was speaking about the unlicensed security guard. So, if I were to ask a magic 8 ball, Is law enforcement working with the gas industry against the citizens of Pennsylvania? – the arrow would most certainly point to YES!

  • Julieann Wozniak

    I was on this list for being quite vocal about Consol allowing frack fluid to be pumped illegally down a borehole at its abandoned Blacksville mine. The ensuing spill wiped out all life in the stream on both sides of the state line. I wrote extensively about the incident, which defined me as a “terrorist.” Seriously. My WMD is my laptop and broadband internet access. Oh, and my vocabulary. Not like I travel: I’m still right here in the family home in Bobtown….where I’ve been since 1970.

  • JimBarth

    Will the citizens of Pennsylvania ever wake up? The government, especially republicans, have acted disgracefully as it relates to shale gas extraction in our Commonwealth. The status quo can not be allowed to operate, end of story.

  • Jim Young

    If there be spying, let as much be spying on the government spies and those corporate people they serve to the detriment of the real people. Seems they spend way too much time and money serving the energy, financial sector, and dark political manipulators that take money from their foreign and domestic special interests (ALEC and their SPN spawn with so many different innocent, more local sounding names), instead of what they advertise they are protecting us from.

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