A natural gas drilling rig in Greene County, Pa. in 2016. Photo: Reid R. Frazier
Attorney General says he’s investigating ‘more than a dozen’ criminal cases into oil and gas companies
Shapiro's probes are part of several involving shale gas industry
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro says he’s conducting “more than a dozen” investigations into companies involved in the oil and gas industry in the state.
It was the first acknowledgment by the attorney general of the investigations, which have involved an investigative grand jury in Pittsburgh for more than a year.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported the attorney general’s statements. A spokeswoman for Shapiro’s office confirmed the investigations, but declined to discuss details.
It was the latest revelation into criminal investigations of the oil and gas industry in Pennsylvania. In his comments to the Post-Gazette, Shapiro said criminal charges were expected “in the near future” and that his office was putting “enormous resources” into the investigation.
The Post-Gazette previously reported more than “a couple dozen” state Department of Environmental Protection officials, including top oil and gas regulator Scott Perry, testified to the grand jury in Pittsburgh in November.
Late last year, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania issued a federal grand jury subpoena to Energy Transfer over the Revolution pipeline, which exploded in 2018.
Another Energy Transfer project, the Mariner East pipeline, is the subject of a joint investigation by Shapiro’s office and the Delaware County District Attorney. In December, the Chester County District Attorney brought conspiracy, bribery and related charges against five people, including Energy Transfer’s security manager, for allegedly hiring armed Pennsylvania constables to illegally provide security for the pipeline, then hiding how the constables were paid.
The pipeline has a long track record of drilling mud spills, fines and regulatory shutdowns, and was issued a then-record $12.6 million fine by the DEP in February 2019.
The FBI is also investigating the issuance of permits to the Mariner East pipeline by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, according to reports by the Associated Press.
Dave Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said in an email: “While we cannot comment on broad, ongoing investigations, for Pennsylvania energy job-creators and their employees, including many in the union building trades, protecting and enhancing public health, safety, and our shared environment absolutely comes first.”
Shapiro’s investigators have been interested in the case of Stephanie Hallowich, a western Pennsylvania woman who testified before the grand jury in Pittsburgh in February 2019.
Hallowich, at one time an outspoken critic of fracking, has not talked publicly about her case since signing a settlement with Range Resources in 2012.
In a lawsuit that preceded the settlement, Hallowich claimed Range Resources and two other oil and gas companies contaminated the air and water at her Washington County home.
Shapiro also asked attorneys involved in a case between Range Resources and Washington County resident Stacey Haney and seven other plaintiffs to preserve documents and evidence in their lawsuit, in which they claimed the company contaminated their property and made them sick. That case ended with a $3 million settlement for the plaintiffs. Range spokesmen didn’t respond to requests for comment.