Today, the Pennsylvania House will take action on House Bill 1576, which is better known as the Endangered Species Coordination Act. The bill’s primary author is Armstrong County Republican Jeffrey Pyle and it flies in the face of basic conservation science. As we reported in August, this bill loosens the regulations protecting state-specific endangered species and can de-list up to 62 state-specific endangered species. This bill has the full support of the natural gas industry and what is most dangerous about this bill is that if other states were to follow Jeffrey Pyle’s logic and attack state specific endangered species, these species will ultimately end up on the federal endangered species list.
Some of Representative Pyle’s largest campaign contributors are from the fossil fuels industry. He received over $30,000 in campaign contributions from the energy industries, which is a lot of money for someone who will never have his house seat challenged, but looking at who exactly are some of his largest contributors, you’ll see Cliff Forrest and Alpha Natural Resources. When I broke this story wide open last summer, those two names were just names on a list, but recent environmental catastrophes and violations have shed light onto who exactly are these two names.
Cliff Forrest and his companies have contributed over $25,000 Representative Pyle’s campaigns, most of which go unopposed. Cliff Forrest is the co-owner of Freedom Industries, who became famous for bringing Freedom Water to 300,000 West Virginia citizens. Cliff Forrest is also the owner of a coal chemical company, Rosebud Mining, in Jeffrey Pyle’s district, and Rosebud Mining handles the same toxic chemicals, MCMH, that ruined the drinking water for 300,000 people. When Senator Bob Casey called for regulating Rosebud, Jeffrey Pyle went to bat for Rosebud and said: “The training for first responders makes sense. But I think calling for federal oversight for something that has been used for 50 years is a bit capricious.”
One of Pyle’s other campaign financiers was Alpha Natural Resources, and their PAC gave Pyle $2,500 in campaign contributions for an unopposed reelection. Alpha Natural Resources was just hit with the largest fine in the history of the Clean Water Act program. The company was fined $27.5 million for illegal dumping in five Appalachian states,which included Pennsylvania.
House Bill 1576 is a bill written for and by the Natural Gas Industry in Pennsylvania, and it’s probably one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve seen since following Harrisburg over the last three years.