Update: Corbett line item vetoed the $150,000 to Safer PA.
Last year, I wrote an article about Senate Bills 790, which would dedicate millions of dollars for a Department of Health study on natural gas drilling. At the time, I wrote:
Last spring, State Senators Stewart Greenleaf (R – Montgomery County) and John Yudichak (D – Luzerne County) introduced Senate Bill 790, a bi-partisan bill that would amend Act 13 and establish a health registry. The bill was similar to Senate Bill 1519, which was introduced to Environmental Resources and Energy committee in May 2012. SB 790 would “dedicate three million dollars to the Department of Health” to conduct studies that would determine “if health services are adequate in areas of the Commonwealth where unconventional gas well drilling occurs.” The funds would assist Geisinger Health Systems, Guthrie Health, and Susquehanna Health who are already conducting health impact studies. Like SB 1519 from the previous session, SB 790 appears to be rotting in State Senator Gene Yaw’s committee for the foreseeable future.
Instead, the bill was, and still is, rotting in committee. During last year’s budget negotiations, an industry staffed non-profit group, Safer PA, received $150,000 to conduct an independent study. Again, I wrote:
At the same time PA Republicans are handing out $150,000 for “independent research,” bi-partisan legislation thatestablishes a 3 million dollar health impact study is rotting in Gene Yaw’sEnvironmental Resources & Energy committee. Sources in Harrisburg close to the budget process confirmed that the appropriated money is going to Safer PA, a non-profit organization controlled by the gas industry lobbyists and corporations. The appropriation did not appear in the Senate’s original version, which means that it was slipped in by a member on the House Appropriations Committee. The amended version reads:
“From the funds appropriated for Environmental Program Management, $150,000 shall be used for independent research regarding natural gas drilling.”
Why is this relevant now? During the budget negotiations, StateImpact NPR revealed a story about “buzzwords” and how the Department of Health would shelf fracking related complaints. Will Bunch at Attytood has been covering this. But here’s another, not so surprising, twist to this growing scandal that environmentally conscious legislators haven’t been talking about. During the recent rounds of budget negotiations, Safer PA received another $150,000 from the House GOP to conduct another “independent study.” Buried in the 2014-2015 fiscal code, comes this little nugget:
“From funds appropriated for environmental program management, $150,000 shall be used for independent research of natural gas drilling”
And at the time, State Rep Jesse White blasted this move on twitter because it went to Safer PA. It’s time for Dem legislators to grow a spine and start demanding answers.