Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Advancing Pro-Fracking Legislation Profits from Leasing his Land to Drillers

Energy
Pennsylvania Lawmaker Advancing Pro-Fracking Legislation Profits from Leasing his Land to Drillers
Tim Evanson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Itai Vardi

A Pennsylvania state senator, who is responsible for a slew of legislation favoring the oil and gas industry, leases his own land to fracking companies, recent disclosure documents show. Last year, veteran lawmaker Gene Yaw of Lycoming County profited from royalties he received from several different drillers.


Yaw, who chairs the key senate environmental resources and energy committee, has been serving in the state legislature since 2008. In recent years he's positioned himself as a champion of the oil and gas industry by advancing various pro-industry measures. The counties in the district he represents, located squarely on top of the Marcellus Shale, have thousands of active oil and gas wells.

Pennsylvania state Senator Gene Yaw.Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus / CC BY 3.0

In late 2016, Yaw co-sponsored a bill to bolster the rights of property owners leasing their land to oil and gas developers. Soon after, he introduced the "Pennsylvania Natural Gas Expansion and Development Initiative," a bill that aims at dramatically expanding the production and transportation of natural gas in the state.

"We have an abundant natural resource beneath us," Yaw wrote in support of the bill, "which can be used to help consumers lower their energy heating costs." Earlier, Yaw half-jokingly told an audience at a midstream oil and gas conference that he's contemplating a bill to ban transporting gas into New York, given the state's own ban against hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

At the same time, Yaw benefits personally from Pennsylvania's fracking boom. According to his most recent financial disclosure, last year he received income from five different drilling companies: Anadarko, Statoil, Alta Marcellus Development, Mitsui E&P, and Chesapeake.

From Pennsylvania state Senator Gene Yaw's financial disclosure for 2017, showing income from drilling leases.

In 2013, a local reporter asked Yaw about land he leases in Lycoming County to Anadarko. The senator denied the lease poses a conflict of interest, noting that he leased the land before his election to the legislature. Yet as the most recent disclosure indicates, the number of oil and gas companies Yaw profits from has increased since he became a lawmaker.

According to Nick Troutman, a spokesperson for Yaw, the senator signed one lease about 12 to 15 years ago, before he entered the senate. The lessee, Anadarko, sold partial interests to other drillers, "transactions which are solely within the discretion of the lessee." Asked how much money Yaw made last year from the royalties, Troutman replied: "The amount of royalties, if any, is private and not subject to disclosure."

Nevertheless, Yaw benefits from the industry in another way. Outside of his political role, he is also an attorney at the Williamsport, Pennsylvania-based law firm McCormick, which, according to its website, engages in "gas company representation."

Yaw's spokesperson Troutman said questions about potential conflicts of interest are misplaced. "It takes 129 people to decide any legislative issues in Pennsylvania," he said, "So even if Sen. Yaw sponsors a bill, 128 others need to agree. Moreover, he is a citizen of the state. Every vote he makes potentially affects him, some on a daily basis, such as the increase in speed limits."

According to Troutman, "you'd have to bring lawmakers in from Maryland or New York if you want to get rid of potential conflicts because legislation affects everyone in the state and/or large groups of Pennsylvanians, some of whom may be lawmakers.

But for Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, an argument that every politician is essentially conflicted sounds unconvincing.

"It's an actual scandal when a legislator has a seemingly substantial, yet not fully disclosed, personal interest in fracking," Hauser said. "We not only need better disclosure rules, but we should compel office holders to recuse themselves from policy-making when they have a substantial conflict of interest."

As Hauser put it, "American representative democracy only works if policy outcomes are the result of the hashing out of competing notions of the public interest rather than individuals fighting to advance their bottom line."

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' "Doomsday Clock" — an estimate of how close humanity is to the apocalypse — remains at 100 seconds to zero for 2021. Eva Hambach / AFP / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

One hundred seconds to midnight. That's how close humanity is to the apocalypse, and it's as close as the world has ever been, according to Wednesday's annual announcement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group that has been running its "Doomsday Clock" since the early years of the nuclear age in 1947.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The 13th North Atlantic right whale calf with their mother off Wassaw Island, Georgia on Jan. 19, 2010. @GeorgiaWild, under NOAA permit #20556

North Atlantic right whales are in serious trouble, but there is hope. A total of 14 new calves of the extremely endangered species have been spotted this winter between Florida and North Carolina.

Read More Show Less

Trending

There are new lifestyle "medicines" that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients. Marko Geber / Getty Images

By Yoram Vodovotz and Michael Parkinson

The majority of Americans are stressed, sleep-deprived and overweight and suffer from largely preventable lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Being overweight or obese contributes to the 50% of adults who suffer high blood pressure, 10% with diabetes and additional 35% with pre-diabetes. And the costs are unaffordable and growing. About 90% of the nearly $4 trillion Americans spend annually for health care in the U.S. is for chronic diseases and mental health conditions. But there are new lifestyle "medicines" that are free that doctors could be prescribing for all their patients.

Read More Show Less
Candles spell out, "Fight for 1 point 5" in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany on Dec. 11, 2020, in reference to 1.5°C of Earth's warming. The event was organized by the Fridays for Future climate movement. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Taking an unconventional approach to conduct the largest-ever poll on climate change, the United Nations' Development Program and the University of Oxford surveyed 1.2 million people across 50 countries from October to December of 2020 through ads distributed in mobile gaming apps.

Read More Show Less
A monarch butterfly is perched next to an adult caterpillar on a milkweed plant, the only plant the monarch will lay eggs on and the caterpillar will eat. Cathy Keifer / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

Fall used to be the time when millions of monarch butterflies in North America would journey upwards of 2,000 miles to warmer winter habitat.

Read More Show Less