A breaking investigation by EnergyWire appears to connect the dots between shadowy lobbying efforts by shale gas fracking company Range Resources, and the Obama EPA's decision to shut down its high-profile lawsuit against Range for allegedly contaminating groundwater in Weatherford, TX.
At the center of the scandal sits former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the National Governors' Association.
Just weeks ago, the Associated Press (AP) broke news that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shut down the high-profile Texas lawsuit and buried an accompanying scientific report obtained during the lawsuit's discovery phase in March 2012.
That confidential report, contracted out to hydrogeologist Geoffrey Thyne by the Obama EPA, concluded that methane found in the drinking water of a nearby resident could have originated from Range Resources' nearby shale gas fracking operation.
Range Resources - which admitted at an industry conference that it utilizes psychological warfare (PSYOPs) tactics on U.S. citizens - launched an aggressive defense against the EPA's allegations that the company might be responsible for contaminating resident Steve Lipsky's groundwater.
AP explained in its investigation that resident Steve Lipsky, who has a wife and three young children, had "reported his family's drinking water had begun 'bubbling' like champagne" and that his "well...contains so much methane that the...water [is] pouring out of a garden hose [that] can be ignited."
In response, the Obama EPA ordered Range to halt fracking. Range was non-cooperative every step of the way, refusing to comply with the legal dictates of the discovery phase and not complying with the censored water sample study implicating the company with groundwater contamination.
The new twist exposed by EnergyWire's Mike Soraghan is that Ed Rendell, acting "as a spokesman for Range" Resources, "proposed certain terms" to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Exactly what was said remains unclear, but the EPA ultimately dropped its case against Range.
Over a thousand pages of emails obtained by EnergyWire "offer behind-the-scenes insights in a case that has come to be seen as a major retreat by the agency amid aggressive industry push-back and support for natural gas drilling by President Obama."
Rendell: Range's Chosen One or Rogue Lobbyist?
The emails obtained by EnergyWire reveal that Rendell intervened directly with Administrator Jackson at some point in 2011, presumably after his term as Pennsylvania's governor came to a close on Jan 18, 2011. An EPA attorney's email indicated that Rendell said he was there "as a spokesman for Range."
According to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, Rendell took almost $200,000 from the oil and gas industry in the run-up to his 2006 electoral victory and while governor, he described himself as the industry's "best ally."
Upon completion of his gubernatorial stint, Rendell immediately fled to the private sector. He currently works both as an Operating Partner at Element Partners and as a Senior Advisor at Greenhill & Co., Inc.
Element Partners describes itself as a firm that, among other things, provides "services to the energy, industrial, and environmental markets" and "capital for growth, acquisitions, shareholder liquidity, recapitalizations, and buyouts." It provides investment capital for numerous oil and gas industry clients.
Greenhill is a similar firm, describing itself as a "leading independent investment bank focused on providing financial advice on significant mergers, acquisitions, restructurings, financings and capital raisings to corporations, partnerships, institutions and governments." Like Element, Greenhall also provides investment capital for numerous oil and gas corporations.
Prior to the completion of Rendell's final term as governor, three of his former aides abruptly left their jobs to work as shale gas industry lobbyists. Their names: Kenneth Scott Roy, Barbara Sexton, and Sarah Battisti.
Sexton, Rendell's former Executive Deputy Secretary of the PA Department Environmental Protection (DEP), transitioned into a gig working as a lobbyist for industry giant Chesapeake Energy. Battisti, another of Rendell's cadre of Deputy Chiefs-of-Staff, became a lobbyist for BG (British Gas) Group.
The third, K. Scott Roy, wound up as a lobbyist for Range Resources as Vice President for Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs.
Is Scott Roy the Bridge Between Ridge, Rendell, Range and MSC?
In his Range Resources bio, K. Scott Roy describes his former position as Ed Rendell's "top advisor." His official title was Executive Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Governor. Roy also serves on the Executive Board of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the gas industry's aggressive lobbying arm in statehouses located within the Marcellus Shale basin. Prior to serving in the Rendell administration, Roy worked in the office of former PA Governor Tom Ridge, who went on to serve as "strategic advisor" to the Marcellus Shale Coalition in 2012.
It is as yet unclear what role Scott Roy played as one of Range's hired guns to fend off the EPA lawsuit. Might he have contacted his old boss Ed Rendell for help pressuring the Obama administration to lay off Range? It seems a reasonable question to ask.
Range Denies Rendell Worked on its Behalf
Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella (of PSYOPs revelation notoriety) denied any connection between the company and Rendell.
"I don't know the extent of the governor's involvement in energy-related matters, but he never functioned as a spokesperson of Range," Pitzarella told EnergyWire.
Given the ties that bind Rendell to Range, though, the words "plausible deniability" come to mind.
Coming full circle, it's important to remember the human side of this story. Lipsky's family now pays $1,000 per month for water deliveries, with life for them changed forever.
"This has been total hell," Lipsky told the AP. "It's been taking a huge toll on my family and on our life."
Determining the truth of what happened with the EPA's failed investigation and lawsuit against Range Resources won't change the Lipskys' predicament, but it would go a long way towards identifying the grasp of the oil industry's tentacles on Washington.