Pennsylvania Strange Bedfellows: Governor Appointee Granted Unlimited Authority Over States Agencies
I am a student of history and in particular, European history. My family goes back to the Norman Invasion. I have often stated that the conservatives of this country would like nothing better than to be the New Aristocracy of America. In terms of wealth and power – they are already there: 2% have $40 trillion of the nation’s wealth. And as to a return to the old paradigm it is not so far fetched for in Michigan and now in Pennsylvania we areseeing the first instances of a return to Lords of the realm, a modern version, but nonetheless, it is very close indeed. For nearly two thousand years, European Kings would grant title, lands, and authority in exchange for homage (money) and fealty (loyalty) – doing as the King ordered.
The grantor (the King), was lord of the grantee, his vassal, but both were free men and social peers, and feudalism must not be confused with seignorialism, the system of relations between the lords and their peasants in the same period.
Fast forward to 2011:
C. Alan Walker, who has contributed $184,000 to Governor Corbett’s campaign efforts since 2004, is CEO and owner of Bradford Energy Company and Bradford Coal, which was once among Pennsylvania’s largest coal mining companies. He also owns or has an interest in 12 other companies, including a trucking business and a central Pennsylvania oil and gas company.
Governor Corbett has granted to Mr. Walker something that looks like a Lordship:
Now, as Corbett stakes much of the state’s economy on Marcellus Shale gas drilling, a paragraph tucked into the 1,184-page budget gives Walker unprecedented authority to “expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted.” That includes, presumably, coal, oil, gas and trucking.
This means Mr. Corbett can override restrictions and regulations that would otherwise be executed by the appropriate state agencies. This is a complete misuse of the Governor’s office and power in that he is using his office to advance special interests. This is another case where the people of the state of Pennsylvania need to appeal to their state Attorney General to open an investigation for ethics violations and state constitutional violations.
ProPublica article continues:
“I have never seen anybody give an economic development director the authority to tell every other agency in the state what to do with regard to its statutory responsibilities,” said Deborah Goldberg, an attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental group active on drilling issues. “The law requires that you not pollute the waters of Pennsylvania, and if he tries to speed up an application that makes it possible that that is going to happen then I think he is clearly operating outside of his authority.”
Walker’s ties to the energy industry are deep. He is listed on state disclosure forms as an executive of the Pennsylvania Coal Association and he has served as chairman of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. He also has firsthand experience with the state’s environmental regulations, because his companies would likely have applied for permits similar to those the oil and gas industry is now pursuing in the Marcellus. And like many energy companies, his, too, have run into problems with the state.
In 2002, three of Walker’s coal companies notified Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection that they had run out of money and were going to stop treating the 173 million gallons of polluted water they produced each year and released into tributaries of the Susquehanna River. The state eventually got a court injunction to force them to continue treating the wastewater as required by state and federal law.
In another story:
Newsworks reports: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget for the department of Public Welfare holds more money, but will still mean service cutbacks. The department’s $11.2 billion budget is slightly higher than last year’s, but most of that money will go to federally mandated Medicare and Medicaid services. Pennsylvania has a growing number of older people relying on these services, said spokeswoman Ann Bale.
“Therefore our numbers continue to grow, and so because of federal mandates we are unable to cut back on these programs, and so we’re looking at the areas that we can cut,” she said. Bale added that the department is trying to do more with less, but cuts will be necessary. Cuts may include funding for community-based family centers. Those centers provide services for at-risk families, such as child-rearing education or nutrition classes. Bale said the proposed budget also reduces money for autism services. Social service providers in the region said it is too soon to understand the exact ramifications of the budget proposal.
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