Breaking: In private email, Pa.’s Homeland Security chief pledges “support” to gas drillers, warns against groups “fomenting dissent.”

An email obtained by City Paper suggests collaboration between the state Department of Homeland Security and gas drilling interests. The email, authored by Pennsylvania Homeland Security chief James Powers, was written in apparent error: addressed to a participant in anti-drilling forums, the letter indicates that Powers mistakenly…

An email obtained by City Paper suggests collaboration between the state Department of Homeland Security and gas drilling interests.

The email, authored by Pennsylvania Homeland Security chief James Powers, was written in apparent error: addressed to a participant in anti-drilling forums, the letter indicates that Powers mistakenly mistook its recipient for someone associated with pro-drilling interests.

In the email (full text below), Powers warns against distributing information gathered by the Pa. DHS on anti-drilling activities, saying that: “We want to continue providing this support to the Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies.”

The “support” he speaks of consists at least partly of confidential updates on anti-drilling activists and activities. A report yesterday evening by nonprofit investigative journalism outfit Pro Publica broke the news that the Pennsylvania Dept. of Homeland Security included in its regular newsletter, the Pennsylvania Intelligence Bulletin, descriptions of various activities and gatherings of activists opposed to gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

Included in a list entitled “Dates of interest” are a series of local meetings about gas drilling issues — a drilling ordinance in Cranberry County, a hearing in Damascus, Pa. on zoning regulations — as well as the recent screening in Philadelphia of the “controversial Gasland movie,” a documentary by filmmaker Josh Fox on the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, the process used to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

City Paper emailed Mr. Powers to confirm authenticity of the email and was contacted instead by Governor Rendell’s chief spokesman Gary Tuma, who acknowledged that the email was authentic and said that the Pa. Dept. of Homeland Security was sharing such information with certain local interests – including gas drilling companies — because of “recent acts of vandalism” against drilling operations.

“There have been five acts of vandalism against Marcellus Shale drilling facilities,” in the last two weeks, he said, “including two of which involved firearms … shotguns fired at equipment.”

A third incident involved theft, he said after being asked for details, and the other two were “minor incidents.”

 

Tuma added that “There have been peaceful protests related to MS drilling by people who oppose drilling and the increased amount of drilling — certainly no one is trying to restrict the rights of peaceful protest conducted within the parameters of the first amendment.”

Asked whether there have been any protests that were not peaceful, Mr. Tuma acknowledged, “There have not been any that I’m aware of.”

The full text of the email appears below:

For Your Information & Situational Awareness

Just a short note of clarification regarding the intent of the PIB. The information provided to you via the PIB is not for dissemination in the public domain. As indicated in the caveats on the first page, the PIB is solely meant for owners/operators & security personnel associated with our critical infrastructure & key resources.

Although an internet forum is certainly a great way to spread the word and receive input from forum participants, it’s still in the public domain and thus be accessed by both pro and anti-natural gas drilling folks.

Please assist us in keeping the information provided in the PIB to those having a valid need-to-know; it should only be disseminated via closed communications systems.

Thanks for your support. We want to continue providing this support to the Marcellus Shale Formation natural gas stakeholders while not feeding those groups fomenting dissent against those same companies.

Jim

James F. Powers, Jr. | Director

Office of Homeland Security

2605 Interstate Drive | Suite 380

Harrisburg, PA 17110-9382

717-651-2715 | Cell: 717-307-5335

    • Josh Kruger wearing a cloth surgical mask while wearing a tie and waterproof topcoat with City Hall's clock tower.

      Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and editor-in-chief of Philadelphia Weekly. His past work includes years as a journalist with Philadelphia Weekly, his PW column “The Uncomfortable Whole” winning multiple awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists’ First Place award for newspaper commentary in both 2014 and 2015. Josh has written for a variety of local and national publications, and his work often includes his perspective as someone with lived experience with HIV, homelessness, poverty, trauma, and addiction along with expert analysis from years of experience in journalism and public service following a five year stint in local government communications. He is a member of Philly’s local LGBTQ community, a parishioner at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, a militant bicyclist, and resident of the Point Breeze section of the city with his cat, a senior tom named Mason.