Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Keystone Progress adds Jonathan Saidel and Wendell Young IV to its board of directors

(HARRISBURG, PA)—Keystone Progress has added two new members to its board of directors at its board of directors meeting. Wendell Young IV, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, and Jonathan Saidel, former controller of the City of Philadelphia.

“We are thrilled to have Wendell and Jonathan join the leadership of Keystone

Progress,” said Eileen Connelly, the chair of Keystone Progress’s board. “Their addition is an indication of the growing influence of Keystone Progress in passing legislation and creating a progressive majority in Pennsylvania.”

Young has served as the president of 24,000-member UFCW 1776 since 2005. He has spearheaded a number of initiatives as a union negotiator to establish affordable child care and education benefits for working families in the changing economy.

Saidel is an attorney with Philadelphia law firm Cohen, Placitella and Roth. He served as

Philadelphia's City Controller for sixteen years, where he won local and national plaudits forreforming and professionalizing the Controller's office, his dedication to fiscal discipline and proposing innovative ideas to grow Philadelphia. He recently ran for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, coming within 2,000 votes.

The Keystone Progress Education Fund, an organization related to Keystone Progress also added a new board member, Eron Lloyd of Reading. Lloyd is best known for his public policy work. He is the author of Reinventing Reading," a

comprehensive policy reform package to improve the political, economic, and environmental conditions in the City of Reading.

Keystone Progress was founded in August of 2008 with the twin goals of 1) using the internet and new media to organize online at the state and local level; and 2) to use cutting-edge earned media strategies to promote a progressive agenda and counter right-wing misinformation. In less than two years, Keystone Progress has built a network that exceeds 220,000 and has generated hundreds of stories in the traditional press and online media, reaching an audience of more than 5 million.

Keystone Progress Board of Directors

Eileen Connelly, Chair
Mary Shull, Secretary
Jonathan Fox, Treasurer

Rick Bloomingdale
Lorenzo Canizares
Michael Fedor
Jeff Garis
Pedro Rodriguez
Hal Rosenthal
Eric Russell
Jonathan Saidel
Sari Stevens
Ritchie Tabachnick
Chuck Williams
Wendell Young

Keystone Progress Education Fund Board of Directors
Rabbi Carl Choper, Chair
Pat Clark, Secretary
Eron Lloyd, Treasurer

Pedro Rodriguez
Rob Stuart
Sharon Ward

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Give It Back: Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania Calls on Tom Corbett to Return Donation from One of the Companies Responsible for the Gulf Oil Spill

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars in damage, destroy thousands of jobs and cause incalculable damage to the environment. BP, which owns 65% of the well, set aside $20 billion in escrow to help compensate the victims of the spill and will spend billions more for the cleanup. Anadarko Petroleum, which owns 25% of the well, has thus far refused to contribute to the costs of the cleanup. It has, however, contributed to gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Tom Corbett.

On May 13, 2010, three weeks after the oil spill began, Corbett accepted a $3,000 contribution from the Texas based Anadarko Petroleum PAC. Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania calls on Mr. Corbett to return those funds and to refuse any further contribution from Anadarko until that company has fulfilled its responsibility to those affected by the tragedy in the Gulf.

“You don’t get to light your neighbor’s house on fire and then use the hose to water your rose bushes,” Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania Executive Director Josh McNeil said. “Mr. Corbett has a responsibility to rebuke this company for its failures and to help ensure that every dollar at Anadarko’s disposal is spent to help the victims of the Gulf spill.”

Anadarko Petroleum PAC has contributed more than $279,000 to federal candidates in the 2010 election cycle, including donations to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and to the Friends of Arlen Specter. Anadarko’s contribution to the Corbett campaign was its first contribution to a state-level candidate in Pennsylvania in 2010 and was reported by the Corbett campaign on June 17, 2010.

Despite the spill in the Gulf and disasters such as the explosion of a natural gas well in Clearfield County last month, Corbett continues to advocate for a rapid increase in gas drilling in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. Though Pennsylvania is one of few states that lets companies take its natural resources for free, he opposes the creation of a severance tax on natural gas drillers. In most severance tax proposals, a portion of the revenue would be used to ensure better regulation of drill sites and to create a clean-up fund for future disasters. Drilling companies oppose such a tax for obvious reasons and political contributions to Pennsylvania candidates from individuals and PACs related to the drilling industry have significantly increased in the last few election cycles.

“Mr. Corbett’s energy plan calls for the ‘responsible development of Marcellus Shale’ but doesn’t give us many specifics as to what that means,” McNeil said. “What he does with this contribution will give us a hint about Tom Corbett’s real commitment to responsible drilling.”

Built on the model of the national League of Conservation Voters, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvanians and their environment by holding politicians accountable for their actions. For more information, visit www.conservationpa.org

Thursday, June 17, 2010

GOP Member of Congress apologizes TO British Petroleum

This morning a Republican Member of Congress apologized to BP. Yes, you heard it right. Congressman Joe Barton (R, TX) apologized to British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward because the White House got BP to create a $20 billion escrow account to pay for the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

I’m astonished. Rep. Barton and his Republican colleagues are more upset that President Obama is forcing BP to pay for its devastation than they are at BP for pouring hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.

Not one Republican Member of Congress from PA has said they disagree with Barton. So we’re going to give every Senator and Representative to answer this simple question: Whose side are you on? BP or the American people?

Click here to send your Senators and Representative an email asking them to take a stand: http://www.keystoneprogress.org/page/speakout/pabarton

Barton is the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He should be overseeing BP and other drillers, but instead of holding them accountable, he’s apologizing to them. Perhaps it’s because of the millions in contributions flowing from the oil companies into their campaign coffers.

Here’s exactly what Barton said this morning:

“I'm ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday. I think it is a tragedy in the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown -- in this case a $20 billion shakedown -- with the attorney general of the United States, who is legitimately conducting a criminal investigation and has every right to do so to protect the American people, participating in what amounts to a $20 billion slush fund that's unprecedented in our nation's history, which has no legal standing, which I think sets a terrible precedent for our nation's future.

"I'm only speaking for myself. I'm not speaking for anyone else, but I apologize," Barton added. "I do not want to live in a county where anytime a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong, [it is] subject to some sort of political pressure that, again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown."

I’m angry at Barton. But I’m also angry that not one Republican Member of Congress has repudiated what Barton said. Email Congress NOW: http://www.keystoneprogress.org/page/speakout/pabarton

Michael Morrill
for the Keystone Progress Team

Monday, June 14, 2010

Democratic Congressman Assaults Tea Party Student

We obviously don't support the Tea Party agenda or their lies and propaganda, but no one has the right to assault someone for trying to get their Member of Congress on record.

That is clearly what Rep. Bob Etheridge (D, NC) has done in this video.

This is outrageous and arrogant behavior and we condemn it. Ask Etheridge to apologize immediately.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What's Tom Hiding?

Corbett stalls again on Right to Know Request
filed by Keystone Progress

“What’s Tom Hiding?” website created to highlight his lack of openness.

(HARRISBURG)—Keystone Progress (KP) filed a detailed and specific Right to Know Request with Tom Corbett’s Office of Attorney General, seeking information on correspondence concerning Corbett’s politically motivated suit to overturn the federal healthcare reform legislation. Once again, Corbett’s office has refused to honor that request, using a legal loophole to delay providing the information for another 30 days..

The request seeks all correspondence concerning that suit between the OAG and numerous political operatives and organizations. This is KP’s second request for this information. The first was turned down by Corbett’s office.

This request sought more specific information, including emails between his office and the Republican State Leadership Conference (RSLC) and other Republican Party campaign operatives.

Emails released by the Wisconsin Attorney General revealed that Corbett’s office received emails from RSLC, which was organizing the lawsuit. The RTK request is seeking those and similar correspondence. RSLC describes itself as “the only national organization whose mission is electing Republicans to the office of Attorney General, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State and State Legislator.”1 RSLC is organized as a 527 organization which has contributed over $58 million to elect Republicans at the state level.

RSLC was Corbett’s largest contributor during his race for reelection as attorney general, giving him $691,000, according to the PA Department of State.2

“We’re beginning to think that Corbett is delaying because he thinks no one cares about this,” said Michael Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress. “That’s why we’ve started another petition; this time to get Corbett to tell the truth.”

The website, www.WhatsTomHiding.com, has a simple petition that allows people to express their outrage at Corbett’s stonewalling.

The website has a “Corbett Disclosure Clock,” which shows the time since the initial request, now at 75 days.

The test of the website reads:

Attorney General Tom Corbett is thumbing his nose at routine requests for basic information that he is required to provide under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law. Keystone Progress has been seeking information about illegal contacts between the Office of Attorney General and Republican Party and campaign operatives about his politically-motivated lawsuit that will deny healthcare coverage to Pennsylvanians. So far, Corbett has refused to comply with this simple request, stretching deadlines, using legal loopholes and refusing to accept a hand delivered request.

Voters across Pennsylvania are demanding that Corbett come clean immediately. Join us by signing our petition. Tell Corbett to come clean now!

The petition will be delivered to Corbett in the near future.

1 Republican State Leadership Committee website http://www.rslc.com/about-rslc/
2Pennsylvania Department of State http://www.campaignfinance.state.pa.us/ContributionSearchResults.aspx?RequestID=346769&StartRow=1&RowsPerPage=10&SortOrder=0

Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive network with over 200,000 subscribers. Keystone Progress is also a statewide communications network specializing in effective earned media and online organizing to advance progressive leadership and values.


Monday, June 7, 2010

"Whose side are you on? Gas companies, or our state's seniors?"

Nursing home caregivers from across the state converged on Harrisburg today to ask their Senators, "Whose side are you on? Gas companies, or our state's seniors?"

The members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania are urging the Senate to close corporate tax loopholes and enact a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction, before drastic cuts to the nursing home care in this year's state budget. Pennsylvania spends close to $2 Billion in Medicaid funds to provide nursing home care to the elderly.

"If you cut the Medicaid dollars coming to our nursing home, then veterans and other seniors will be left without the care they need. It’s time to make big oil companies who make money in our state pay their fair share,” said Michelle Stewart, a certified nursing assistant who works in a Montgomery County nursing home.

About 200 caregivers and other union members marched through the streets around the Capitol carrying giant, green dollar signs and a huge black cloth representing the oil and gas spills that could threaten our environment and economy. They also tried to deliver an invoice for unpaid taxes to the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association and the Associated Petroleum Industries of Pennsylvania, but there was no answer at their offices.

“I’ve flown over some of these wells with my boyfriend and I’ve seen the amount of water used to break the rock and release the gas. I’ve read about the chemicals mixed with the water and I wonder where it will end up,” said Kathy Shaner, a certified nursing assistant from Washington County, PA. “The residents I care for are not getting rich from all the gas in their county, but they could benefit if these big corporations paid their fair share.”

On May 28, Royal Dutch Shell agreed to acquire Marshall, PA-based East Resources Inc. for $4.7 billion. And last December, Exxon Mobil Corp. announced a $41 billion acquisition of XTO Energy Inc., including its extensive Marcellus Shale holdings.

"Unless Pennsylvania begins collecting revenue from big corporations that profit in Pennsylvania, we’re on the road to a $1.1 billion budget deficit over the next 2 years,” said Kevin Hefty, Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. “Senators, when we ask whose side you are on, the choice is clear: be on the side of our local communities, working families, and seniors who need long term care.”

Last week, the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (www.pennbpc.org) launched an online ticker showing the tax dollars lost by not enacting a severance tax on drilling in the Marcellus Shale. At the time of the rally, the ticker showed Pennsylvania had missed out on $55,756,000 that could have been used to help fill in the revenue gap in the budget.

The rally today is part of a larger campaign by SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania and other labor unions to ensure that a state budget that doesn't cut essential services is passed before the June 30th deadline.

For more information, visit www.closetheloopholes.org.

Major drilling accident in NW PA. Cameras, media banned from site

An explosion at a natural gas well in northwest Pennsylvania resulted in a spill of at least a million gallons of oil and chemicals mixed with water. According to the AP report, there was a shower of gas and chemical-laden water shooting 75 feet into the air. The leak continued for at least 16 hours. The accident was so severe that the area was evacuated and the Federal Aviation Administration prohibited flights in the area.

When I heard of the accident on Friday afternoon, I immediately left the meeting I was attending in Washington, DC and headed for the site with my trusty Flip Camera in hand.

So where are the photos and video showing the extent of the pollution?

They don’t exist, because EOG Resources, the owner of the wells, won’t allow anyone on the site, especially with a camera. When I tried to shoot some video, they not only wouldn’t let me on the site, they told me I might be shot for being on their property and then sent thugs to chase me and threaten me.

I arrived around 7:30 PM and drove around the area trying to find the site. I asked a number of locals if they knew the site of the explosion. No one knew what I was talking about, so it wasn’t until about 9:00 that I finally stumbled upon the site. It’s about 5 ½ miles from the entrance to S.B. Elliott State Park in Clearfield County.

As I approached the site a man got out of a pickup truck and told me I would have to leave. I told him I just wanted to get some video of the cleanup. He said he couldn’t allow me on the grounds and I didn’t leave right away I would be arrested for trespassing.

In the morning I tried again and got the same answer from another man in a pickup truck.

I could see through the forest that there was work going on in the distance, but my little flip Camera couldn’t get anything but trees. I decided that maybe a hike through the woods was in order, so I drove a few miles to a point on the other side of the spill site. I chose an entrance point that was not marked as private property and hiked toward the site.

Along the way I saw still and flowing water with oily residue. Some of it may be from the spill, but most of it was uphill from the accident site. That means the water in this area is likely contaminated from the numerous gas wells being drilled.

I found a road on a ridge that appeared to head close to the accident site and walked about a half mile on that road when I was stopped by two men in a Gator. They asked me what I was doing out there and I said I was just taking a hike. They told me that I was on property owned by the Punxsutawney Hunt Club and the members didn’t appreciate trespassers. They told me, in a veiled threat, that I should leave now and as long as I was heading out I would probably not get shot.

I’m not one to back down easily, but I wasn’t ready to take a bullet for a grainy video of the spill site. I wished them a good day and turned back to my car, a couple of miles and bridgeless brook away. As I crossed the brook barefoot I noticed another pickup truck parking on the opposite hill, blocking the path. When I approached the truck two men got out. The older man got in front of me and said “Show me some ID.”

I asked him who he was and he grabbed my arm and told me I was on private property. I shook his hand off and continued walking. Without looking back, I told him there was nothing posted that indicated the land I was on was private property. He yelled to me, “We know where your car is. We called the police. You’ll be arrested when you get back to your car.” He then added, “We know you’re taking water samples.”

The truth is, I had filled up some drinking water bottles with samples of water from various sites along my hike. I’m not sure what use they will be, but I thought it was important to at least get something that could be independently tested.

When I got a few hundred yards from my car I could hear the last two men who confronted me. As I approached my car the older man took out an old disposable film camera and took my picture. I tried to get my Flip Camera to take some video of them, but the battery was dead and I only got a few seconds.

They tried to get me to stay and wait for the police to come, but I wasn’t about to test the fairness of the local criminal justice system. I told them to back off or be charged with assault, and susprisingly they complied.

As a parting shot the younger one said,” Don’t come back.” I replied, childishly, “I’ll do what I want.” He said, “If you come back you won’t leave.”

I got in my car and started to leave the way I came in. They passed me and I drove a safe distance behind them. Then I realized that I may be driving into a trap. When they turned a corner toward the spill site, I stopped and turned around. I drove a few miles in the wrong direction, but eventually found a connection to Route 153. And then home.

I have some video that I’ll be posting later today and tomorrow. It’s not very expository, but it’s all I could get. I’ll also be trying to find an independent lab that can identify the chemicals and oily residue in the water samples I took. I’ll post the results of those tests as I get them.

In the meantime, it’s important for the public to know what’s really going on at the spill site.

There has been very little news coverage of this major accident and part of the reason is the lack of access to the site. It’s hard to report when you have no information. It’s harder when the perpetrators are in full control of what little information has been released. “Nothing to see here,” EOG Resources assures us. “It was only a million gallons and we took care of it.”

If that’s the truth, it’s a huge accident that threatens local waterways that flow into the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay. But what if it’s worse than that? We don’t know because there are no independent eyes and ears on the site. Haven’t we learned yet that we should never rely on the word of the people who caused the problem?

I’m calling on Governor Ed Rendell and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger to use their offices to grant access to the spill site to the media, environmental organizations and the local population. It’s probably too late to see anything damning, but it will at least give us a picture of where the accident occurred so we can begin to ask the right questions and make sure any investigations are accurate and complete.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Delaware County citizens call for Tom Corbett to resign

Residents say that Corbett has compromised the integrity of the Office of Attorney General by politicizing the office

Media, Pennsylvania—Outside the Delaware County Court House today, local health care activists called for Attorney General Tom Corbett to drop his participation in a lawsuit against the health care reform law recently enacted in Washington and then resign from office. Members of Health Care For America Now, the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, and Pennsylvania Communities Organizing for Change claimed that Corbett’s lawsuit against health care reform, and other actions he had taken, had so politicized the Attorney General’s office that the integrity of Mr. Corbett and his entire staff were now in question.

“At a time when Pennsylvanians, including small businesses, people with serious pre-existing medical conditions, and young people under 26 are seeing immediate benefits from the health care reform legislation, it is deeply troubling that our Attorney General is using taxpayer funds to have the law declared unconstitutional,” said Bill West, a member of Health Care For America Now (HCAN).

Marc Stier, Executive Director of Penn Action and State Director of HCAN said that “Mr. Corbett’s lawsuit is clearly inspired by politics and nothing else. He planned to take part in the lawsuit long before the legislation was enacted and used the lawsuit to help raise funds for his campaign for governor.1 He coordinated his actions with Republican political organizations, including the Republican State Leadership Committee. And, given that Mr. Corbett has been prosecuting other politicians for using the resources of their office for political purposes, it is especially upsetting that attorneys from his office conducted discussions with national political organizations in planning his participation in the lawsuit. “

Stier added that, “We discovered this when the Wisconsin Attorney General released political emails sent to and from Mr. Corbett’s subordinates. But we don’t have complete information because the Attorney General’s office has failed to comply with two Open Records Requests made under the Right to Know Law by our partner Keystone Progress.

Carole Burnett, a Chester member of Pennsylvania Communities Organizing for Change, said that “The Attorney General’s office should be above politics and partisan dispute. Tom Corbett has clearly shown, in his lawsuit against the health care reform law and in other actions, such as his recent subpoena to have Twitter to reveal the identities of two of his critics; that he is willing to use his office for political purposes. He should resign.”

Stier concluded that, “We are confident that Corbett’s lawsuit will go nowhere. So it is a complete waste of tax revenues to pursue it. But if it were to be successful, Corbett’s lawsuit would not only call into question the recently passed health care reform legislation but would also threaten Social Security and Medicare. Corbett needs to explain to Pennsylvania taxpayers why he is pursuing a lawsuit that is, if not wasteful, then a positive danger to popular programs on which we all count.”