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Anti-Drilling Group Settles With Pennsylvania Over 'Terror' Claims

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by an anti-drilling organization that it previously listed as a terror threat in state security bulletins.

The Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC), based in Luzerne County, PA, had filed the suit because it said the state had no evidence that it posed any threat to infrastructure or public safety. The security bulletins were listed weekly and distributed to law enforcement and industry personnel throughout the state during the tenure of former Gov. Ed Rendell's, who eventually apologized for the posts.

The group and its attorney said last week a settlement had been reached, but the terms were not disclosed. The Associated Press reported on Friday, however, that a public records request showed the group would receive $40,000 as part of the settlement.

PEMA started issuing security bulletins about the coalition after the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response -- under contract at the time with the state -- generated reports that identified it as a threat.

PEMA Director Glenn Cannon recently said in a letter to the group circulated by its attorney that "this agency has no information or reason to believe GDAC at any time in the past or currently could be fairly characterized as a 'terrorist organization.'"

The coalition identifies itself as an educational association whose members are concerned about the negative effects of the industrial process of drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania. It is one of several similar groups located throughout the state. Although the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response was excluded as a defendant in the case, the coalition's attorney, Paul Rossi, was quoted at a press conference in Luzerne County last week as saying the institute’s  reports warrant a defamation claim that "ought to be litigated."

Under the settlement, the state was not required to admit liability, but said it would destroy copies of the security bulletins. The coalition also agreed not to make any negative remarks about PEMA.

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