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Controversial Marcellus Critic Wins Pennsylvania Primary

Pennsylvania state Rep. Jesse White (D-Cecil), a frequent and controversial critic of Marcellus Shale development, defeated a challenger for his party's nomination on Tuesday to the state House of Representatives.

According to unofficial returns from the Pennsylvania Department of State, White received 3,107 votes (56.8%) while challenger Thomas Casciola received 2,366 votes (43.2%). White will now face Republican Jason Ortitay in the general election on Nov. 4. Ortitay ran unopposed for his party's nomination, receiving 1,280 votes.

White raised the ire of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after alleging its personnel committed fraud and misconduct while testing water supplies suspected of being tainted by drilling. Michael Krancer, who was then serving as DEP secretary, blasted White over the allegations (see Shale Daily, Nov. 19, 2012; Nov. 5, 2012).

White also accused the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) of extortion by withholding from the townships in his district nearly $1 million in impact fee revenue generated by Act 13, the state's omnibus Marcellus Shale law (see Shale Daily, Oct. 17, 2012). PUC officials said the agency was following the law and took issue with White's accusation.

Range Resources Corp. has also tangled with White. The company said White solicited Range for campaign contributions and for a ride to the Super Bowl on its corporate plane (see Shale Daily, Nov. 15, 2012). Then, in the wake of White's allegations against the DEP, Range blasted media reports that suggested the company didn't know what chemicals it used for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) (see Shale Daily, Oct. 11, 2013).

In 2011, White had suggested that Range and Mount Pleasant Township enter mediation to resolve their issues (see Shale Daily, April 18, 2011).

According to reports, last year White was caught impersonating supporters of oil and gas drilling on social media sites.

White's district, the 46th, was recently reapportioned and now includes parts of Allegheny and Washington counties. Four of the seven localities that filed a lawsuit over Act 13 -- Cecil, Mount Pleasant and Robinson townships in Washington County, and South Fayette Township in Allegheny County -- are in the 46th District (see Shale Daily, March 6).

Last month, White introduced two bills targeting Marcellus development and amending the state's Oil and Gas Act. The first, HB 1721, dubbed the Fair Frac Disclosure Act -- would require the full disclosure of all chemicals used in fracking, including those deemed as confidential or proprietary by oil and gas companies. The bill would also require that DEP maintain a publically accessible database of the chemicals.

White's second bill, HB 2172, would require air quality monitoring systems to be placed near all compressor stations, processing plants and wastewater impoundments. Both bills have been referred to the House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy.

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