ABC27 obtains Quigley email that led to DEP secretary’s resignation

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The email is as salty as fracking fluid.

It was sent by Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley on April 13 and obtained by ABC27 on Monday. Though the recipients were blacked out, it’s apparently directed at environmental groups. These groups are supposed to be the friends of the DEP secretary, but the tone of the email is neither warm nor collegial and it reportedly led to Quigley’s abrupt resignation late last week.

“Where the f– were you people yesterday?” Quigley’s email said. “The House and Senate hold Russian show trials on vital environmental issues and there’s no pushback at all from the environmental community? Nobody bothering to insert themselves in the news cycle?”

“Is there no penalty for D apostasy, at least, or shaming of the gas-shilling R’s? Apparently so,” he continued.

That sentence apparently angered both Republican and Democratic lawmakers because it seems to be pushing the environmental groups to retaliate against lawmakers who aren’t tough enough on oil and gas drillers.

The email continues: “Do some of you think staying on your moratorium hobby horse does anything to advance the cause of protecting the environment and public health? Do you really think the Governor will veto this s– with NO support?”

“The environmental community is without influence in Harrisburg. What will you do about it?” the email concludes.

Sources say the email was the final straw in a souring relationship between the DEP secretary, the Legislature, and Wolf administration.

It’s a shame, says Greg Vitali (D-Montgomery/Delaware), the Democratic chair of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. “I think the governor bowed to pressure. I think the governor made a huge mistake. I think he’s getting bad advice from his senior staff.”

Vitali is one of the most ardent environmentalists in the Legislature and a huge supporter of John Quigley. He believes Quigley was pushed out because he stood up to big oil and gas. The Wolf administration denies that’s the case but isn’t commenting other than to say it has accepted Quigley’s resignation.

“They want him [Quigley] to compromise,” Vitali said with great passion on Monday when discussing the former DEP secretary. “They want him to bend. They want him to weaken regulations needed to protect public health. John would not weaken those regulations. John stuck up for the people of Pennsylvania and I think that’s the political pressure people brought to bear on John that brought him down.”

But lawmakers in oil and gas country say Quigley’s DEP overregulated and pestered the industry.

“It just seemed to me like his insistence on alternative fuels was far out of balance with how we make electricity and heat our homes,” Rep. Jeff Pyle (R-Indiana/Armstrong/Butler) said. “Much of our economy is based on fossil fuel recovery, coal, gas, oil. We’re not sad about this.”

Others are sad to see Quigley resign.

“I always appreciated that Secretary Quigley was honest and straightforward,” Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) said. “He said what he meant and meant what he said.”

But what he said in an email, and the “straightforward’ way he said it, cost Quigley his job. What’s been unsaid is that the email suggests that the environmental community in Pennsylvania is fractured over the issue of fracking. For an environmentalist like Quigley, that clearly led to frustration.

“Some groups think there shouldn’t be any [fracking],” Harper said. “Others feel if it is done safely, it would be OK.”

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