Gov. Tom Corbett and his wife accepted a Rhode Island vacation last year from a businessman even as regulators from the state Department of Environmental Conservation were looking into his firm's operation of a natural-gas waste transfer station without a permit.
The StateImpact Pennsylvania project is reporting that the governor just last month amended his original 2011 ethics filing to add that John Moran Jr. of Moran Industries had paid $1,422 to fly Corbett and his wife to a hotel in Rhode Island and put them up in a hotel for a long weekend in July of that year.
Moran -- also identified as a major Corbett donor who has given at least $75,000 to his campaigns and was named by the governor to his privatization panel -- is a trucking executive who launched an oil-and-gas subsidiary. He told a reporter at last year's opening of his "natural gas park" in Williamsport that the rise of the gas industry here is "a gift from God."
In December of last year -- or five months after Moran paid for the Corbetts' vacation -- the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, reported that Pennsylvania regulators had been investigating for more than a year Moran's operation of the Sunbury, Pa., waste-transfer site . The facility had been shipping drilling waste by rail to a landfill in Ohio without a permit. It said that Moran had claimed he didn't need a permit because of a loophole in federal railroad law.
Local residents had angrily complained about Moran's operation, according to the website Pennsylvania From Below, raising questions about strong chemical odors coming from trucks entering the facility and asking what exactly was in the drill-cutting waste from Marcellus Shale fracking sites that were being transported there.
StateImpact Pennsylvania reported that in addition to the Rhode Island vacation, Moran also paid $901 to fly Corbett on a private plane to events in Williamsport and in Pittsburgh in September 2011. It said Moran was one of Pennsylvania's representatives on a six-day European trade mission touting the benefits of fracking in the Marcellus Shale.
Since taking office last year, Corbett has been under fire to his ties to the gas-drilling industry, which donated more than $900,000 to his winning campaign. Critics say there's been lax industry oversight and criticized Corbett's reluctance to tax drilling, although he eventually agreed this year to an impact fee on gas rigs.
StateImpact Pennsylvania said Corbett's press secretary Kevin Harley "denied that the governor was trying to hide anything and said it was omitted from the original ethics filing due to a clerical error."