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Energy Pause . . . A Tribute to Fred

There has been some big energy news this past week. Much of it was bad news for pipeline projects, according to Reuters, “A federal judge on July 7th denied an emergency request by the owners of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline (DAPL) for the court to reconsider its order to shut down and drain the 570,000 bbl. /day line by August 5th.

In a span of 24 hours Dominion and Duke Energy announced they were scrapping the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project even after the favorable Supreme Court ruling upholding permits to go under the Appalachian Trail.

A Montana court decision earlier this summer tossed out the Army Corps of Engineers – Nationwide Permit 12 – a method to accelerate and streamline pipeline projects. This decision was related to an entirely separate project – Keystone XL, – but it affected the entire permitting program done by the Corps, which the judge said violated the Endangered Species Act.   Dominion specifically cited this court decision as pivotal in its decision to scrap the Atlantic Coast pipeline. 

Dominion also announced that it was selling off its natural gas transmission and storage assets and its part in the Cove Point LNG port to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway in a $10 billion dollar deal. Berkshire Hathaway will now control nearly 20% of all natural gas moving across state lines.

However I wish to digress and leave the macro-energy headlines for another day and write of the recent loss of a long time friend who in an anecdotal way introduced me to Marcellus Gas and brought me back to Clarion County for a time. I wish to acknowledge the passing of Fred McIlhattan who last month died after suffering a heart attack while biking in Oil Creek Park. I met Fred in 1972 in Clarion during the time I was working on a construction project in Cook Forest. Fred was then the mayor of Knox and was running in the Republican primary for State Representative. I remember his enthusiasm for the area and his hope to bring invigorating energy and a fresh view to state government. If my memory has it right he had a retired school bus repurposed as a mobile campaign vehicle, and I helped produce a folk music radio spot to promote his campaign. We joked about making him a household word even though he did not win that election.

In the intervening years when I visited Clarion County I would check in with County Commissioner Mcllhattan and later with him as PA State Representative. To me Fred was always authentically concerned about being of service, doing as he would say the right thing, and working for the betterment of Main Street and his constituency. He supported prudent development of the Marcellus Shale gas. He saw it as an avenue to help revitalize the county and region’s economy as well as advance the US into true energy independence.

Upon leaving the State House after twelve years of service, Fred became that enthusiastic volunteer; I had direct experience with him at Allegheny Riverstone Center for the Arts, (ARCA). He was passionate about the Milton Hershey School and he worked collaboratively to connect the bike trail between Emlenton and Foxburg. He was an unassuming spirit, a preacher of enthusiasm and God’s grace. Unfortunately I became aware of his death only after internment so I take this moment to salute him and extend to family and friends that Fred’s circle was far reaching and he is indeed a part of my memory fabric.

I close with words from another departed Fred.

“With all the sadness and destruction, negativity and rage throughout the world, it is difficult not to wonder where the loving presence is. We do not have to look very far. Deep with in each of us is a spark of the divine just waiting to be used to light up a dark space.” And “Deep down we know what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win, too, even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.” From Life’s Journey According to Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers. Fred Mcllhattan had that spark, and was that kind of a winner.

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