By Ron Read
(Photo caption: Activists gather across from the Courtyard Marriott Hotel on Campbells Run Road in Robinson to protest against wage theft from immigrants. Photo credit: Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)
If you walk on Liberty Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh at night, you can see amongst the many skyscrapers the sign for EQT Corporation glowing in the distance. On the same night, you might also see on the side of Pittsburgh’s buses advertisements for a reading program that EQT is now funding. If you attended the annual Pride March or Regatta this past summer, you might have also seen EQT’s name advertised as their main sponsor. And if you are a high schooler hoping to attend college next year, you might be receiving an EQT ASPIRE grant to fund your higher education.
These examples of EQT’s infiltration into various features of Pittsburgh are just some of the many ways it is gaining control over the region. Founded in 1888, EQT Corporation (formerly Equitable Resources) became the largest natural gas producer in the United States in 2017, with its acquisition of Rice Energy for 3.2 billion dollars. They own over 13,000 gross productive wells for oil and gas development and plan on adding 139 new Marcellus Shale wells in 2018. They also own hundreds of miles of pipeline in the United States, and are currently working on the 303 mile Mountain Valley Pipeline that activists in Virginia and West Virginia are working to stop. While EQT works on developing both production and transmission for natural gas, they also are working to develop natural gas vehicles, which will be serviced by EQT supplied natural gas stations in the future.
(Photo caption: More than 25 brave souls from the Thomas Merton Center and other local activist groups came out for the second picket against PNC Bank for investing over one billion dollars to fund nuclear weapons manufacturers. Photo Credit: Rev. Paul Dordal)
To strengthen their influence over politicians and public opinion, EQT invests heavily in state elections, community groups, and public events. In 2016, EQT spent over 280,000 dollars on campaigns for Republicans and a smaller percentage for Democrats (Open Secrets.org). The list of politicians that have taken money from EQT over the years includes Mike Doyle, Bill Shuster, Tim Murphy, and Keith Rothfus (Open Secrets.org). EQT has also infiltrated community organizations with employees that sit on the boards of entities as the Urban League of Pittsburgh, The Heinz Endowments, the University of Pittsburgh, and WQED. They also have a foundation which has poured millions of dollars into the non-profit community in the Pittsburgh region (EQT 990 Tax Form, 2015). And as mentioned earlier, EQT is a main sponsor for things like the Pride March (now the EQT Equality March), the Three Rivers Regatta (now the EQT Regatta), the Children’s Theater Festival (now the EQT Children’s Theater Festival, the Pittsburgh 10 Miler (now the EQT 10 Miler), and the Celebrate America Festival.
One of the chief characteristics of a petro-state is that the economy is built around the success or failure of oil in the global market. An example could be Venezuela, where the country experiences shocks to its economy whenever the price of oil falls. When companies like EQT corporation try to make themselves pillars of the community by taking over other large companies and financing social institutions, what happens when the price of natural gas falls or becomes worthless after humans realize the danger it poses for climate change? And what happens when the people they are funding realize (if they haven’t already) the danger posed by fracking for natural gas?
If you want an answer, just ask those coal mining towns in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania what happens when the market for a natural resource goes away. And you can also ask the coal miners and millworkers what happened when they grew disillusioned with the benefits of living in a company town and organized for something better. Or talk to the folks who marched in the People’s Pride demonstration this year. How were they treated when they stepped out of line?
Ultimately, corporations like EQT must be pushed into a minimal role in our society if we are to embrace clean, renewable energy and to also build a stable society. Yes we can work to make sure that our community has a low carbon footprint and delay pipeline expansions, but ultimately the root cause of these problems must be addressed. We live in an oligarchy where corporations control our society through large sums of money. EQT is one of those corporations and they are using their money to advocate for fossil fuel consumption while pacifying the public. We can blame ourselves for using cars and stoves all we want, but ultimately EQT must be held accountable for what they are doing.
(Photo Caption: Monica Ruiz of Casa San Jose speaks next to a “wall” of $300 bills, representing fines that would be levied against transit riders who could not show a proof of fare payment, under a plan being considered by the Port Authority of Allegheny County. The event was emceed by Jordan Malloy, Merton Center board member, who is standing behind Ms. Ruiz. Photo credit: Neil Cosgrove).
Ronald Read is a member of 350.org.