The state Department of Homeland Security has issued a report alerting law enforcement and emergency management officials about "environmental extremists" capable of committing acts of violence and vandalism against the energy industry.
The Pennsylvania Intelligence Bulletin No. 131, published on Aug. 30, notes that "environmental extremism" could be a threat to activities in the Marcellus Shale.
The report lists this weekend's gathering in Williamsport of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association as a meeting singled out for attendance by anti-gas drilling activists.
A screening of the controversial anti-gas drilling documentary "Gasland" on Sept. 3 in Philadelphia also made the list, as did several other events, including a hearing Monday in Pittsburgh on gas drilling, a hearing on Sept. 20 in Wayne County on a proposed amendment to zoning regulations regarding drilling, and an Oct. 4 zoning hearing in Upper St. Claire Township on an amendment to a township zoning ordinance regulating oil and gas drilling operations.
The Sun-Gazette received an e-mail from a local activist who called the bulletin "beyond unsettling" for law-abiding citizens who see gas drilling activity as a threat.
However, Maria Finn, a spokeswoman for the state office of Homeland Security, said the report, which is generated by the FBI and distributed by her office, in no way targets those who peacefully oppose gas drilling.
It simply is a "heads-up" to law enforcement agencies and emergency management officials that a potential for violence or vandalism exists.
The bulletin cites an FBI report that said vandalism, trespassing and threats toward the energy industry by extremists "is beginning to morph - transitioning into more criminal ... actions."
Finn said there have been five acts of vandalism involving the gas industry over the last two weeks, including two that involved firearms.
"As long as people are peaceful and have peaceful demonstrations, I don't think there is going to be an issue because it's their First Amendment right," Finn said. "Right now, it's a volatile issue and people have a right to be heard - peacefully."
Even peaceful demonstrations can become violent due to the actions of one or two individuals, she said.
Alerting people about potential violence also protects peaceful demonstrators who could be injured during a violent confrontation, Finn said.
Finn said the report provides information about other situations where demonstrations could occurr.
Dr. Arno Vosk mentioned the document Thursday in Jersey Shore during a town meeting on a gas severance tax.
State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, who was a featured speaker at the meeting, said he had not seen the document and expressed surprise that it existed.
Hanna said he was aware of some instances of minor vandalism at Chief Oil and Gas sites, but said those incidents were considered the work of vandals, not environmental extremists.