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DEP official owned natural gas investments

February 3, 2014 - Ben Klein
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A high-ranking official at the state Department of Environmental Protection invested money in the natural gas industry for several years.

Marie Cusick at StateImpact Pennsylvania reports Monday that ethics filings show that Jeffrey Logan, DEP's Executive Deputy Secretary for Administration and Management, owned investments in Cabot Oil and Gas, a natural gas index fund, and Westport Innovations, a major supplier of natural gas vehicle engines. StateImpact is a collaboration between radio stations WITF and WHYY.

DEP spokesman Eric Shirk says the department doesn't view the investments as a conflict of interest, but that to avoid even the appearance of a conflict Logan no longer has the industry-related holdings.

It's not clear how much money Logan invested, since forms obtained under the state's Right To Know Law were heavily redacted.

From State Impact:

“He no longer has the holdings”

As a member of the executive branch, Logan is required to submit two types of financial disclosure forms each year– one to the state Ethics Commission, and another (more detailed) Governor’s Code of Conduct form, which requires him to list investments.

It’s not clear how much money he was investing. Forms requested under the state’s Right To Know Law were heavily redacted.

“Because Logan wanted to avoid even the appearance of a conflict – he no longer has the holdings,” Shirk wrote.

Logan no longer has any natural gas-related investments, according to the DEP. Shirk says Logan bought the natural gas index fund in 2010, before he joined the department, and sold it in August 2012, after he’d been in the job for over a year and a half. Logan invested in Westport during his time at DEP, from April 2012 through August 2012.

Logan bought Cabot stock in 2010, but Shirk gave conflicting accounts of when he sold it. It was either August 2011 or sometime in 2012.

Shirk did not respond to a request for clarification.

“It’s a conflict of interest”

“Anytime an agency charged with regulating an industry has people investing in the same industry, it is a conflict of interest, whether real or perceived,” says government reform advocate Eric Epstein of Rock the Capital. ”One of the problems with the ethics law in Pennsylvania is that it has no teeth.”

Even though Logan may not have dealt directly with gas companies, he could have had access to information that was not public, says Barry Kauffman of the government reform group Common Cause Pennsylvania.

“We want to make sure public officials aren’t getting insider information which could help them with their investments,” he says. “Anybody at a senior level of an agency like DEP should not be investing in companies over which that department has authority.”

Logan previously served as a deputy secretary at the Department of State and the Department of Public Welfare under Governor Ridge. He is married to another Corbett appointee, Office of Administration Secretary Kelly Powell Logan

 
 

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