WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) — A gas drilling watchdog group that was characterized in Pennsylvania security bulletins as a potential terror threat has settled its lawsuit against the state, the group's lawyer said Thursday.
The settlement terms between Pennsylvania officials and the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition were not immediately released.
The gas drilling coalition's lawsuit said the bulletins characterized the group as a possible threat to infrastructure without evidence. A private contractor, the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response, produced the reports under a one-year, $103,000 contract.
Then-Gov. Ed Rendell later apologized for the monitoring of peaceful citizens' groups, and his homeland security director resigned.
Yet the coalition's attorney, Paul Rossi, said Thursday he has evidence that improper monitoring of citizen groups is still happening within state government.
"This has to stop," he said. "State officials ought to ... understand they can't do this, in any form whatsoever."
The security bulletins were issued several times a week and sent to hundreds of people, most of them in law enforcement and private industry. State police have said the bulletins included information taken out of context, some of the analysis was biased and their internal analysis concluded there was no threat to public safety.
Diane Dreier, vice president of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, said Thursday at a news conference with Rossi that including groups like hers on a terror watch list "can and does have a chilling effect upon freedom of speech."
The director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency cleared the coalition of wrongdoing in a letter released by Rossi.
"I can state unequivocally — and I assure the public — that this agency has no information or reason to believe that GDAC at any time in the past or currently could be fairly characterized as a 'terrorist organization,'" Director Glenn Cannon wrote in a letter to the group dated Dec. 18.
He added the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response's information about the group, which formed to oppose gas drilling in Luzerne County, was "unreliable and incorrect."
The company and its co-director, Mike Perelman, were earlier dismissed as defendants in the coalition's lawsuit, but Rossi said he is appealing.
Cannon's letter shows that Perelman "simply lied about my group, and that clearly states a defamation claim that ought to be litigated," said Rossi, who accused Perelman of maliciously targeting environmental groups that raised questions about the Marcellus Shale drilling boom.
Perelman's attorney did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. Perelman defended his company's work before a legislative committee and denied allegations it compiled a terror watch list.