Appalachian Basin

The Commissioner from NRDC?

Is Joe Martens trying to undermine his boss?
It sure looks that way, if his recent committee appointments are any indication.

New York State DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens met Governor Andrew Cuomo’s July 1 deadline for producing action on his agency’s Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) by publishing a brief summary. He promised a full SGEIS in the coming days.  Nonetheless, his simultaneous creation of a Hydraulic Fracturing Committee to oversee the development of the regulations themselves suggests he may be trying to sabotage natural gas development in New York, or at least parts of the State.  He appears to have stacked the Committee with numerous associates and friends of his former employer, the Open Space Institute (OSI) and its associate, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), to ensure the former’s ability to do land swaps with the State is unhindered by anything that might raise property values.

OSI and it’s relationship with the State of New York is  a complicated story that would require several posts to explain, but this is one powerful organization.  Indeed, OSI was well connected enough in 2007 to secure a $25 million loan from, of all agencies, the Empire State Development Corporation, New York’s economic development entity, even though OSI says its mission is “to protect scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to ensure public enjoyment, conserve habitats, and sustain community character through land acquisition, conservation easements, conservation loans, creative partnerships, and analytical research.”  Yeh, that sure sounds like economic development!  Topping it off, OSI also got a grant of $1,515,000 from Empire State Development in 2009.

The OSI organization is a web of interlocking non-profit and for-profit entities that had net assets of over $205 million at the end of 2009.  It spent nearly $17 million that year (most recent for which data is available), of which almost $3.7 million was expended on salaries, Joe Martens having earned total compensation of $274,115 from OSI and related organizations that year.  OSI earns money to pay these salaries, engage in environmental advocacy and buy up development rights near the properties of its members (among other places) by several means.  These include gains on real estate sales.  It reported gains, for 2008-2009 of $1,488,316 on sales of natural land areas to private entities plus gains of $1,503,337 on sales of natural land areas to public entities.  This represented a profit of 17.9% on $16,744,865 of sales – not bad for a non-profit! And, that’s before the Empire State Development grant!

OSI is closely connected with NRDC (of Alar scandal fame) and the Catskill Mountainkeeper.  NRDC founder, long-time President and current Board member John H. Adams is the Chairman of OSI and his wife Patricia is Board Chair (not sure how that works).  Their son, Ramsay Adams, is the Catskill Mountainkeeper and was, in that capacity, an employee of OSI for a time.  OSI and NRDC also have other overlapping board members.  Moreover, the Catskill Mountainkeeper’s chairman when that entity was announced in 2007 was none other than Joe Martens and its board members included John Adams and other NRDC leadership, including Robert Kennedy, Jr. who was then counsel to NRDC.
The picture starts to take shape.  The new committee Joe Martens has charged with “developing recommendations to ensure DEC and other agencies are enabled to properly oversee, monitor and enforce high-volume hydraulic fracturing activities” is largely composed of “Friends of NRDC” and other hard-core opponents of natural gas development.  Let’s review the composition of the 13 member committee:

1.        Eric Goldstein – Senior Attorney, NRDC

2.        Kate Sindling – Senior Attorney, NRDC

3.        Robert Kennedy, Jr. – Former Senior Attorney, NRDC

4.        Robert Hallman – Attorney and Board Chair, NY League of Conservation Voters (where Kennedy, NRDC founder John Adams and other NRDC/OSI leaders serve as Directors)

5.        Mark Brownstein – Chief Counsel, Energy Program, Environmental Defense Fund (where OSI Executive Director Christopher Elliman sits on the Advisory Board)

6.        Robert Moore – Executive Director of Environmental Advocates which proudly advertises itself as part of the “The Clean Water Not Dirty Drilling team” that also includes Catskill Mountainkeeper and NRDC

7.        Kathleen McGinty – Columbia law graduate, former Pennsylvania DEP Secretary, protege of Al Gore, member of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board’s subcommittee on natural gas and “good friend” of John and Patricia Adams.

The other six members consist of a balanced group of business, industry, academic and governmental officials, but include only one gas company representative and apparently no geologist or anyone with the requisite detailed knowledge of how fracturing actually works, which one would hope such a committee might possess.  The problem is that these six voices are dominated by eight “Friends of NRDC,” if one counts Joe Martens, who gets to accept or reject the  committee conclusions.  Most are also associated with a NRDC organized coalition of anti’s that submitted comments on the SGEIS scope in 2008.   Worse, six of the eight are lawyers by training and five of those represent organizations committed to stopping hydraulic fracturing or taking hard-core positions on natural gas development and three are current or former NRDC attorneys! Where is the balance?

This strongly suggests Martens is undermining his boss.  The revised SGEIS reportedly now prohibits drilling in the New York City reservoir watershed, adding insult to injury for property owners in that region who have already sacrificed tremendously so New York City can avoid the cost of filtering its water like most cities are required to do.  Will this new committee now try to extend this sellout to the Catskill Forest Preserve and the Delaware River watershed so family members of the NRDC/OSI leadership who reside in the Lew Beach area of the Catskills (including Rockefeller family members, the Adams family, Dan Rather, et al) won’t have drilling near their estates?  Is Joe Martens doing the bidding of his boss or the NRDC gang from which he comes?  The verdict is still out, but the signs are not good.

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