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.
  • James Northrup
    Posted at 3:58 pm, July 04, 2011 Reply

    DEC evidently have some geologists on staff that can read an isopach map and spot a scam when they see it

    • Tom
      Posted at 11:23 pm, July 04, 2011 Reply

      DEC is clearly in favor of further natural gas development and is simply engaged in developing a comprehensive set of standards that will allow it to go forward. Indeed, no one that I know in the industry is complaining about DEC. The problem is with its Commissioner, who seems to think he still works for OSI and its godfather, the NRDC.

      • benj
        Posted at 3:03 pm, July 18, 2011 Reply

        No worries, the natural gas industry – just like it’s bigger, more developed cousin, oil – will get its way in NYS (most if not all) as it the oil and gas industries have in every other state in the US, including CA.

        There will probably be more regulations imposed compared to any other states, but it’s absurd to think that NYS politicians, all of whom are funded to a greater or lesser degree by their specific _paying_ special interests/favorite industries, will do anything else but fulfill the wishes of the natural gas industry.

        I mean, there aren’t wind energy counterparts to the deep-pocketed gas landmen running around upstate NY (or any other state for that matter) shelling out $1000-5000/acre and much bigger royalty paychecks to boot. Come on, there’s no solar PV rush.

        Also, Mr. Tom begs the question: Instead of having 7 members of “NRDC and other hard-core opponents of natural gas development,” should there rather be 7 members of “hard-core _proponents_ of natural gas development”? Probably more than 7 “hard-core _proponents_,” right? Mr. Tom is only being logical considering that proponents compose most seats on the gas boards/commissions in every other state.

        It’s also true, that the OSI asset value of $209 M sure is doggone lot of money, especially when compared to Chesapeake’s “$9.37 billion in revenue, with $1.77 billion in net income.” I’ll bet OSI’s assets are much more liquid, too, considering land holdings fit that liquid asset category. It’s high time someone looks into the liquid yet troubling land holdings and easements of The Nature Conservancy.

        We can all agree that money is the only thing that matters, fellows, and all those hard-core opponents and the industries they represent can’t compete in the free-market of lobbying and corporate contributions to politicians. Same goes for those “opponent” industries that cannot currently match the revenue generating potential of natural gas. In other words, they ain’t fit.

        • Tom
          Posted at 3:14 pm, July 18, 2011 Reply

          A lot of cynicism here for a few short paragraphs, benj! I am a proponent of winde energy, but it requires subsidies and there’s only so much of that that can be done at a time, plus it involves far more land disturbance for the energy created than gas and leaves a bigger footprint. As for the money, you are comparing apples and oranges. You can’t compare CHK’s entire budget and assets to those organizations whose sole purpose is fighting energy development. The resources invested by the Park Foundation, Tides Foundation, NRDC, et al in fighting natural gas development dwarf those the gas companies have devoted to fighting for it through organizations like ours. I know you don’t want to believe it, but that’s the truth – there’s a lot more money going into the fight against than the fight for and it’s all coming from bluebloods with old money who don’t want to see any change and they are using people like yourself as their foils. Read the 990 tax returns of these groups, please!!!

          • benj
            Posted at 10:04 am, July 19, 2011

            Apples and oranges? Sure! That’s simply because the gas industry is starting to ramp up its PR efforts. Let’s see if your outfit and others start to proliferate and expand over the coming years as natural gas extraction (By the way “CHK’s [and every other oil/gas company’s] entire budget and assets” are established for “sole purpose” of encouraging “energy development” by extracting fossil fuel. Indisputable because that is their raison d’etre, right)

            Besides, industry lobbyists in state capitols (i.e., “halls of power”) are where the gas and other extraction wisely focus their time, money, and efforts. I wonder who spends more there?

            Your footprint argument is very narrow and entirely incomplete, especially when you don’t factor in…you got it, externalities. At this point, cue the typical “economic vs. environmentalism” argument (along with it environmental accounting, etc.). No need to rehash.

            You better believe there’s cynicism. What, are you an idealist? Tell me why and then give me some of that.

          • Tom
            Posted at 3:59 pm, July 19, 2011

            Externalities make for an interesting discussion because they apply to both sides of the equation. Opportunity costs are often the largest of all externalities and the opportunities being lost to New York, for example, right now are enormous as the PPI study indicated, as just one example. As for the environmental side, I see a tremendous opportunity to preserve open space and farmland with natural gas development and, yes, I am an idealist in that regard, but it’s also a fact that there is no way to preserve so much with so little impact or so little cost. You don’t want to see it, but it’s there.

  • NY DEC Commissioner Joe Martens Stacks New Fracking Panel with Anti-Drillers | Marcellus Drilling News
    Posted at 12:23 pm, July 06, 2011 Reply

    […] in Depth NMI (Jul 4, 2011) – The Commissioner from NRDC? Share this […]

  • mgold
    Posted at 12:45 pm, July 06, 2011 Reply

    not undermining his boss but doing his bidding. Cuomo’s a smart guy and doesn’t want his legacy to be the guy who destroyed NY’s water and agriculure and sold it to multinational gas co’s who left it a superfund site.
    but he also has national ambitions and recognizes the oil and gas industry’s huge $$ and influence so can’t be seen as standing directly against them. perseusian tactics, and the end result will be no drilling in NY.

    • Tom
      Posted at 2:30 pm, July 06, 2011 Reply

      Perseusian tactics, huh? I have read the story of Perseus but the only other place I have seen the non-word “Perseusian” used is on a wacked out blog by a Eugene Debs who I suspect is probably a descendant of that old Marxist by the same name. Am I on to something here?

  • Stanley R Scobie
    Posted at 9:52 am, July 07, 2011 Reply

    Tom says:

    “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.”

    I agree. In my preliminary review of the dSGEIS-2 I found at least some analysis and explication that suggested that the DEC writers were at best being very careless in their scientific analysis.

    Unlike Mr. Northrup, I do not have a lot of confidence in the DEC scientific staff. At a minimum I would like to see the Committee have access to strong independent scientific analysis. There is also no member with strong credentials in agriculture or health.

    This is all a work in progress, and I do have some confidence that the Committee will be able to discern any weakness in its structure or membership and take appropriate action.

    Stanley R Scobie, Ph.D., Binghamton, NY

  • Potemkin Laws | Energy In Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative
    Posted at 1:34 pm, July 10, 2011 Reply

    […] anything can go to court, this seems to be a message more consistent with the voices of his former employers at the Open Space Institute and the Catskill Mountainkeeper than the SGEIS his agency has produced, raising further doubts as to where his true allegiances […]

  • The Fox In the Henhouse | Energy In Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative
    Posted at 6:15 pm, July 12, 2011 Reply

    […]  There is something rotten going on between Albany and New York City (somewhere in the vicinity of Lew Beach, where all those NRDC folks have their vacation retreats and conduct their land […]

  • The Mountainkeeper Doth Protest Too Much | Energy In Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative
    Posted at 1:47 pm, July 14, 2011 Reply

    […] in the Catskills at the expense of local folks looking for decent economic opportunities, using Empire State Development grants and loans to do so in OSI’s case.  Meanwhile, Ramsay acquires properties for himself from OSI’s subsidiary Open Space […]

  • SideShowBob
    Posted at 5:23 pm, July 19, 2011 Reply

    Good day folks….I came across this link………… today (July 19th), which apparently dates from about a week ago. DEC Advisory Panel member & NRDC legal advocate/blogger Kate Sindling appears to be asserting a 7 mile buffer around ANY INFRASTRUCTURE associated with NYC’s water supply as a necessity. If I’m reading this correctly, this would encompass all structures, pipelines, tunnels, vessels, etc., not currently within the confines of the NYC/Syracuse watersheds as defined by the current NY DEC proposal. Viewing the map in this link, I’m certain an additional 7 mile buffer (for a pipeline/tunnel, I interpret this as a 14 mile wide right of way which would be off limits to development) would constitute a capricious “land grab” by the anti-gas folks and a Draconian denial of land owner property rights. If one considers the topography and existing pipeline/tunnel ROW’s in Southern Delaware County, NY, for example, the ROW from Cannonsville to Pepacton and on Rondout Revervoir could become a 28 mile wide buffer zone that would significantly increase the size of the “out of bounds” territory currently defined as NYC/Syracuse watersheds. Indeed, the entire area of Southern Delaware County from Deposit east along the Route 17 corridor could become off limits. Therefore, it’s quite conceivable this area could fall under constraints/jurisdiction from DEC & DRBC.

    Also in the link, there is much to say about the disrepair of the infrastructure for NYC water supply. Massive leaks totaling millions of gallons of H2O daily, and assertions of seismic activity from drilling/fracing that could lead to catastrophic failure of this infrastructure. Further, the dilapidated condition of pipelines/tunnels renders them vulnerable to migration of fracing fluids from thousands of feet below. I find these statements and Sindling’s position at the DEC table quite troubling, and I feel her reach into the Delaware River Basin could far exceed any authority she enjoys currently….Beware EPA and its “Strange Bedfellows” rearing their ugly heads. Lisa Jackson stating she’s
    unaware of any water contamination from fracing is a quantum leap from continued EPA approval of the same.

    • SideShowBob
      Posted at 5:26 pm, July 19, 2011 Reply
      • SideShowBob
        Posted at 8:13 pm, July 19, 2011 Reply

        And while we’re looking for foxes in the henhouse and NRDC connections within DEC, who should appear from his private jet and rear his looney, liberal, born with a silver spoon in mouth head but Robert Kennedy Jr. Yep…another scion of America’s most lovable dysfunctional family telling us how to live. RFK Jr sits on the New York DEC panel which will advise on the SGEIS. He, like Kate Sindling, has NRDC connections. Here’s what he had to say less than three years ago:
        Commentary: Obama’s energy plan would create green gold rush
        • Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Burning carbon has hurt economy, national security
        • Kennedy says Obama would wean U.S. off reliance on carbon for energy
        • Kennedy: America’s economy would grow, and jobs would be created
        • “Everyone will profit from the green gold rush,” Kennedy says
        • Next Article in Politics »
        By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
        Special to CNN
        Editor’s note: Sen. Ted Kennedy will be honored tonight at the Democratic Convention in Denver, Colorado. His nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for helping lead the fight against Hudson River pollution. Robert Kennedy describes his uncle Ted as “the most reliable leader in the Senate on energy and environmental issues. He’s a guy I always go to for advice and support when we’re working on federal legislation.” This is one in a series of commentary pieces on from both McCain and Obama supporters attending party conventions.
        Robert F. Kennedy Jr. says the U.S. has tremendous energy resources, including wind and solar.
        (CNN) — Barack Obama is a transformational figure in American history who’s been able to excite the same intensity of feeling among Americans as I saw during my father’s 1968 campaign and my uncle John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign.
        As a six-year-old, I attended the Democratic Convention in 1960 and traveled across the country in the Caroline K [the Kennedy campaign plane].
        The excitement I saw then is echoed today as Barack Obama outlines his plans to get the nation moving in the right direction, to restore America’s role as an exemplary nation.
        America’s dependence on carbon to produce energy has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and marred our health and landscapes. It is subverting everything we value.
        A sophisticated, well-crafted energy policy designed to de-carbonize America is the centerpiece of Sen. Barack Obama’s domestic economic package.
        It will sharpen our competitiveness by reducing our energy costs, dramatically reduce our national debt, stimulate our economy far more effectively than tax cuts by putting conservation savings in the hands of every American, and be the engine for creating millions of green-collar jobs that cannot be outsourced.
        Obama understands, as John McCain does not, that an intelligent energy policy is also the natural fulcrum for U.S. foreign policy and national security. As Obama has warned, “One of the most dangerous weapons in the world today is the price of oil. We ship nearly $700 million a day to unstable or hostile nations for their oil. It pays for terrorist bombs going off from Baghdad to Beirut.” See McCain and Obama energy plans
        Obama’s policy, which anticipates eliminating imports by 2012 or earlier, is feasible and desirable. Respected economists and energy industry entrepreneurs, high-level business representatives from Fortune 500 companies and large investors are already enlisting to invest in the infrastructure to facilitate the transition.
        Every nation that has taken serious steps to de-carbonize its energy portfolio has reaped immediate economic growth. Sweden announced in 2006 the phase-out of all fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) by 2020. In 1991, the Swedes enacted a carbon tax — now up to $150 a ton — closed two nuclear reactors, and still dropped greenhouse emissions to 5 tons per person, compared with the U.S. per-capita rate of 20 tons.
        Thousands of entrepreneurs rushed to develop new ways of generating energy from wind, the sun and the tides, and from wood chips, agricultural waste and garbage. Growth rates climbed and the heavily taxed Swedish economy is now the world’s eighth richest by gross domestic product.
        Iceland was 80 percent dependent on imported coal and oil in the 1970s and was among the poorest economies in Europe. Today, Iceland is 100 percent energy independent, and according to the International Monetary Fund is now the fourth most affluent nation on Earth.
        There are many other examples: Brazil’s efforts to de-carbonize its transportation system has resulted in the largest and most robust economic expansion in its history.
        The United States has far greater domestic energy resources than Iceland or Sweden. We sit atop the second-largest geothermal resources in the world. The American Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of wind. Solar installations across just 19 percent of the most barren desert land in the Southwest could supply nearly all of our nation’s electricity needs even if every American owned an electric car.
        Obama’s vision of de-carbonizing our economy begins with a market-based carbon cap-and-trade system designed to put downward pressure on carbon emissions. He will invest billions to revamp the nation’s antiquated high-voltage power transmission system and press for cost-saving building and appliance standards that would cut our energy demand by half.
        For a tiny fraction of the projected cost of the Iraq war, we could completely wean the country from carbon. Homes and businesses will become power plants as people cash in by installing solar panels and wind turbines on their buildings, and selling the stored energy in their plug-in hybrids back to the grid at peak hours. By kicking its carbon addiction, America will increase its national wealth. Everyone will profit from the green gold rush.
        We will create a decentralized and highly distributable grid that is far more resilient and safe for our country; a terrorist might knock out a power plant, but never a million homes. And for the first time in half a century, we will live free from Middle Eastern wars and entanglements with petty tyrants who despise democracy and are hated by their own people.

  • Cuomo: A Failure for the Ages | Natural Gas NowNatural Gas Now
    Posted at 12:28 am, March 17, 2014 Reply

    […] base. He wants Bobby Kennedy Jr. and the NRDC aristocrats to stay happy and not make any noise. He’s deathly afraid of the NRDC, in fact, if his actions mean anything. They own a chunk of the Catskills, want a lot more of it on the cheap and have the capacity to […]

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