Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The SCLOC Thanks Tom Stepstone and the New York Post
Blueblood agenda The truth about fracking foes By TOM SHEPSTONE Last Updated: 4:01 AM, March 19, 2013 Posted: 10:39 PM, March 18, 2013 GOV. Cuomo has put natural-gas development on hold yet again, plainly thanks to the power of New York’s environmental lobby. But the real issue has nothing to do with the supposed health concerns cited by the opponents of “fracking.” No, the delay’s been engineered by some extremely powerful special interests — New York’s bluebloods —at the expense of the hopes of blue-collar NewYork. Consider the governor’s advisory committee on hydraulic fracturing. It includes his brother-in-law, Robert Kennedy Jr., a former senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and two current senior attorneys for the NRDC. That’s three NRDC seats on a panel of 13 (later expanded). And the NRDC is also represented in the individual whom these three attorneys are supposed to advise: JoeMartens, the Department of Environmental Conservation chief, who was president of the Open Space Institute when he took the DEC job, and is also a founder of the Catskill Mountainkeeper. Both those groups, along with the NRDC, were creations of John Adams, a close associate of the Rockefeller family. Adams’ son, Ramsay, is Catskill Mountainkeeper’s executive director, and still another NRDC senior attorney is the group’s president. Cuomo’s fracking panel also contains four other opponents of the practice and one of those, Robert Moore, just got hired by the NRDC. Altogether, they still account for half the committee, even after it was expanded for greater balance. The NRDC’s pervasive influence is also evident in the overlapping relationships among the Catskill Mountain-keeper, the Open Space Institute, the Beaverkill Valley Land Trust, the NRDC and other groups controlled by the Rockefeller family, The Lew Beach area — where the counties of Delaware, Sullivan and Ulster come together and many of these folks own land —might be described as high society in the hinterlands. NRDC founder John Adams is from the area and introduced Laurance Rockefeller Jr. to it many years ago. Rockefeller has bought up thousands of acres of land in LewBeach and divided it into home sites for wealthy friends and folks like Dan Rather, who told The New York Times, “My house in the Beaverkill is the only bit of privacy that I have left,” and an investment banker who noted, “It’s like buying into a land bank.’’ In short, Rockefeller and various associates have long been establishing a secluded preserve for their personal enjoyment. But being able to buy up property inexpensively is crucial — and thus fracking, which would greatly add to the value of lands still owned by locals, threatens the project. The project’s relations with the state are questionable in other regards. For example, there’s the $25 million loan made from funds reserved for job creation to the Open Space Institute, as well as the fact that the group sells land to the state at premium prices. All these conservation efforts just happen, in many cases, to also preserve land around the homes of the principals — increasing their privacy and ensuring continued pristine views. In short, the NRDC & Co. aren’t really engaged in a battle against naturalgas development, but rather in keeping it out of the Catskills, where it might interfere with their own plans for that land bank. Emptying out the Catskills and lowering property values is what works for them. It doesn’t work so well for residents, who must somehow earn a living and pay the taxes on what theyown. For all the “green” talk of health issues with fracking, these folks know that their health is linked to economic development. Meanwhile, the NRDC gives its approval to naturalgas development in Illinois, which is no threat to their Catskill plans. That shows that what’s going on in New York has nothing to do with health. It’s a sad state of affairs. By letting the NRDC and friends dominate his decision-making process, the governor is putting a lower value on the needs of middleclass landowners and union members than on the whims of some of America’s wealthiest. Will he continue to side with the bluebloods against the blue collars? The future of rural New York hangs in the balance. Tom Shepstone is a spokesman for Energy in Depth, an industrysponsored group striving to educate the public on naturalgas development. Have a comment on this PostOpinion column? Send it in to LETTERS@NYPOST.COM!