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Don’t Blame “Big Oil and Gas” for Denial of Domestic Energy to New England

Cuomo's Legacy - Dick DowneyRichard Downey
Unatego Area Landowners Association


New England is out in the cold, being denied affordable, domestic energy by Governor Cuomo’s fracking moratorium and pipeline rejections.

Adrian Kusminsky’s column in Hometown Oneonta two weeks ago, entitled “10 Years Ago, Anti-Fracking Fight Taught Communities Empowerment,” celebrates the anti-fracking mobilization instrumental in the ban on gas development. As a key player, he is proud of the effort. He writes about “the vulnerability of our local communities to powerful outside forces over which we have little or no control. In this case it was the oil and gas industry that was led by the most powerful corporations in the world.”

He notes the opinions on the forces outside our local political control are split, are viewed as good or bad, depending on our point of view. However, conservative or liberal, if we’ve made up our minds, there is little chance of changing them.

Very true. However, Mr. Kuzminsky misses a couple of forces that shaped the fight. They include the Governor, the courts, and the dark money that foundations provided for support, leadership, and coordination that made the anti-fracking effort effective. The popular story line of a band of valiant citizenry arrayed against Big Oil and Gas needs some context.

From the start, the Governor’s thumb was on the scales. Exxon Mobil was the first to catch Cuomo’s signals, took a loss, and left New York in 2011. Atlas and Chevron soon followed, abandoning $3 an acre leases. Better to pay thousands south of the border than throw money away in New York.

Norse sold its holdings and moved on. Cuomo’s indefinite moratorium told them New York was not open for business. Locally, Gastem USA was the last to leave. By the time Gastem left, their 66 million shares were selling at about a nickel a share. Do the math. Hardly Big Oil and Gas.

The courts were no kinder. Anschutz Exploration and Lenape Resources lost in court. Cooperstown Holstein v. Town of Hartwick went all the way to the Court of Appeals. The case centered on the original intent of the oil and gas law. The final decision essentially equated local gravel pits with oil and gas plays.

The judges ignored the 30 years of field practice since the law’s enactment, then twisted logic in a manner that only a lawyer could love. For now, gas exploration in New York is dead.

The biggest canard of the Gas Wars was the anti-fracking little guys were up against Big Oil and Gas. In retrospect, the industry had no clue what they were walking into.

Yes, the protesters, but also the professors and the hired halls, the lawyers and the advocates, the pamphlets, the newsletters, posters, postcards (yes, postcards), campaign buttons, lawn signs, the documentaries and movies, the artisanal foods and crafts fairs, the phone banks and phantom (and real) organizations creating op ed pieces, the “science” and the “studies,” the lobbyists and the “journalists/ fractivists, ” – even a stage play – all moving in unison with the theme of the moment. This choreography took money and centralized leadership.

The bulk of the money and core leadership came from huge “charitable” foundations like the Rockefeller Brothers, Soros, Heinz, Hewlett, Park, and dozens of others. The money was thoroughly laundered in cross-donations of one foundation to another, switched from charitable 501 (3) (c )s to political 501 (4) (c )s, and then awarded to hundreds of local groups and individuals. Finding who gave the original dollar would be a CPA’s version of “Where’s Waldo.” Good luck on that.

And the beat goes on. The Hewlett Foundation expects to spend $600 million on environmental causes (WSJ, Opinion, 1/12/18). George Soros raised that amount by a factor of 30, pledging a tax free endowment of $18 billion to his Open Society Foundation (NY Times, 10/17/17). The money spent by the environmental foundations dwarfs the postage stamp chump change spent by Big Oil and Gas in New York. Outside forces? Yes indeed. This undercover donor class is unmentioned in Mr. Kuzminsky column.

As a result New Yorkers and the Northeast are denied abundant, affordable, domestic energy in our highly taxed, over regulated, high cost of living states. Recently, tankers had to bring Russian LNG gas to Boston. With Pennsylvania just next door, is this crazy or what?

Pipelines and their distributive networks could be delivering natural gas to our homes at a 30% discount to propane, savings to homeowners that would continue year after year. Local natural gas could be powering our electric grid, bringing down the cost of doing business and making our region more competitive in local and world markets. There are forces that prevent these benefits.

The culprit responsible isn’t Big Oil and Gas.

Richard Downey is a retired New York City schoolteacher and a member of the Unatego Board of Education and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York.

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One thought on “Don’t Blame “Big Oil and Gas” for Denial of Domestic Energy to New England

  1. On the very day that spot gas prices hit $175/mmbtu – with the entire day’s average settling at $140 – Ohio retail customers of Dominion paid $3.07 which then dropped to $2.78/mmbtu.
    A typical household paid about 60 bucks for January’s bill to heat their water, dry their clothes, warm their homes during the brutal cold.
    All because of pipeline availability.

    Pain instructs, Mr. Downey.

    As the crushingly high financial costs continue to inflict harm over a widening public, hopefully voices such as yours, Mr. Shepstone’s, and other valiant truth tellers will start to resonate and take hold.

    The supporters of that abominable “Don’t Frack My Mother” video cannot be revealed as the idiots they are and relegated to the trash heap of history soon enough.

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