State Impact PA is the quintessential purveyor of advocacy journalism, funded by the same elite families who fund the groups for which it carries water.
Advocacy packaged as journalism is the forte of State Impact PA, as we have documented here on several occasions, including this post. The organization is also a sister group to three other William Penn Foundation funded fractivist outfits, as we explained here; the Clean Air Council, the Delaware Riverkeeper and PennFuture.
The cozy relationship among these entities, moreover, is one they don’t even bother to try to hide anymore. They boldly tell the world they’re all in bed together, even though one portrays itself as the nonpartisan reporter of the news. It’s illustrative of the larger problem America faces today as much of the media operates as an activist force, surrendering to the temptation to make the news rather than deliver it, as if it were a badge of honor.
A recent story at State Impact PA demonstrates. It’s a story about the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and its procedures. It reads like a press release from the Clean Air Council, which is mentioned nine times but not once as a fellow grantee of the William Penn Foundation and Heinz Endowments, the two wealthy special interests who fund State Impact PA. The story also gives a lot of attention to the Allegheny Defense Project, which is essentially a one-man band consisting of Ryan Talbott, the “Executive Director” who is aligned with the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is the recipient of $500,000 from the William Penn Foundation for “watershed protection,” so we we have still another sister group involved, albeit indirectly.
The essence of the State Impact PA piece, written by Susan Phillips, is to argue for indefinite appeals of pipeline projects. It’s part of a deliberate strategy to delay all pipeline projects to the point of killing them, begun with endless demands for more meetings, hearings and comment time, followed by multiple legal challenges, one on top of another, with a goal of stretching things out to point it will take decades to build any pipeline; effectively strangling them all to death. The Allegheny Defense Project, the Clean Air Council, the Delaware Riverkeeper are coordinating this attack and State Impact PA is breathing life into it from a political perspective by giving it public attention; all these entities operating with money from the William Penn Foundation and tax-exemption from the rest of us.
It’s all part of a broader effort to stop natural gas as well as all other forms of development in rural Pennsylvania. It’s a de-growth vision that underlies all the activities of aristocratic one-family foundations such as William Penn, Heinz and the Rockefellers; one of “strategic parkification,” which we’ve written about many times here. It’s the “making of a wilderness” at the expense of those who live and work in rural America.
That’s infuriating enough, of course, but not nearly as much as witnessing how little the individuals involved in this effort, who carry the water for these aristocrats, bother to even suggest they care about local people. How proud they are of colluding with one another to pull the wool over the public eyes as if this was some holy environmental cause when it’s merely a land grab. This is brought home in tweets by two of the sister groups; State Impact PA (Susan Phillips) and the Delaware Riverkeeper (Maya van Rossum):
Wasn’t it nice of Susan Phillips to let her William Penn Foundation sister know what she was doing? The article did mention the Delaware Riverkeeper once, of course, but it seems unlikely Susan needed to let Maya know that; after all they ultimately work for the same people and one can imagine they probably talked about it. More likely, Susan was thanking Maya for putting her in touch with Carolyn Elefant, one of the Delaware Riverkeeper’s favorite experts, and letting her know what a great quote she got from Carolyn.
This mutual admiration society, this cozy relationship, is how journalism has been corrupted by big money special interests, and the special interests aren’t the evil corporations the writers would have us believe. Rather, they are the second and third generation trust-funders who are spending the wealth of their forebearers on trendy elitist causes; causes that would deny decent livings and inexpensive energy (not to mention real environmental gains in lowered air emissions) to rural America so they can make a park for themselves out of it.