Enough of this Clean Air Council Con Game!

shale gas outrages - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


The tax-exempt fractivist group known as the Clean Air Council has been using Federal money to attack pipeline development. When will Congress investigate?

We have long known the William Penn Foundation and Heinz Endowments fund the Clean Air Council to attack natural gas development. They’ve been doing it for years now, working in league with the Delaware Povertykeeper, PennFuture, StateImpactPA and other sister entities financed by the same wealthy special interest foundations. It deserves a tax-exemption challenge but there’s something else going on that deserves a Congressional investigation. The Clean Air Council has been using Federal taxpayer funds to help pay for its long-running political campaign against pipeline development.

There’s not much that surprises me about fractivists. They mostly amount to a small band of malcontents and trust-funders with access to boatloads of cash and eons of time to pursue their pet cause, which allows them to create distractions, pull attention to themselves and have influence all out of proportion to their numbers. Outrageousness is part of their schtick and it works for them, especially when confronting an industry thinking the best way to deal with them is to ignore them and engage in more meaningless PR speak. I was surprised, though, when a friend and reader wrote yesterday to pass along an article I guarantee will anger you as much it did me.

The article is by Shawn McCoy, who is the Publisher of InsideSources.com. I was not familiar with Shawn or his work, but I’m impressed with his skills as an investigative reporter. He uncovers the fact several anti-pipeline activist groups have been tapping into a special grant program operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for funding to finance their attack dog efforts to stop pipelines, doing so by claiming they’r engaging in “education.” What’s going on with this program is nothing less than scandalous and it must be investigated. Read the whole thing it. It’s incredible eye-opening.

What really caught my attention as a long-time follower of radical trust-funder Joseph Otis Minott, Esquire’s Clean Air Council, though, was this blurb from the article:

The Clean Air Council, based in Philadelphia, received $50,000 to educate the public on pipeline technologies. But the group’s website features a range of anti-pipeline activities, including protest marches and asking members to phone their governor in opposition to pipelines.

Say what? Our Federal government, through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), which is part of DOT has given $50,000 of our hard-earned money in the form of a Technical Assistance Grant to this pampered, privileged shill of the Haas and Heinz families to fight energy delivering, job creating pipelines that offer the opportunity for the Northeast to revive its manufacturing base and our nation to become energy independent? That is outrageous. More than that, it’s disgusting and it needs to be investigated by Congress ASAP.

The PHMSA Technical Assistance Program is yet another example of Federal incompetence and over-reach combined. The fact we are borrowing money from our great-grandchildren’s grandchildren to finance groups such as the Clean Air Council is nothing less than infuriating, especially when it’s obvious to anyone in Realville who’s done 60 seconds of research, how the money would be used; for a political campaign.

The grant documents for the $50,000 Clean Air Council award can be found here. Read them, please. Here is the description (emphasis added):

Under this grant award Clean Air Council will analyze pipeline technologies and practices and increase public awareness of and dialogue about which technologies should be used in proposed pipeline expansion projects. The Council will assess the performance of EPA-recommended pipeline and compressor station technologies and determine whether there are newer voluntary technologies or practices that companies and communities could use to increase safety and environmental protection. The Council will educate stakeholders (residents. local government, and specific pipeline companies) in possible improvements in technologies that could reduce environmental and public safety risks.

The Clean Air Council contact person for this grant is Matt Walker, a name well known to those of us who have followed the organization. He’s a roving attack dog who attends virtually every pipeline compressor hearing taking place anywhere in Pennsylvania to oppose the project. He’s even gone into New York to help organize resistance to pipeline projects there. He’s also an opponent of the Constitution Pipeline and here’s a very short clip of him in August, 2012, in Brooklyn, Pennsylvania speaking out against the project:

Notice how he says they’re “not against anything,” which, of course, is belied by everything else he says, including a remark about it was “pretty damned clear” how the 75 malcontents, gathered to hear him talk, felt about the project. Does this sound like a guy interested in improving technology and conducting dialogue or a community organizer?

You be the judge but I’ll be surprised if you don’t agree with me Matt Walker is simply a paid agitator. If you need more evidence, check out a few minutes of this webinar narrated by Matt, when attorneys from the Clean Air Council, EarthJustice, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and Stop the Pipeline lectured participants in how to oppose the project. Could there be any more indication of the intent here than the participation of the “Stop the Pipeline” group? Want still more evidence? Well, check out his 2014 testimony on the pipeline:

There’s no doubt what either Matt Walker or the Clean Air Council are up to and it has nothing to do with education or improving pipeline technologies. They’re about stopping pipelines and the Federal government, using our money, is paying them to do it.

Angry yet? Well, take a look at this provision from the grant agreement:

Clean Air Council

If you go to 2 CFR 200.450 (page 161), you’ll find this:

Costs incurred in attempting to improperly influence either directly or indirectly, an employee or officer of the executive branch of the Federal government to give consideration or to act regarding a Federal award or a regulatory matter are unallowable. Improper influence means any influence that induces or tends to induce a Federal employee or officer to give consideration or to act regarding a Federal award or regulatory matter on any basis other than the merits of the matter.

Disrupting meetings and engaging in attempted intimidation of the DEP Pipeline Task Force arguably fall into that category, as the Clean Air Council’s Sam Koplinka-Loehr did recently. The regulation also goes on to prohibit non-profits such as the Clean Air Council from the following:

The enactment or modification of any pending Federal or state legislation by preparing, distributing, or using publicity or propaganda, or by urging members of the general public, or any segment thereof, to contribute to or participate in any mass demonstration, march, rally, fund raising drive, lobbying campaign or letter writing or telephone campaign.

This is an apt description of most of what the Clean Air Council does, of course, as it presses for both Federal and State legislation it desires. It also engages in litigation to challenge legislation as we’ve noted here before, another activity prohibited by these regulations.

So, why is the US DOT funding this group? How did they possibly get this grant and what are our legislators going to do about this? We might also ask why this program even exists, if this is what’s being done with our money. Where do are elected Federal representatives stand on this abuse? We need to press them for answers. This cannot stand. There needs to be a Congressional investigation of what the hell is going on at DOT. This grant should also be returned to the Federal government if there’s to be any justice here.

Write your Federal representatives and ask what they’re doing about this:

Senator Robert Casey

Senator Pat Toomey

Pennsylvania Members of US Congress


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9 thoughts on “Enough of this Clean Air Council Con Game!

  1. I have never heard of an education or organizing group holding information (or as is actually often the case misinformation) forums on pipeline permitting process that is not actually an antifracking org or an anti pipeline group formed to oppose a project.

    Nearly all the information the public and also politicians get is generated by antifracking and anti pipeline activist groups. As I have stated before those opposed to fracking, natural gas and all pipelines are entitled to their view and opinion. My exerience is that they are the absolute worst people to learn about specific proposals, ferc, nepa and more from though. They are the last people who should be used as sources by reporters yet they are often supplying all information (background and otherwise) to the media which means this also reaches the public.

    Regardless of opposition, there is a process which the public can’t be expected to just know as companies, ferc and a wide variety of state and federal agencies know as well. The public absolutely requires a place to get information other than antifracking pipeline resistance organizations because these groups are often wildly distorting all kinds of information about projects, FERC, what eis or ea’s say, impacts etc.

    • I also blame lazy politicians who don’t do their jobs and get all the information from all sides. Much easier to accept input from some random source rather than go out and educate themselves. At a minimum they should ask a few questions to vet the sources that are being so ‘helpful’. I suppose to some extent I also blame us, the landowners. If we don’t get out there with our own message and let the other side steamroller us, we get what we have. (Not necessarily what we deserve)

      • The reporters are worse than the politicians. Reporters are supposed to be watchdogs for the public. They often do little more than copy press releases by activist groups and I have seen them in some instances get all their information from opposition groups. They know the least and yet they have the most reach. That is a huge problem.

  2. Let me correct that.. as i attended one informational session that was held outside of the formal FERC process by a local civic group for a specific proposal where company reps answered the public questions in Brooklyn with the rockaway lateral proposal.

  3. http://www.law360.com/articles/760591/enviros-urge-2nd-circ-to-block-work-on-683m-gas-pipeline

    Clean Air Council is mentioned in an article today about organizations contesting FERCs certificate (i guess this means sue) order on Constitution Pipeline. They are an opposition group not an education group.

    I believe they are mentioned by Sape an organization formed to fight the Spectra Aim project and you can read about their “public forum” from 2013 at the link below. How many groups can you name or do you know of firsthand that are not just opposition groups but are also groups who either lie about the numbers of their members, their expertise and much more? I see Susan Van Dolsen, Grassroots Environmental Education, Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Coalition AGainst the rockaway pipeline, Chefs for the Marcellus, Clean Air Council, Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, Food and Water Watch, Deleware Riverkeeper, Sane energy, Untied for Action and more. None of these groups provide what could ever be defined as “education” to the public.


    SAPE Founders: Paula Clair, Resident of Philipstown; Suzannah Glidden and Marian Rose, Community Watersheds Clean Water Coalition (CWCWC); Susan McDonnell, Cortlandt WATCH; Jerry Ravnitzky, Concerned Residents of Carmel & Mahopac; Ellen Weininger, Grassroots Environmental Education; Susan Van Dolsen, Westchester for Change

    Co-Sponsors: Air Soil Water; Better Future Project; Debby Bobson, Resident of Ardsley; Bronx Greens; Businesses Against Fracking NY; Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy; Catskill Mountainkeeper; Chefs for the Marcellus; Clean Air Council; ClimateMama; Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline; Community Watersheds Clean Water Coalition; Concerned Families of Westchester; Concerned Health Professionals of NY; Concerned Residents of Carmel & Mahopac; Cortlandt WATCH; Damascus Citizens for Sustainability; Delaware Riverkeeper Network; Essex/Passaic Green Party; Federated Conservationists of Westchester County; Food & Water Watch; Food & Water Watch NJ; GMOFreeCT; Grassroots Environmental Education; Hudson River Sloop Clearwater; Hutchinson River Restoration Project; Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition; League of Women Voters Rivertowns NY; New Jersey Sierra Club; New Yorkers Against Fracking; Northeast Organic Farming Association-CT; NYC Friends of Clearwater; NYH2O; Otsego 2000, Inc.; Pepacton Institute, LLC; Rockland Coalition Against Fracking; Roseland Against Compressor Station; SACRED; Sane Energy Project; Save Cummins Hill; Shut Down Indian Point Now!; Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group; Sister Carol De Angelo, Sisters of Charity; Stop the Minisink Compressor Station; The Mothers Project; Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Briarcliff, Croton and Ossining; United for Action; WESPAC; Westchester for Change; Westchester SAFE

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  5. Karen_ what exactly is your conection with the Rockaway project? In light of the fact that was to be an import facility why should we beleive any other projects you are involved in are any diferent?

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