Flying Solo: The Uncivil Story of How Fracking Opposition Arises

Tom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


Fracking opposition is largely financed by the gentry class and other special interests. No better example exists than the Civil Society Institute. The following is an updated version of a story we did here three years ago on this phony outfit.

It sometimes has the appearance of a grass roots rebellion. An empathetic media is only too happy to report it as such, but fracking opposition is cultivated, funded and promoted by the America’s gentry class.

The names pop up regularly in the news as if there repeated sudden outbursts of public opposition to fracking, a pipeline project or a LNG port. Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Clean Air Council, Dakota Resource Council,  Delaware Riverkeeper, Environmental Advocates of New York, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Otsego 2000, Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, Responsible Drilling Alliance — these are the names of supposedly grass-roots anti-fracking organizations from across the country. They are, in reality, satellite operations of gentry class special interest groups.

Each of the above organizations and several others has been a recipient of significant funding from an entity know as The Civil Society Institute, Inc., one of those numerous charities with mushy sounding names that are used by trust-funders and other wealthy individuals to exercise political influence on a tax-exempt basis. They shift the burden of paying taxes on interest and dividends earned on inheritances to the rest of us as they funnel the money through foundations to pursue pet political interests.

Fracking Opposition

Pam Solo

The Civil Society Institute, Inc. is located in Newton, Massachusetts, far away from any fracking and such. Fracking, though, is the latest convenient cause of a serial protester by the name of Pam Solo who happens to run the outfit. It’s a great gig compared to when she was a nun associated with the radical Sisters of Loretto.

Solo apparently started as a Vietnam War protestor. When the war ended, she tells oral historians, she had to face the reality “there wasn’t much left for us to do in terms of grass roots mobilization.” Needing another adrenalin fix from raising her fists in opposition to something, she went on to protest the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant, which offered a new cause for her.

Then she became associated with something called the Peace Institute. That was followed by the nuclear freeze movement, Congresswoman Pat Schroeder’s presidential campaign, embryonic stem cell research and a host of other causes. Solo has bounced around from one cause to the other depending on what was trendy at the time with the gentry class she loves to manipulate.

The reason? The gentry class pays well. The former vowed nun, who still claims to be a sister of some sort, has done extremely well catering to their special interests. She pulled down $724,097 from the Civil Society Institute and related enterprises in 2013, another $698,273 in 2014 and a total of $3.5 million for 2010-2015.

Not bad for a nun, whose job was apparently limited to passing out some $11,989,096 in grants for those years. That’s a 29.4% commission. As I wrote the last time I reviewed Civil Society Institute financials, I too, am Catholic. Can I become a co-member of the Sisters of Loretto? Is is a new age, after all.

Earnings like this apparently allowed Solo to invest in a restaurant franchise called O’Naturals (another cause) that later went belly-up and, probably, this fashion shoe enterprise launched by her son. She was given $35 million in the 1990’s to launch the Civil Society Institute and, although the glowing article about it doesn’t mention who it came from, the donors were members of the Lutz family.

Fracking Opposition

Sarah Lutz painting “Bouganvillea”

One of the co-founders is artist Sally Lutz. The money today appears to come from Sarah Lutz, another artist and her husband John Van Rens through the Lucretia Fund, which is, for the most part, simply the Civil Society Institute in another guise. (Sarah Lutz produces paintings such as the one to the right, using a cake decorator to paint.)  Pam Solo is on the board of that, too, and much of their money was, according to their 2013 filing with the Internal Revenue Service, invested in HCC Feeder Fund, one of those slightly suspicious Cayman Islands funds.

Where the money really comes from is unclear, for obvious reasons. We can be reasonably sure it doesn’t come from selling art, though. Moreover, the tailoring of their grants in recent years to a tight circle of fractivists mostly from the Marcellus Shale region suggests a very specific special interest. It certainly isn’t what Solo suggested back when she got that $35 million (emphasis added):

“Solo says she has a plan of action and that she is optimistic about changing such institutions as business and government that, she maintains, make our society not very civil…We are also looking at the way business and the economy contribute to inner civility…A big part of our message is that we have to take responsibility for our community, our families, our own behavior, and our own nastiness. At the same time, we have a right to expect that the institutions that run our society, government and business also have rights, responsibilities and roles to play in that.”

That Solo didn’t mean a word of this is evident from the actions of those fractivist groups she funds while taking down that huge salary. She funded the nastiness of Catskill Citizens for Sustainable Energy, which used the funds to prepare a glossy anti-fracking brochure complete with skull and bones imagery and a bullet list of falsehoods. Every one of the groups listed at the beginning of this article has engaged in similar travesties – all very uncivil, if you will.

Solo also funds two very intriguing professional service groups. One is The Hastings Group, led by Senior Partner Scott Staph, who is a social media and viral marketing expert. According to SourceWatch, he previously served as “Assistant to the President of the Tobacco Institute” and as “media relations specialist and spokesman for the Institute.” Here he is in action:

The Hastings Group also ran to the rescue of Cornell Professor Bob Howarth, who is associated with Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, which regularly receives funding from the Civil Society Institute. Howarth is a co-author of junk science studies saying natural gas is worse than coal and, according to Jon Entine, “hired an aggressive PR firm, the Hastings Group, to promote his politicized viewpoint.” It appears the Civili Society Institute may have been the conduit, providing $397,875 to Hastings in 2015.

The other interesting hire is the Pawa Legal Group, the principal of the firm being Attorney Matthew Pawa, one of the ringleaders in the RICO-like pursuit of ExxonMobil by certain politically motivated Attorneys General, New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Massachusetts’ Maura Healey being among them. Pawa, in fact, was instructed by Schneiderman’s hatchet man not to tell a reporter he secretly briefed AGs prior to an infamous press conference with Al Gore when the scheme was launched last year. It’s all very uncivil, if you ask me.

Solo and the Lutz family are funding incivility on a major scale. The fractivists involved aren’t grassroots either. They might have started out that way, but what sustains these enterprises in nearly every case is special interest money. Fractivists are but pawns in a chess game being played for those special interests by professional serial protestors who make a very good living doing it.

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28 thoughts on “Flying Solo: The Uncivil Story of How Fracking Opposition Arises

  1. Looks like poverty, chastity and obedience pays rather well…..

    From the Sisters of Loretto web site…

    “Founded in 1812 the Sisters of Loretto are Catholic women whose pioneer American spirit urges us to answer God’s call to live out our baptism by sharing community, our faith and ministries. We freely choose to radically embrace the gospel of Jesus through proclamation of three public vows: poverty, chastity (celibacy) and obedience.

    As vowed sisters, we commit to grow in love and service by means of our particular works of mercy, charity, or justice in a spirit of informed openness. Ever ready to address the deep need facing us in the church and world today, we, through the freedom of consecrated celibacy pledge ourselves to living simply by sharing all things in common in a spirit of trust, and to recognize and follow the Spirit of God present in the Loretto Community and in our own lives.”


    In other pipeline news, looks like North Dakota would like some federal money to help pay for the costs associated with the dakota pipeline “resistance”.

    Wow. Seems like a lot of stuff is happening with pipelines these days. One wonders when the press will take a good hard look at what is going on. It’s only been what? Years now of them snoozing or worse, reporting myth.

  3. Here are the groups associated with NRDC’s letter:

    Catskill Mountainkeeper
     Riverkeeper
     Sane Energy Project
     Food & Water Watch
     Center for Biological Diversity
     Grassroots Environmental Education
     Keep Yorktown Safe
     Safe Energy Rights Group
     Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion
     Resist Spectra
     Concerned Families of Westchester
     Grassroots Environmental Education

  4. Question for Karen Orlando: How much does Mr. Shepstone pay you to inflate his comments-per-post numbers with your usual contributing-of-nothing reminders to us of how much time you have on your hands so as to attract more views to his posts?

    • I can assure you I not only don’t pay Karen, Tom, but I’ve never even met her or so much as talked with her on the phone. I have met you several times, of course, and have found you to be almost everywhere I go and you usually bike there, so it would seem you have quite a bit of time on your own hands.

      • What rocks do loons like Tom Frost crawl out from under? He thinks you have money to pay me? Ha! What is he a friend of Occupy’s? Yapping about property right principle’s in reference to what? The Constitution pipe resistance fiasco? What is he dim-witted enough to think that no one has heard of property rights principles or the eminent domain line being used by everyone and their brother “resisting” some pipeline.

        Tom Frost on August 26, 2016 at 1:36 pm said:
        No; it’s not the fruits of frac”K”tivism. It’s the fruits of PROPERTY RIGHTS PRINCIPLES, after the jack-booted government thug “protecting” your eminent-domaining buddies on the Holleran/Zeffer farm back in March did his unprovoked waving his AR-15 at a bunch of us.

        Reply ↓

          • And you are somehow under the impression that the only county in the united States of America that has any concerns about natural gas is susquehanna?

            Why don’t you stop bothering me and maybe educate yourself a little on natural gas and energy and environmental issues today?

    • Answer: Mr. Shepstone doesn’t pay me to comment and I don’t comment in order to “inflate his comments per post”. I’m not sure why you are under the misperception that providing examples of antifracking activists in the news and what that news looks like or what activists are doing or tweeting or who knows who contributes nothing to the conservation but you are dead wrong.

      I don’t see you adding anything to the conversation.

      I have never met Tom Shepstone. I have met antifracking pipeline resistance activists who have been misinforming the press for years though.

      • Yup!

        I see you’re following my advise by making a modicum of effort to study your opponents. However, you need to do some of it elsewhere than in front of your computer in New York City, as the shoddy “reporting” in that link is almost as error-filled as yours.

        • I don’t need to study anything from in front of the computer Tom. I have had the great misfortune of meeting the antifracking pipeline resistance movement in person over a pipeline project years ago.

    • Hah! I like the fact you cycle, Tom. You’re the only fractivist I know who bothers to live up to his own standards!

    • Question for Tom Frost: Let mel know if your bicycle tires are hydrocarbon free? My bicycle has over 30,000 miles on the odometer and none of those miles were from pedalling to some antifracking protest. Unless you are an out of the loop antifracking activist I’m sure you know who josh fox mother Angela is? I met her oh let’s see almost 5 years ago.

      It’s not my problem that your antifracking friends have been lying for years now is it? No. That’s a societal problem and it is getting worse.

      • You need to have your head examined if you think I’m going to pester a bike shop owner with your proposed question of whether the tires that I’m buying are hydrocarbon-free, when he already knows that the MONEY that I’ve been buying most of them with since 2010 comes from FRAC”K”ING (by a company other than your buddy Cabot) and that therefore I BENEFIT even more than he does if there’s ample hydrocarbons in them! STUDY YOUR OPPONENTS before the next time you try your ignorant “antifracking activist” attack on me.

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  6. I have to agree with the issue of “dark money” and its negative affect on the Nation’s political landscape. It is truly unfortunate that money you identify that flows to the fractivists has no more restriction than similar dark monies that warp political decision making and voting.

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