New York: The Font of All Fracking Opposition

Fracking  - Tom ShepstoneTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy is again using Pennsylvania residents as foils in a campaign against fracking in New York, the font of fracking opposition.

Sometimes, I fear readers will think this site is too New York centric, but the truth is this; the bulk of the fracking opposition, whether it takes place in Colorado, California, Texas or the UK (where Dimock is a well known name) is, ultimately, all about New York.  It is primarily New York money that funds most anti-fracking campaigns.  It is New York based organizations who lead the effort. It is New York activists who gin up the controversy wherever it occurs.  No further proof of this is needed than the continued exploitation of Pennsylvania residents, both pro and con, by a group known as Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy.

Who is this Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy? Well, it’s mostly a collection of fairly well-to-do New York City retirees, semi-retirees and trust-funders who have built second homes or retirement homes in the Upper Delaware valley region of Sullivan County, New York. Their address is Fremont Center, New York, where actress Debra Winger resides when she’s not in Manhattan.  Mark Rufalo lives nearby and Jennifer Lopez had a place down the road.

The prime mover in the group is a fellow named Bruce Ferguson, a retired 60 Minutes producer.  It maintains an extensive website and claims to have 1,200 members. Other directors of the organization include Jannette Barth, the art economist who poses as a fracking expert and other close friends of Ferguson.  It is registered as a charity and spent just shy of $150,000 in 2012 fighting fracking, according to its 990 return. Like so many of these organizations, it is inherently political in nature, even claiming one of its purposes to facilitate the contacting of legislators on pending legislation. Yet, it also claims to make no political expenditures. Such is the abuse of the tax-exempt status enjoyed by these groups.

This isn’t the only abuse. Catskill Citizens also, with the help of a disreputable group called the Civil Society Institute, funded by George Soros and others, mailed New Yorkers 190,000 copies of one of the trashiest anti-gas pieces we’ve ever scene. It can only be described as a pack of lies and was purely political, being aimed at encouraging New York towns to pass fracking moratoriums.  Catskill Citizens also worked with Debra Winger on a failed campaign to get second owners to register to vote in upstate New York towns and take them over on behalf of their gentry class, kicking out the locals and sued some of these towns in an attempt to bully them.

Catskill Citizens also loves using Pennsylvania residents as foils for its New York campaign. Two years ago, the organization funded an infamous billboard in Dimock, an hour away from its own base of operations. That billboard showed a dirty pitcher of water against a background of chemical names, suggesting, with no basis in fact, these chemicals had been introduced by fracking and had made the water brown. It was all a fabrication and later testing by the EPA proved it. There was nothing in the water making it unsafe or that could be connected to fracking operations and when Phelim McAleer, producer of FrackNation, asked Craig Sautner to produce dirty water from his faucet, he couldn’t. It was all another fantastic lie engendered and repeated by Catskill Citizens and others for the sole purpose of keeping fracking out of New York.

Now, they’re at it again. We just received a copy of an e-mail invitation from trial lawyer representative Craig Stevens about a rally being organized by Catskill Citizens in Franklin Forks, Pennsylvania on Monday in an attempt to stop WPX Energy from removing water buffaloes from homes placed there before the Commonwealth’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) determined methane problems in some water wells had not been caused by gas drilling. Labeled “A Grinch Christmas Christmas in Franklin Forks, PA?” the e-mail includes a distorted history of events that takes issue with the DEP findings and says to contact Catskill Citizens for more information.

Fracking Franklin Forks

Sean Lennon at the Manning House

The Franklin Forks story has been told many times and need not be retold here. Readers unfamiliar with the facts can find a nice summary here and here. Suffice it to say this is another trial lawyer hustle to collect money from a company with deep pockets, combined with a New York anti-fracking campaign. The families involved are being exploited by both. The Mannings, in particular, have been used by Yoko Ono and friends, and now Catskill Citizens, for no other purpose than grabbing attention and lending credibility to their New York fight.

The Mannings probably could have had their well repaired long ago as a courtesy from the gas company, but were convinced to go for the big kill and sue, despite overwhelming evidence drilling had nothing to do with it. They have been encouraged to give continued life to a story that only serves others’ objectives, reducing themselves to role-playing in juvenile acts of attention seeking by the likes of Vera Scroggins and Catskill Citizens.

We see this routine played out over and over again as New York based groups seek out event opportunities everywhere they can in the world to generate controversy and negative press for fracking. Plainly put, they’re simply users. When the blood is sucked out of this little controversy, they’ll simply move onto the next and the Mannings won’t even rise to the level of distant memory for them. If they really cared, they’d raise the money to fix the Manning water well, which only has a mechanical problem caused by flooding a few years ago.  A solution isn’t what’s desired, however, by these groups.  They want the issue and they created the box the Mannings are now in, having encouraged them to sue.

This takes us back to the last time Catskill Citizens and its New York allies interjected themselves into a Susquehanna County matter. That involved the Sautners, who were exploited in a very similar way by trial lawyers and New York fractivists before EPA testing brought the whole charade to a merciful end. Who can forget the scene in FrackNation where Julie Sautner, while threatening Phelim McAleer with the fact she had a gun, said she’d sic the NRDC on him? She obviously thought the NRDC was there for her when needed and, no doubt, had the same view of Catskill Citizens, which gave her the billboard screen, after it was taken down, to place on her roof. Does anyone think the NRDC would take her call today?

Nothing is stopping the NRDC from still talking about the Sautners and their case but their name has, nonetheless, disappeared into that dustbin of history. They are no longer useful foils for the New York campaign and so they’ve been sloughed off.  That fate awaits the Mannings as well.  It will all end with a dull and imperceptible thud when they are no longer useful in supposedly demonstrating the dangers of fracking to New Yorkers.  Catskill Citizens, NRDC, et al will then seek out new foils, because New York is the font of all fracking opposition.

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6 thoughts on “New York: The Font of All Fracking Opposition

  1. All the information you need to know about this farce can be found here:

    Basically it was determined that the Manning’s well had a mechanical problem, absolutely nothing to do with natural gas development. WPX offered to fix the problem that day. Within hours of identifying the problem and recording it on this video, the Manning’s hot-shot lawyers barred WPX from the property and started the arduous process of suing big oil in hopes of a settlement.

    A year later and tens of thousands of tax payer dollars, the DEP confirmed what WPX already concluded. .

    Thankfully WPX stood its ground and let science prove the well has mechanical problems and not methane related ones.

    Watch the video!

  2. You know, this talk of New York being the font of all opposition got me to thinking. Five years ago or more I don’t remember the great (and very vocal) opposition to drilling. Most of the traditional environmental groups supported natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal, given the proviso that drilling was tightly regulated. Then seemingly out of nowhere a plethora of groups sprung up in opposition. It occurred to me when I read this piece to try to find out a bit more, so I started investigating when they came into being. The easiest place was by using the website to see when and who registered the domain name for the groups. I tried a group local to my town, NYRAD, and several others. Interestingly, many of these websites came into existence in the 2008-2010 time frame, which covers roughly the imposition of the ongoing moratorium and the ascendancy of King Andy. Obviously they saw an opportunity to leverage on his greed for National office and his weakness as a leader. Also of interest is that will also report the name and address of the person registering the domain. For some groups it truly is an individual, while for others, such as the name was registered anonymously through a third party. In other words, the true owner of the domain name is hidden, and only the name and address of the third party is revealed.

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