The Park Foundation and It’s Astroturf Campaign Against Gas

Park Foundation - Jim Willis reportsJim Willis
Editor & Publisher, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN)


The Philanthropy Roundtable website has published a superb analysis of the Park Foundation and its multi-leveled astroturf campaign against shale gas. Jim Willis summarizes. 

For years MDN (and others) have written about the shadowy Park Foundation, a supposedly philanthropic non-profit with offices in Ithaca, NY, as behind some of the most insidious and frankly false “research” that attempts to smear the miracle of hydraulic fracturing.

A new article in the summer issue of Philanthropy magazine lays bare the collusion that exists between the Park Foundation and researchers at once-storied institutions like Cornell University. In fact, Park is the funder of many anti-shale groups, including Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and more than 50 large and small anti-gas groups. Park has woven a clever web of bought-and-paid for “researchers” and “reporters” at both big and small media outlets to develop and then plant false stories about shale gas.

How the Park Foundation Manipulates Research and the Press

Here’s how it works: Park gives boatloads of money to Cornell (and Ithaca College), among other educational institutions. BOATLOADS of money. So Park environmental extremists tap an obscure professor on the shoulder who’s in a field not even related to geology or natural gas–Robert Howarth, ocean ecologist–and they ask him to author a series of papers denigrating shale. How can he say no? His institution’s funding, and some sweet grant money for his program and some recognition (payoff?) ride on his decision.

Howarth proceeds to investigate fracking–outside of his own field of expertise–and magically finds natural gas is worse for the environment than coal. Then, he tries to sell that crap to the public via published “research” in “peer reviewed” journals. Those articles are then hyped by Park Foundation funded writers at online journals such as Truthout and DC Circuit and quoted by anti-drilling reporters in major publications. That’s how so-called independent research works in Park-land. Or, maybe we should call it South Park?

Park Foundation - South Park

The Park Foundation also funds, in part, Grist, the NationEarth Island Journal, Mother Jones, American Independent News Network, Yes! Magazine, and the American Prospect. Sympathetic “reporters” at publications like the New York Times (Ian Urbina) simply regurgitate the Park Foundation party line in their reporting of the shale issue–quoting extensively from Park bought-and-paid-for researchers and sources without revealing their connection to the Park Foundation. Have you ever read a pro-drilling, or even neutral, article on fracking in any of the aforementioned publications? No, we haven’t either. You see how this works? Bought and paid for media. Cuckold media that’s a complete stranger to the truth.

In the middle of all this pulling the strings is the Park Foundation, a non-taxed, non-profit pedaling an extreme political viewpoint (dump fossil fuels now). Where’s Lois Learner’s IRS and her jackbooted investigation squad? Nowhere to be found, apparently. No investigations of Park and their shady activities. No calls to rescind their non-profit status for illegal activities.

The Philanthropy article does a great job in highlighting the turning point when seemingly overnight enviro groups like the Sierra Club changed from embracing natural gas as a bridge fuel (as recent as 2008), to Howarth’s “worse for the environment than coal” Park Foundation party line:

Natural gas used to be seen as a marriage of enlightened capitalism and pragmatic progressivism. It was welcomed as a relatively low-impact fossil fuel, much superior to America’s previous industrial and power-generating workhorse, coal. It was available in reserves of modest size but sufficient to carry us over until the price of alternative energies became competitive.

But over the past few years, the rhetoric has completely changed. Sharp criticism of fracking and shale gas is now a staple of green activism. The online environmental magazine Gristregularly runs articles bashing shale gas, such as the recent “Will Obama allow fracking to endanger his own water supply?” The Nation launches anti-fracking broadsides conjuring “contaminated water wells, poisoned air, sick and dying animals, industry-related illnesses.”Earth Island Journal raises the specter of “water contamination, air pollution, global warming, and fractured communities,” and mocks Claussen’s “bridge fuel” reference, calling natural gas a “bridge to nowhere.”

The morphing of natural gas from promising next step to “worse than oil and coal,” as some activists now claim, happened almost overnight. What’s behind this abrupt turnaround? For one thing, advances in extraction technology have made gas inexpensive and caused it to be used much more extensively (usually as a substitute for coal). And while most scientists and economists see in shale gas an inexpensive fuel with relatively modest environmental impact compared to coal and oil, some environmentalists view it as a Trojan horse that is giving fossil fuel a new image—clean, abundant, not purchased from overseas tyrants—and thus a new lease on life.

This swing against gas has been spurred by a carefully coordinated outpouring of research, media, and advocacy grants by the Park Foundation, headquartered at the epicenter of one of the most promising shale gas regions in the U.S., and home to Cornell University, the academic base for the country’s most vehement anti-shale activists.*

Law, Media, Science – All Bought by the Park Foundation

There you have it. The change was bought and paid for–from so-called research to so-called media articles–by the Park Foundation. The motivation? Irrational hatred of fossil fuels by the Park Foundation’s leaders, Adelaide Park Gomer, and her daughter, Alicia Park Wittink. They, along with their activist gatekeeper Jon Jensen have turned a once great organization into the equivalent of an anti-shale pimp turning professors and media outlets into prostitutes for their anti-drilling agenda.

Park Foundation Heir Home

Natural gas heated home of Ithaca snob Adelaide Park Gomer who funds astroturf campaign against natural gas

One more choice morsel from the expose of all exposes that lays the nefarious Park Foundation and its incestuous funding schemes bare:

While science was moving slowly, the Park Foundation moved quickly. By simultaneously funding an interlocking triangle of sympathetic scientists, anti-fracking nonprofits, and media outlets, Park helped move the idea that natural gas is environmentally unfriendly from the activist fringe to the mainstream. The foundation has continued to provide numerous grants (in the range of $50,000-$60,000) directly to Howarth and his research colleagues. And the Howarth argument, despite its dismissal by scientists of various ideological stripes, has taken on immortal life among many progressive organizations that are supported by Park.

The foundation’s mostly unknown ties to scientists, journalists, and activist groups were on display last September in the brouhaha over a methane gas and fracking study that contradicted Howarth’s claims. Researchers at the University of Texas-Austin released a study done in cooperation with the Environmental Defense Fund which found that the national rate of leakage of methane during natural gas production was equivalent to four tenths of one percent of total U.S. extraction, vastly lower than Howarth’s claims. This was the most comprehensive shale-gas emissions study ever undertaken, covering 190 well pads around the country.

Howarth and his co-authors denounced the UT/EDF findings, and other groups funded by Park joined in the criticism. Media stories quoted a heretofore unknown organization, Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, portraying the university and the environmental nonprofit as shills. UT was quite open in disclosing that the study received industry support, but few noted that the physicians group, characterized as “independent” in many stories, had been recently founded by one of Howarth’s co-authors, Anthony Ingraffea, with Park Foundation money, specifically to promote an aggressive anti-shale-gas agenda.*

Looks like you can buy a Cornell “scientist” for about $50-$60K. Nice to know if you ever need to plant false research on an unsuspecting public.

This is a must-read article, folks.

park foundation heir

Adelaide Park Gomer

Editor’s Note: Jim is correct, this is a must read piece. Even so, it leaves out much, including the unholy alliance between the Park Foundation, the Rockefeller created Sustainable Markets Foundation and the NRDC gang. It also doesn’t touch on the funding of the faux home rule campaign by the Park Foundation through the Community Environmental Defense Council and the vile Community Environmental Legal Defense Foundation or any number of other relationships the organization has with other major fractivist initiatives. Still, there are few pieces that so capture the nefarious nature of the Park Foundation. The incredibly shallow quotes from Adelaide Park Gomer alone are worth the read. They demonstrate just how much damage an uninformed spoiled child with money can do.

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41 thoughts on “The Park Foundation and It’s Astroturf Campaign Against Gas

  1. We read, “Natural gas used to be seen as a marriage of enlightened capitalism and pragmatic progressivism.” True, but that applied to conventional natural gas and was a view developed before there was a full appreciation for the climate impacts of CO2 emissions. Of course fracked gas is an entirely different matter and it is seen as a marriage of greed and a short-term view on energy sustainability.

    Jim writes, “Looks like you can buy a Cornell “scientist” for about $50-$60K.” I doubt is as that isn’t enough to support one year of a graduate student. And if it were true, then the AGA should run straight to Ithaca and buy some scientists. It would be a far better investment than paying for the tripe that fracking advocates are dispensing here.

    • Clifford, your mouth just runs and runs. “Before there was a full appreciations for the climate impacts of CO2 emissions”? What are you talking about? Are you saying that we’ve only fully appreciated the impact of CO2 since we started fracking? How convenient for you. But here is a little inconvenient truth for you. The US has driven its CO2 emissions back to 1994 levels. Why?According to the US Energy Information Agency there’s a one-word answer: fracking. That’s right, “fracked gas” is driving CO2 emissions lower than any other initiative in the world today, including all the world’s renewables combined. Furthermore, I live right in the heart of the Marcellus boom in Pennsylvania and I don’t see the environmental devastation of which you speak. I see beauty as far as the eye can see, a booming economy in my hometown of Williamsport and I see lots of businesses and entrepreneurs with a new lease on life. Over in New York, I see Binghamton got a new yogurt place or something. How nice for the high schoolers working the counter. I love that you come here and play spokesperson for the economic and celebrity overlords of New York. But if you could come with a few facts that aren’t paid for by those overlords, we would all be better off.

      • Scott, you” asked, “Are you saying that we’ve only fully appreciated the impact of CO2 since we started fracking?

        Not at all. I’m saying that our fondness for natural gas – and fossil energy in general – was formed before we appreciated the unintended consequences of CO2 emissions.

        As you know, the main difference with fracked gas is that it is associated with far more fugitive methane compared to conventional sources and that methane is over 100 times worse that CO2 from a global warming perspective.

  2. So called pier reviewed studies can be bought for as little as 500 dollar per reviewer cliff . 50 k to buy a prof is not out of line because that Tony guy probalby made two or three times his cornell salary annually dont about 30 days of work churning out the BS. Ask yourself does he also appear on Russian Today news as guest ? The Nato secretary general stated their intelligence has picked up infromation that Putin is funding these anti groups . Hope they enjoy dealing qith a murderer of 300 airliner passangers

  3. Howarth is the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology. Are you claiming here his work is not peer reviewed? “published “research” in “peer reviewed” journals.”

      • He has over 50 peer reviewed papers. You can easily look up the peer review for each one.
        This is science – there s no “Debunking” .. maybe read up on peer review, you seem to misunderstand the process.
        “He has been debunked more times than the Bermuda Triangle.” Silly.

  4. Amazing articles (Jim’s extract, and the original piece), particularly when you consider how Roy Park, Sr., earned his wealth. Part came from processed food (Duncan Hines cake mix) and the bulk from radio and TV stations which are huge consumers of energy (particularly electricity).

      • Levant and McAleer are two of the people I admire most for articulating what landowners have experienced. I wanted to stand up and cheer during FrackNation and felt the same way with Ezra’s coverage of the Harrisburg rally.

        • Yes, calling Vera a pedophile seems a fav pastime of the pro-gas side. It’s sickly transparent. That rally was an AstroTurf rally – you get hat, right?

          • I saw one heck of a lot of ordinary people there who were there because for the reasons they told Ezra. A beautiful day!

  5. “Astroturf refers to apparently grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions that are primarily conceived, created and/or funded by corporations, industry trade associations or public relations firms.”

    To qualify as astroturf a group must be backed by an entrenched business interest. I’m curious – what is Adelaide Gomer’s/Park’s business interest that qualifies Park as astroturf? Thanks

        • Actually, when I went back to look at yours it’s not so bad because all these foundations are, in fact, corporations. They’re just non-profit corporations and, of course, they use PR firms like Fenton Communications which is behind numerous fractivist astro-turf efforts, including New Yorkers Against Fracking. Sorry I didn’t read it carefully enough at the outset.

          • Actually the for-profit aspect is key. Entrenched business (for profit) interests hide behind the grassroots label, when in fact they are simply serving their business interest, often through deception (like telling the Harrisberg Rally fracking is the safest Industry in Penn, etc.) EID is atsroturf, as an example, IPPC is a business interest.

          • Sorry, can’t agree. The Sustainable Markets Foundation is pure astroturf – a Rockefeller creation in partnership with the trial lawyers. It’s all about protecting their interests and their money and they do through the non-profit foundations which are nothing but scams. SMF is behind most of the NY fractivist campaign and have paid Walter Hang roughly $1 million to do his tress-roots schtick. There’s nothing real about it.

          • “tons of people there because it was in the interest to be there and because they believed in the cause, including me.”

            In their financial interest, as I said, including you

            I had lunch with the anti death by fossil fuels group that protested the affair. They were typical. None was a “trustfunder”. Everyone, including me, gave their time freely (All would have much rather been spending their time on their own interests), but we realize if the Fossil Fuel contingent wins this fight, our grandchildren will fry.

            It’s your side that should have the guilt, but is too blinded by the love of money to face it. And Gasland is not a fraud, a day will come when the Industry campaign to name it that will fail. I know you make your living saying it is, but you’ll have to face the truth at some point. Truth does win out, Tom.

          • Indeed, truth does win out. I’m very confident. Moreover, to deny that fractivists have their own interests is to deny reality. You, for example, want your films to do well. Fox, moreover, is the classic hustler – fake to the core. His headquarters is also served with natural gas.

          • “to deny that fractivists have their own interests is to deny reality. You, for example, want your films to do well. ”

            Not financial, Tom. Also, AK is non-profit. Is your business non-profit? Astroturf speaks to the profit motive/entrenched business interests behind propaganda that serves their profit margins.

            If “self interest” was the criteria all activists would be astroturf.

          • No, there are many examples who are genuine, even a few among fractivists. The pro-life movement, for example, is totally genuine in my view. I also do not discredit someone simply because they have a self-interest. One can be right and have a self-interest. Indeed, everyone has a self-interest at some level. You equation of profit as a somehow illegitimate self-interest compared to pride, for example, is where we disagree and, obviously will never agree. I also see a great difference between fractivist opposition ginned up the Rockefellers and things like the rally. Like most landowners I have been screaming for the industry to do more, so the rally was a beautiful case of the industry responding from my perspective and it was all out in the open. No one pretends that industry and landowners aren’t allied. They are because they have the asme interest. The SMF, by contrast, hides behind several facades. It is a tool of some of the wealthy elitists around and some very greedy trial lawyers. Everything it is does is fake, phony and fraudulent. That is astroturf.

            Again, sorry we can’t agree but that’s how I see it.

          • “Everything it is does is fake, phony and fraudulent. That is astroturf.”

            In your opinion. Opinion does not denote astroturf. An entrenched, profit driven interest is the basis for the term “astroturf”.

          • I don’t understand your comment, Hope, but let me simply note profit is not a dirty word and is far less eveil a motive than power or pride.

          • “The for-profit aspect is key. Entrenched business (for profit) interests hide behind the grassroots label, when in fact they are simply serving their business interest, often through deception.”

            Pretty simple.Work on that Steve Lipsky bit and we’ll get back to this later. It will be in my film.

          • You’re interpreting things as you wish, not as they are. Again, power, influence and pride are far worse than money as motivators and history proves it. If you’re not willing to call trial lawyer hacks like Jay Halfon paying Walter Hang a million dollars astroturf to gin up controversy in NY then you’re not being honest with yourself.

          • “like Jay Halfon paying Walter Hang a million dollars astroturf to gin up controversy in NY ”

            It’s not my interpretation. It’s the definition of astroturf, as I shared before. If anyone you believe is corrupt, false or wrong was the actual definition, anyone could use the word to describe any group they think fits that description. Again, that would be astroturf = your opinion.

            Astroturf is entrenched business powers dressing up as if they are grassroots – EID, Truthland are good examples. Making a facade of being uninterested fact tallers but in fact they are an outlet for Industry talking points.

            What is Jay’s profit motive in paying Walter, in your opinion?

          • Sorry, you’re way off-base here in my humble opinion because you are so anxious to tar business, corporations and profits as somehow dirty. Jay Halfon not only runs the SMF but also represents the NY-PIRG, which is nothing more than a trial lawyer creation intended to foment lawsuits for the benefits of the NY Trial Lawyers Association, which is who Halfon really speaks for. It’s all a rain-making operation and they work with the Rockefeller gang because they have mutual financial and philosophical interests.

          • “Astroturf: On the surface these look like grassroots-based citizen groups or coalitions. Under the surface they are founded and funded by entrenched business, corporations and/or coalitions of such groups.”

            Humbly, I didn’t make up the definition of Astroturf, Tom, please don’t blame me for it.

            I’ll look into your allegation, though and if you are right about the underlying fraud to promote a business interest, I give you my word, I’ll do a story on it.

          • “It’s all about protecting their interests and their money ”

            1. I asked about Park/Gomer, please reply as to how it in their financial interest to end fracking? Thanks.

            2. “in support of engaging in a planning process to enable members of New York City’s solidarity economy to explore ways to collectively better serve poor and economically vulnerable residents” SMF

            How is ensuring we don’t boil the future through sustained fossil fuel use a financial interest to SMF?


          • SMF has paid Walter Hang roughly a million dollars to do his schtick and although I happen to like him personally, it’s a client for him. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe in the cause, but it’s still pecuniary. The Rockefellers and their trial lawyer friends are also in it totally for the money, as I have documented here numerous times. Natural gas development threatens their land schemes in the Catskills. As for Gomer, who is pure snob, she’s in it for the glory, I expect, the assuaging of her self-imposed guilt at having done so undeservedly well. It’s the classic disease of the second and third generations of wealth. They know they didn’t earn it by their own efforts, so they attempt to prove their worth by being opposed to what created their wealth without, of course, giving up any of it.

          • “I saw one heck of a lot of ordinary people there who were there because for the reasons they told Ezra. A beautiful day!”

            None would speak on camera, but he 30 or so I talked with were either paid to be there for work, or were connected to Industry in some way, like the cell phone salesman who has an Industry consumer base.

            Do you think Industry paid 100K for the stadium, signs, lunch, T-shirts, workers (they hired the stadium crew to run the things)? The environmentalist side can never do that, 99% of us are there as volunteers. At our March rally we figured about 20 of the 2K were paid.

          • The Harrisburg rally was organized and made possible by industry help to be sure but I can assure you there were tons of people there because it was in the interest to be there and because they believed in the cause, including me. Loved it! I don’t buy the suggestion fractivists do it for nothing. They do it in their own self-interests just like everyone else. Fox is a perfect example. He’s a complete fraud who has built a name and a career out of his shenanigans. The only true volunteers I see are generally trustfunders who do it to assuage their guilt at having done so un-deservedly well by showing how “socially conscious” they are, but, of course, they never really give up anything.

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