The blueblood empire of Park and Rockefeller family members is currently engaged in a last-ditch anti-fracking campaign to prevent it in the Catskills.
As the efforts of fractivists to halt the inevitable keep failing with the decisions of California, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia to proceed, the well-funded forces of the empire opposed to natural gas development have mounted a last-ditch anti-fracking campaign to defend their New York State firewall. They are mounting multiple efforts on several fronts to create as much noise as possible. Unfortunately for them, the storm troopers they’ve employed at those fronts are loons with zero credibility. The noisier those loons become, the less ordinary people are paying attention, but the empire has resources and it’s spending them on one last valiant defense of its special interests.
The Anti-Fracking Campaign Is All About NY
The fracking war has always, from the very beginning, been about New York State. Go to any other place in the US or the world, for that matter, where fracking battles rage, and you’ll find the activists making the fight are traceable back to New York for their direction and funding. The big money anti-fracking forces are all connected back to either the Park Foundation or the Rockefeller family through entities such as Food & Water Watch, the Sustainable Markets Foundation and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The Park Foundation, though ubiquitous in the anti-fracking campaign, is the smaller player. It is run by the haughty daughter of Roy Park, the publishing and Duncan Hines genius, who likes to play Rockefeller and demonstrate her social conscience as a way to make peace with herself for just inheriting all that money. Nevertheless, her foundation is worth but $366 million; the Rockefellers have billions to work with and represent the real empire. They, too, fund every fractivist cause imaginable, but the point of their spear is the NRDC.
The NRDC has a sister entity called the Open Space Institute (OSI), which, in turn, spawned the Catskill Mountainkeeper, all these organizations being connected through the person of John Adams, the NRDC founder who sits at the right hand of Larry Rockefeller. We’ve written about these relationships many times here at NaturalGasNOW, at Energy In Depth and in the New York Post. The special interests of this empire (at least those that interest us) have to do largely with acquiring the Catskills and running them like a fiefdom.
The Fracking Threat to the Empire
The empire is, for obvious reasons, opposed to anything that would attract new development and raise land values. Fracking is just the latest thing for them and their aim is to stop it anywhere near them or at least delay it as long as possible.
They did the same thing with casino gaming. Here, in fact, is what OSI chief executive Kim Elliman (a Rockefeller descendant) said about that subject in a New York Times op-ed (emphasis added):
Earlier this year, Gov. Eliot Spitzer reached an agreement with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe that brought New York one step closer to having a $600 million Las Vegas-style casino in Sullivan County, in the Catskills. The casino, which still needs final federal approval and faces a lawsuit from environmental groups, could generate up to $100 million for the state and $20 million for the county a year.
But the economic and environmental downside of this deal needs to be more carefully examined. Particularly worrisome is the casino’s planned location within 12 miles of the Catskill Park and New York City’s water supply…
If approved, the casino will be 85 miles north of New York City, practically on the border of the 700,000-acre Catskill Park, of which 41 percent, or 290,000 acres, has been acquired by the state, with most of the rest privately owned. Unfortunately, there is no regional land-use authority to control development on private lands, which jeopardizes the area’s water quality and ecological integrity.
Perhaps even more dire is the threat the casino would pose to New York City’s water supply, the largest unfiltered water system in the United States and the source of 90 percent of the city’s drinking water. The city has spent billions of dollars to maintain and improve water quality, which thus far has allowed it to avoid the crippling cost of filtration. Yet today the water supply is in danger, in large part because of development and its associated pollution. Further degradation would require the city to construct a huge filtration plant that would cost as much as $10 billion and push water rates up 50 percent.
And despite the decline of the Borscht Belt resorts and counter to popular perceptions of the Catskills and the state of its economy, Sullivan County has recently experienced strong economic and population growth. Its unemployment and poverty rates are below the state average, and only a handful of New York’s 62 counties have witnessed a bigger housing boom. What’s driving this growth? The region’s natural resources and beauty. The governor and Sullivan County officials need to approach Catskill development by recognizing that economic prosperity can arise from protecting natural resources.
Instead of building a casino, the governor should promote a regional approach to development similar to those used in other resource-rich places like the Pine Barrens on Long Island. With or without a casino, the Catskills’ natural resources need to be inventoried, and then a plan should be devised to safeguard those resources. Concentrating growth in downtown areas and redeveloping already built sites should be encouraged, while sprawling growth in outlying areas not served by community wastewater treatment facilities, roads and other infrastructure should be strongly discouraged…
Development is now allowed practically everywhere, including in floodplains and on ridge lines. Smart zoning would preclude development that ruins views, pollutes water and makes floods more damaging.
He should also establish a program to compensate landowners in natural resource-rich areas who give up their land’s development rights or transfer those rights to an area that is already developed and has the capacity for more growth.
Farms and forests are not only an important part of community character, they also contribute to the tax base while requiring few public services — cows and trees don’t go to school…
And finally, the governor should encourage ecotourism by having the state acquire key parcels of land in the Catskill Park, expand the trail network and increase access points to state lands and waters. There are large gaps in public ownership within the park’s boundaries. Increasing the state’s share of the park would safeguard its already substantial investment and increase recreational opportunities and public use.
They Want the Land and Are Using Anti-Gaming Arguments Against Fracking
That casino plan, along with several others, was rejected on spurious grounds after the NRDC gang of bluebloods exercised its influence with the Interior Department, with the Catskill Mountainkeeper serving in the role of advance guard, much like it’s doing now with fracking. The arguments made by Elliman (who is also a funder of the Delaware Riverkeeper) are laughable in retrospect and offer many insights into the nature of the empire’s current last ditch anti-fracking campaign.
The first thing to notice is Elliman’s contention that 41% public ownership of the Catskills isn’t enough, that New York State should acquire still more, filling those gaps around the holdings of his cadre of blueblood friends who live in Larry Rockefeller’s Beaverkill Mountain development. Those acquisitions, of course, would be made at three times the real value using New York taxpayers as a piggyback to swell the coffers of OSI, allow more acquisitions and pay Elliman’s $450,000/year salary. The threat fracking represents to that scheme is self-evident to anyone who understands the role it has increasing property values.
Also notice the use of the New York City water supply as a phony reason to oppose the casino, which is nothing short of ludicrous, but intended to motivate naive “city slickers” into supposing they have something to lose; precisely the same strategy employed by the Mountainkeeper and Riverkeeper with regard to fracking. The “seven miles to nowhere” arguments against fracking near the city water system in the Catskills just happen to primarily deal with the areas the NRDC gang is most interested in acquiring.
Finally, notice the total anti-development mantra employed by Elliman and his offering of “eco-tourism” as the economic bone to be thrown to locals. It would bring just the right sort of people to the Catskills, after all; other bluebloods and trendies who have no need of jobs, don’t like to get their hands dirty and appreciate that expensive politically correct Patgonia wear they sell in Beaverkill Mountain Corp.’s Lew Beach, NY convenience store where no one local can afford to go or are wanted as customers. The gas pumps are now out back so no one will see them.
That eco-tourism economic development bone Elliman threw out in 2007 doesn’t appear to have done much for the dog either. His “cows and trees don’t go to the school” argument was the sort of anti-child pablum on which NIMBYs everywhere thrive and delivered at almost the exact point when Sullivan County’s school enrollments went into free fall, which is, of course, what folks such as Elliman ardently desire – emptying the place out only makes his job easier.
The Livingston Manor School District that encompasses Lew Beach has lost 25% of its enrollment since 2007 and, at the rate it’s gaining will be kid-free by 2035 – a stunning success. There are no cows now and if Kim Elliman had ever milked one and had her swat him in the face with a manure-soaked tail that would probably lose its allure too, but he only threw that in for good effect anyway.
Meanwhile, the economic growth Elliman extolled as a result of eco-tourism and the like has resulted in a 28% decline in Sullivan County tourism jobs – another stunning success! Back in July, we compared Sullivan to Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, about 25 miles away, where fracking is happening and tourism is actually growing. As observed then, Susquehanna County also had an unemployment rate of 4.9% compared to Sullivan’s 6.8% and had also surpassed Sullivan’s median household income after being 9.1% behind just 12 years earlier. And, that poverty rate? Well, Sullivan now has the eighth highest poverty rate among New York’s 62 counties at 18.2%, compared to next door Orange County at 12.5%. The OSI prescription for Sullivan County seems to killing the patient.
Ultimately, They Want the Land
What’s really interesting about that prescription, though is Elliman’s suggestion of “a program to compensate landowners in natural resource-rich areas who give up their land’s development rights.” That was pre-fracking and he obviously didn’t envision the opportunity Sullivan County’s impoverished landowners might have to save themselves with natural gas development the empire now opposes. He and the rest of the NRDC gang are more than willing to steal those development rights for themselves by doing everything in their power to frustrate such development without compensation.
They’re now involved, in fact, a last-ditch anti-fracking campaign to ensure this outcome, if they possibly can. They have their man Joe Martens (previously Elliman’s man at OSI) as Commissioner of the DEC and a bull ring in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nose. They suspect that the election now being over, Cuomo, will finally follow his counterparts in other states and act to allow some fracking. They hope to keep it well away from their own areas of special interest in the Catskills.
That’s why we’re seeing a sudden coordinated flurry of fractivist activity, starting with a new campaign under theme of “Not One Well” but also including the glossy “We Are Seneca Lake” protests under Sandra Steingraber’s guidance and another one of those multiple signature letters the usual suspects, all paid by the same funders, gather together periodically to sign and then proclaim as the next best thing to the Magna Carta. The signers of the letter are, for the most part, the same list of people doing the “Not One Well” campaign; it all being one masterminded effort. It was launched with the help of sympathetic media such as the Albany Times-Union and here’s their picture of our friend Wes Gillingham speaking at an event launching the effort:
Wes is a personable enough guy and has the desired “mountain man” look to do well as the face of the Catskill Mountainkeeper. Ramsay Adams, son of John, has the title, but Wes is the guy who does everything and he’s served as a registered lobbyist for both the Mountainkeeper and OSI organizations. He may look like central casting’s version of the anti-establishment guy, but he’s the empire’s man in Albany. Moreover, the Catskill Mountainkeeper board, like Cuomo’s hydrofracking advisory committee, includes three NRDC senior attorneys, just to be sure things don’t go awry.
The Funding of the Last-Ditch Anti-Fracking Campaign
The launch of “Not One Well” involved NRDC and Food & Water Watch, according to the Times-Union, which is hardly a surprise given that NRDC funds Catskill Mountainkeeper ($77,900 in 2011, for instance) and all three are funded by entities such as Google. Various Rockefeller foundations fund the NRDC to the extent of almost $2 million annually, not to mention other organizations that donate to NRDC. Food & Water Watch is supported by the Park Foundation and both Park and the Rockefellers finance the Sustainable Markets Foundation, which, in turn, finances Gas Free Seneca and a host of other similar groups.
“Not One Well” placed an ad in the Times-Union, which probably helped to ensure their coverage of its campaign. The ad was placed by New Yorkers Against Fracking, the members of which include Mark Ruffalo, Sandra Steingraber, the Catskill Mountainkeeper and dozens of other groups ranging from the Delaware Riverkeeper to the New York Public Interest Group, many of whom are funded, directly or indirectly, by the empire.
The public ringleader is Steingraber who is also doing the slick “We Are Seneca Lake” charade as a buildup to the “Not One Well” campaign. New Yorkers Against Fracking is a Food & Water Watch enterprise (at least that’s where donations to it go) and it is also involved in the “We Are Cove Point” campaign, another slick one that is part of the current effort of the empire to strike back.
The funding of Food & Water Watch is a matter we delved into deeply with another blog post. It is radical at the roots and has deep connections to not only the Park Foundation, but also PIRG-type groups and other parts of the empire. A nice profile on the group may also be found here. Its money mostly comes through huge “donor advised funds” that allow the empire to fund it with no traces.
Food & Water Watch and the NRDC are all about the empire, in fact, and they’re spending big at the moment in one huge push to remind Andrew Cuomo why he fears them. They speak for “the people” but, like all such efforts, the more they say it, the more you know it’s a few people – a tiny group of uber-rich funders and a slightly larger group of loons who serve as useful idiots for the cause. These include not only the nutty professor types but truly lunatic organizations such as Sane Energy and Ecosocialist Horizons.
That’s why, in the end, all that money won’t help and won’t ultimately stop fracking in New York, but it may achieve what the empire really desires, which is to keep it way from the Catskills. That’s their end game and what the fracking war everywhere is all about, making enough noise to scare the Governor of New York into protecting their special interests there. That’s why they’re engaged now in this last-ditch anti-fracking campaign.
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