The DRBC Funding Scandal

Tom HeadshotTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


The DRBC has been taking money from a two-timing sugar-daddy group called the William Penn Foundation, which has been indirectly funding lawsuits against the DRBC, to help  develop their system for managing natural gas development.  It’s a damnable scandal.

Imagine for a moment there are three individuals named Jones, Miller and Smith. Jones has a two-acre lot in a low-density residential district in Small Town, USA, on which is located an older two-story 1,500 square feet home.  He has a big empty rear yard that slopes uphill and faces south toward Miller.  Miller’s home is a new three story 6,000 square feet McMansion situated on the crest of the hill and accessed from a private drive coming in from the other side. Smith is Miller’s attorney and he lives in the next town.

Jones hears about a new state tax credit program for installing renewable energy systems.  He reads up on the subject and finds he can, with the generous tax credits, put in a two small windmills and save about 40% on his heating and electric bill.  He goes to the town zoning officer and is told there are no specific standards in the zoning ordinance for wind energy systems, but that he should be able to secure a permit for the windmills as a customary accessory use.  Jones takes the application home and the zoning officer mentions it to the town supervisor, who is a friend of Miller.

The supervisor, in turn, casually mentions it to Miller, who is chagrined at the thought of something occurring on the Jones lot that might interfere with his view.  He expresses his opposition to the supervisor and tells the man Jones shouldn’t be able to put his his windmill just anywhere.  He also tells Smith, his lawyer, to put the town on notice they intend to sue if it issues the permit, which he does.  The supervisor, not wishing to offend Miller, tells the zoning officer to hold off on issuing any permit as the town will first need to develop regulations for windmills.  He learns this will cost more money than the town has in its budget so he goes to Miller and asks for a donation to help.  Miller volunteers the services of his attorney, Smith, to help draft the regulations and $5,000 to help pay him.  The town supervisor, grateful for the help, thanks Miller and convinces his town board to enact an extendable six-month moratorium on issuing any windmill permits until the attorney has crafted the regulations.

Are you saying “whoa” about now?  Unless you’re the Park Foundation, funder of David Slottje’s phony pro-bono work with towns in New York, or you’re the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), which as taken huge amounts of money from a party in opposition to natural gas development to help develop a system of regulating it, you are screaming “scandal” and “conflict” at the top of your lungs.  The idea that a government agency would accept money or volunteer professional services from an entity to assist in crafting the standards for something that entity bitterly opposes and is funding opposition to, is highly offensive.  It “shocks the conscience” to quote a legal standard.  Yet, that is exactly what’s happening in those towns seduced by the Park Foundation’s money and with the DRBC.  Let’s focus on the latter for now.

The William Penn Foundation, on June 13 of this year, granted the the Delaware Riverkeeper Network a whopping $580,000 “For education, advocacy, and outreach to push policies that will protect the Delaware River’s water quality.”  We know what those policies are; they are adamantly opposed to any natural gas development anywhere in the Delaware River basin.  The Riverkeeper has been as prominent as one can be in opposing such development anytime, anywhere, anyhow in the Delaware River Basin, working with other wealthy extremely wealthy funders (e.g. the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, which is a Rockefeller family “charity” headed by Open Space Institute leader Christopher Elliman) to fight it every way they can.

We also know the Wiliam Penn Foundation has funded numerous other anti-gas initiatives.  Here’s a list of some of the grants they made in 2011 to anti-gas organizations or initiatives designed to produce anti-gas headlines:

Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 5.45.51 AM

This data illustrates the commitment of the William Penn Foundation to preventing natural gas development, drilling or fracking, in the Delaware River basin.  It will have given the Delaware Riverkeeper nearly $1.1 million during a critical period when the DRBC has been sitting and continues to sit on regulations so desperately needed by upper basin businesses, landowners and residents.  The last mega-grant given to the Riverkeeper yielded $269,600 per year for Maya to hurl invectives at her upstream neighbors (almost 21% of her budget) and sue the DRBC.

The Foundation also gave $3,765,000 to the Open Space Conservancy, Christopher Elliman’s other enterprise.  It is part of the Open Space Institute, which, along with the Catskill Mountainkeeper, is a sister entity to Natural Resources Defense Council, all being Rockefeller family endeavors. The 2011 grant accounted for over 17% of its budget. The NRDC got another $223,300 in 2011 from the William Penn Foundation.

PennEnvironment, the folks who attempted to pass off that flooded Pakistani drilling rig photo as a local consequence of drilling and a sewer plant photo as a frack water discharge, got $82,500 for almost 14% of their budget in 2011.

Do a little internet research and you’ll see all the relationships of the other entities funded by William Penn to the anti-fracking crusade.  The Foundation is deep into the movement and funding incredible distortions of the reality and the science, whether it be the Keystone Research Center’s phony jobs analysis or the demagogic American Rivers designations of the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers as “most endangered” due to fracking.

DRBC decisions made here? wpf_conference_room

The William Penn Foundation Conference Room – Where Life-Changing Decisions Impacting Upper Basin Residents Are Made?

All the while, this same William Penn Foundation, has, according to Foundation 990 returns and DRBC records, been giving money to the Delaware River Basin Commission “toward building Its capacity to assess, manage and mitigate impacts to water resources due to land changes related to natural gas development activities.”  It gave $82,500 in 2011, is scheduled to give it $399,300 in 2014 and who knows how much before and in-between.  The William Penn Foundation, it turns out, is a two-timing sugar-daddy to both the Riverkeeper and the DRBC.  While the economy of the upper basin dwindles and landowners are suffering foreclosures waiting for action on natural gas drilling regulations, the DRBC leadership sees nothing wrong with just sitting there, holding hands with the Riverkeeper’s paramour.

The DRBC is taking money from an organization funding lawsuits against it to help develop regulations regarding the very same subject.  And, this is just the beginning, as there is much more to come out.  It’s an outrageous scandal and it’s time the DRBC is called out on it.  Where is the press?

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12 thoughts on “The DRBC Funding Scandal

  1. Tom,
    Hess has sent our formal Lease release letter indicating the DRBC Moratorium as the reason we no longer hold a Gas Lease. I believe for the most part landowners my way are fed up with the DRBC and their antics and are willing to support litigation.


  2. Just think: if your buddy Tom Corbett had paid his DRBC dues, the DRBC wouldn’t have needed money so badly as to need to take it from the frac”K”tivist organizations of which you speak, and HE could be the one controlling the DRBC to the extent that other Pa. governors have been able to.

  3. Let me get this straight, the Riverkeeper sues the DRBC they win or its settled out of court in favor of the Riverkeeper. So under the terms of the 501 C3 status the DRBC is required to pay all legal costs incurred by the Riverkeeper. Talk about scratching each others back! A huge conflict of interest exist that needs to be scrutinized and appropriate actions need be taken to insure an unbiased scientific approach to NG development in the upper basin instead of promoting pastoral poverty by influence peddling from “kill the drill” groups.

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