The Joe Martens Legacy of Cronyism

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UPDATE: Rumor has it the Cuomo Administration may choose the next DEC Commissioner directly from the ranks of the NRDC gang. Could this be true? Could Cuomo be THAT indebted to the Rockefeller clan and their ruling class ilk? Well, if Larry Rockefeller’s $60,800 contribution to Andrew’s last campaign and his campaign ad for the governor are any indication; the answer is a definite yes. The NRDC gang is running New York right now.

The Joe Martens record at DEC should be Exhibit No. 1 in an indictment of the cronyism typifying New York government, if you can call it government.

Joe Martens was lauded the other day in a fawning story that appeared in the Albany Times-Union entitled “Outgoing DEC Leader Joe Martens Leaves Legacies.” No doubt the author was sincere but, knowing what is behind those supposed accomplishments of this Rockefeller lackey, as I described Martens in an earlier post, made the whole thing surreal.

Nonetheless, the article served to reveal the reality of what the Joe Martens assignment at New York State DEC was all about, especially when Martens admitted ”It took all four years to accomplish,” referring to the banning of hydraulic fracturing after what was supposed to be an independent, professional evaluation of the process. Now that Joe Martens has apparently accomplished his mission on behalf of the Open Space Institute (the NRDC gang) he’s heading back there arrogantly bragging about how he did stuck to the Southern Tier.

The real Martens legacy is one of cronyism – the disease that seems to have infected every part of New York State government and we have not only the example of his fracking handiwork and his sudden desire to proclaim Superfund sites safe swimming areas on behalf of his NRDC gang bosses, but also a remarkable favor on the part of an Adirondacks mining company connected to all those shady land deals his bosses made with New York State.

As we’ve said before, Preet Brahara need look no farther than these land deals to see examples of how New York State is being treated as a private piggyback by the NRDC gang. The river of cronyism in New York runs deeper and faster than a rushing Adirondacks mountain stream and much of it’s connected to the NRDC’s gang’s desire to resume the “making of wilderness” first undertaken by William Rockefeller, the great-grandfather of current Open Space Institute CEO Kim Elliman. Those land deals, about which Times-Union reporter Fred LeBrun speaks so admiringly, have been major taxpayer rip-offs that have enriched the NRDC gang and furthered it’s plan to empty out the Adirondacks, Catskills and much of the rest of Upstate New York and turn it into a pastoral paradise for New York’s ruing class.

WollastoniteUSGOV

Wollastonite

The good news, though, is that the truth is slowly seeping out – even into the New York Times – and it starts with the strangest of episodes at DEC. It involves a company called NYCO Minerals that received extraordinary favors from Joe Martens and his DEC agency for the purpose of developing an open-pit mine in the “Forever Wild” Adirondacks that would extract something called wollastonite. It is a relatively rare mineral found in only few places worldwide (e.g., China, India, Mexico, Spain) and is valuable in producing ceramics, plastics, paints, and metallurgical fluxes. NYCO Minerals is a subsidiary of a Greek company named S&B Industrial Minerals SA, which was recently acquired by Imerys, a French multi-national minerals company.

NYCO Minerals already operates wollastonite mines in New York’s North Country but wanted to create a new open-pit mining operation inside the Adirondack Park, which is constitutionally prohibited under New York State law. It offered to trade land to get 200 acres of land freed up for mining and to give the land back upon completion of mining for the sake of extracting the wollastonite. Now approved, this will save or yield 150 jobs and pay what are, arguably, very important economic benefits to New York State, but getting those approvals required a very difficult New York Constitution amendment as well as the twisting of arms everywhere in and out of government to make it happen.

That’s where the story gets interesting because the guy doing the twisting was Joe Martens, assisted by some of the same DEC staff he used to torpedo fracking in New York, including an individual by the name of Julie Tighe, who served as liaison with the short-lived hydrofracking advisory committee and later did everything she could to help make the case against fracking when the word came from Joe Martens to kill it.

Joe Martens

Wollastanite Mine

How could this be? There was nothing wrong with the NYCO proposal from my perspective. It makes perfect sense, in fact, and 150 jobs are certainly worth the deal that was made, but compared to what fracking would do economically for the Southern Tier it is a pittance and going against every environmental group in the state, the same ones opposed to fracking, for the sake of one mine makes no sense. Why would Joe Martens devote so much energy to getting one mine opened for the sake of 150 jobs and, yet, turn his back on thousands of jobs that could be created for the Southern Tier by allowing something with far less impact than an open pit mine in the Adirondacks?

That he and his team did invest tremendous energy into turning the tide for NYCO and going against the same groups opposed to fracking is not in question. A group called Protect the Adirondacks has documented the whole sordid history of the Joe Martens intervention in an ethics complaint filed with the state. It is accompanied by voluminous documentation in the way of e-mails and other materials apparently secured though Freedom of Information requests.

The whole thing is well worth perusing but a few things stick out for those of us who recognize the names and know the individuals, beginning with this exchange of congratulatory e-mails between DEC officials and NYCO executives, which are follow-ups to requests for help from Mark Behan of Behan Communications, NYCO’s lobbyist. Here’s a sample of the giddy exchanges:

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 6.28.42 AM

This is just a tiny example of the documentation assembled by Protect the Adirondacks and, for those landowners and other representatives of the Southern Tier who fought so hard just to get a fair hearing from DEC and had to deal with people such as Julie Tighe giving them the run-around and even gathering up anti-fracking support when her bosses sought it, this is a bitter pill. The ethics complaint may not go anywhere legally, but it is a bonanza of evidence for those who want to understand how this incredible deal happened and how much effort Joe Martens and crew put into it, earning the label of NYCO’s own private lobbyist inside DEC.

Here’s an excerpt from the complaint regarding the extent to which DEC went out of its way for NYCO (emphasis added):

DEC also sought support from the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter in 2013. On May 5, 2013, Mr. Hamm emailed the Sierra Club, which had opposed first passage of the NYCO amendment in 2012 (Exhibit 62), and thanked them for meeting. Mr. Hamm attached the “VOTE AYE” piece authored by Commissioner Joe Martens, published in Adirondac magazine (Exhibit 40). On May 8, 2013, Mr. Davies emailed his thanks to the Sierra Club for meeting with the DEC (Exhibit 63). On May 10, 2013, Mr. Hamm provided more information to the Sierra Club (Exhibit 64). On May 12, 2013, Roger Downs, Director of the Sierra Club, emailed the DEC and remarked about the level of attention it showered on the Sierra Club to get them to support the NYCO amendment: “Thanks Ken, Rob, and Julie. I’ve had a few days to process our meeting and I appreciate the follow up. Clearly the NYCO deal is of great importance to DEC as is evident by the amount of staff outreach. Admittedly this level of focus is curious to me in consideration of the universe of other issues facing DEC…” (Exhibit 65). On May 13, 2013, Ms. Tighe responded to Mr. Downs that DEC was working “to gain your support or at least remove your opposition” (Exhibit 66). The Sierra Club opposed second passage, despite DEC overtures. On June 10, 2013, Ms. Tighe was still emailing the Sierra Club seeking support (Exhibit 67).

I know Roger Downs and, while he and I have very different views and I have no use for the Sierra Club, I know hime to be an honorable guy on a personal level and I’m not surprised at his reluctance to participate in what he describes as this truly “curious” role reversal by DEC. It is very curious, indeed, why DEC was so motivated to act in this instance, isn’t it?

Well, not if you understand what happened when Joe Martens took that other bizarre step of swimming in a Superfund site to give Honeywell executive Katherine Adams an opportunity to shine. Joe Martens never stopped working for the NRDC gang where Katherine’s father has run the show for decades on behalf of his Rockefeller benefactors.

He may well be doing the same thing in this instance because Behan Communications, the lobbyist of record for NYCO Minerals, also represented Finch Paper Holdings which did a massive Adirondacks land deal with the State of New York and the Open Space Institute – one of those deals where the state effectively lent money to buy land for itself through a roundabout series of transactions that ended up swelling the coffers of the Open Space Institute. Behan Communications, in other words, knows precisely where the bodies are buried with respect to Joe Martens, who represented Open Space Institute in that land deal before he joined DEC.

Need I say more? This is how New York State operates and how its ruling class secures benefits for itself at the expense of others. The seemingly bizarre actions of Joe Martens are easily understood once you realize he never left the NRDC gang of which the Open Space Institute is part. It’s cronyism and it’s pervasive throughout New York State government. It’s also Joe Martens’ legacy.

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6 thoughts on “The Joe Martens Legacy of Cronyism

  1. “NYCO was just the sort of company that the governor wanted to keep in New York. Revitalizing the upstate economy has long been one of the governor’s top priorities and, as of 2011, NYCO employed roughly 150 people at two mines in the Willsboro area, where they excavated wollastonite, a mineral used in the production of plastics, paints and other goods.” said the NY times.

    It is laughable that the NY Times would cover this issue, talk about revitalizing the upstate economy and not mention anywhere in that article the surprising decision that was announced last December on “fracking” in NY State and just recently finalized by the DEC.

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/08/02/nyregion/03mine-board-of-elections-email.html The article links to a document, an email to a reporter named Michael Gormely.

    https://twitter.com/gormleyalbany/status/545340747114098689 ” Here he is tweeting a quote from the DEC back in December: DEC’s Martens on fracking: “Long term, it’s highly questionable that it would be profitable in New York state.” Interesting statement compared to Martens in the letter referenced in the times article where he says this about the environmental concerns about expanding the open pit mining: they ” greatly understate the economic benefits of expanding the mine.”

    http://www.newsday.com/long-island/politics/spin-cycle/cuomo-to-ban-fracking-for-natural-gas-in-upstate-ny-1.9723698 In an article by Gormely on the surprise December announcement interestingly filed under the category of “Spin Cycle”:

    “Environmentalists hailed the decision “By banning fracking, Governor Cuomo has set himself apart as a national political leader who stands up for people, and not for the interests of the dirty fuel lobby,” said Michael Brune of the Sierra Club environmental group.” (Michael Brune and Sierra Club equal environmentalists apparantly.)

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/ny-anti-frackers-get-win-but-inside-view-less-rosy/article/2510034 There is an article by the same reporter on the “antifrackers win”, which was about the announcement of a health study back in 2012.

    “For Cuomo, this may be the most politically opportune time move ahead. He has political protection from President Barack Obama, who endorses the process nationwide. Unemployment remains stubbornly high — near 9 percent — in New York, despite his mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs.” And, he has a Republican controlled Senate filled with supporters of hydrofracking.

    In the end, political experts don’t think Cuomo’s 2014 re-election would be threatened by a decision to approve fracking. National politics show it would actually help him in any run for president in 2016.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/18/nyregion/cuomo-to-ban-fracking-in-new-york-state-citing-health-risks.html

    “On Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo seemed determined to portray both of the day’s major announcements — and their consequences for upstate New York — as decisions made by experts objectively weighing the facts, not by him… And he kept some distance from the fracking decision, saying he was deferring to his health and environmental conservation commissioners.”

    “Nevertheless, environmental groups cast the governor as a hero. Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, (again apparantly the Sierra Club does officially speak for all environmentalists) said, “This move puts significant pressure on other governors to take similar measures to protect people who live in their states.”

    I don’t know Roger Downs. And I see all kinds of problems with the Sierra Club leadership in general. And I think that this NY decision has not been looked at closely enough by reporters at all.

  2. I will go further. I think reporting on the fracking issue, the antifracking movment and natural gas, which now includes most pipeline proposals is deeply flawed. And if the fracking and natural gas issue is as the activists say one of the most important issues of our times and most other people would say energy is a massively important issue, what does that mean? I think it means that the public is not being served by journalists on this issue. They are being immersed in a non stop furious spin cycle so much that it appears some people can’t see straight.

    When was it again that people who define themselves as environmentalists began saying natural gas was dirtier or worse than coal for the climate?

  3. http://grassrootsinfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Gas-Infrastructure-Press-Release.pdf

    There is an important press release with Roger Downs of the Sierra Club listed as a contact along with Susan Van Dolsen.

    Here’s the beginning of it:

    “Health professionals, impacted residents, elected officials
    and advocates from across the state came to Albany today to urge Governor Cuomo, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Martens and Department of Health Commissioner Zucker to employ a consistent policy of evaluating the health impacts of the full lifecycle process
    of shale gas development amidst growing scientific evidence of potential risks. They request thatthe Governor and state agencies conduct an independent, transparent, cumulative Health Impact Assessment (HIA) with public participation, to fully evaluate and address the impacts of the build-out of extensive gas infrastructure in New York State. The infrastructure includes, but is not limited to, pipelines, compressor stations, gas-fired power plants, metering and regulating stations, pigging stations and gas processing and storage facilities. The NYSDEC must withhold permit decisions until the HIA is completed and fully considered.”

    It ends with some of the folks and groups the press release represents:

    “New Yorkers from across the state, including epresentatives from Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Center for Sustainable Rural Communities, Community Watersheds Clean Water Coalition, Concerned Health Professionals of New York, Concerned Residents of Carmel & Mahopac, Concerned Residents of Windsor, Earthworks, Grassroots
    Environmental Education, League of Women Voters of New York State, Madison County Neighbors for Environmental Preservation, Mohawk Valley Keeper, Physicians for Social
    Responsibility—New York, Occupy the Pipeline, Protect Orange County, Reynolds Hills, Inc.,Otsego 2000, PAUSE, Sane Energy Project, SEnRG, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Stop the Algonquin Pipeline Expansion (SAPE), Stop the Minisink Compressor Station, Stop the Pipeline
    (Constitution), We Are Seneca Lake, Keep Yorktown Safe, and others.”

    I wonder when someone is going to do some real reporting on the antifracking movement.

  4. In light of the fact Martens went home the pipe issue must already be decided? Flip a coin Karen, there,s no way of knowing for sure whitch way the shadow government will make more? They dont need pipes for coal. They do need pipes for imported ng. Theres a good chance you,ll get um.Who ya workin for? Did they pay enough to destroy PA,s NG industry? Time will tell.
    ALL NY OR NO NY

  5. Pingback: No Longer Proud to be a New Yorker

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