June 14, 2012 —
Your May 31 editorial about the role of the Park Foundation misses the point, perhaps deliberately. The Park Foundation doesn’t just “fund opponents of hydro-fracking,” as you suggest. No, its influence is pervasive.
It funds hack studies such as the Howarth report that has been excoriated by other Cornell scientists and the Cristopherson and Myers report that are so weak as to be laughable.
Then it funds the anti-gas organizations, everyone from the Environmental Working Group to Catskill Mountainkeeper, that use these “studies” as leverage for campaigns.
Then it funds groups such Earth Justice to sue using the questionable data. Then it funds media such as Trailer Talk and the DC Bureau to report on it all. Then it funds Common Cause who attacks gas companies for using their influence, which returns the favor by giving the Park Foundation principals awards for their service.
Additionally, it funds not only “Gasland,” but also Duke University (you’ll remember that very selective study), the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a profoundly radical group, and the Community Environmental Defense Council, which actually tried bullying an Upper Delaware businessman who only expressed his opinion with a “lawyer up, big guy” threat.
The Park Foundation is creating the issues, using them to sue and then reporting on the results. They have every right to do all those things, but not in the guise of a non-profit corporation, the public purpose of which is not politics, but charity. Funding opponents of natural gas is not a legitimate function of a 501(c)(3) organization. That is the issue, plain and simple. Let them declare themselves a 501(c)(4) organization if that’s what they wish to do, but they shouldn’t be parading around as a charity when they’re really doing politics.
I am rather amazed at the reaction on the anti-gas side to my post about the Park Foundation principals. Clearly, it touched a nerve. Yet, all I did was point out the truth. No one has claimed any errors in my reporting. They just resent me bringing out some inconvenient facts, including not only the multi-faceted role of the foundation in the politics of natural gas, but also the stunning hypocrisy of some trust-funders who want the rest of us to live more simply and not develop our natural gas resources while they concurrently heat with gas and attack it.
I am not terribly impressed by such complaints, having been regularly called a shill for the industry, even though I had the exact same opinions before working with the industry and even expressed them on these pages. Likewise, I have no particular sympathy for others who make or have made their living elsewhere and profess to be the conscience of our area. I was born here and my family has been here since the 1700s, so I don’t accept the idea we need groups such as the Park Foundation or the myriad Rockefeller spin-offs (e.g., NRDC) to tell us how to either develop or protect our natural resources.
Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? Who decides? What is appalling to me is that the Park Foundation and the National Resource Defense Council have interest whatsoever in the fate of people who actually have to make a living in the area. They would shut us out completely. We are mere collateral damage to them and when I see them bending the rules of non-profits to insert themselves into every aspect of a political battle, I intend to speak out. It’s the American way.
[Tom Shepstone is a local planner and consultant, and the campaign director for Energy in Depth Marcellus (http://www.eidmarcellus.org ).]