A second good-government group joined with a number of environmental and anti-fracking groups Thursday to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to throw out his administration’s draft review of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.
Common Cause/NY raised red flags over Ecology and Environment’s work on the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s fracking review, which the group says included analysis of public comments received in addition to a look at the economic impacts of shale-gas drilling.
Ecology and Environment, an Erie County-based firm, was listed as a member of the Independent Oil & Gas Association, gas-industry lobbying group, in a letter sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday. But on Wednesday, the DEC released a letter in which the company says it had been paying a single employee’s dues, but did not have a corporate membership. It severed ties with IOGA on Wednesday, accusing the association of “misrepresenting” its membership. (IOGA has since wiped the member list from its letter.)
“We are deeply disquieted by this large scale breach of the public interest,” Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner said in a statement. “New Yorkers submitted over 66,000 comments on the proposed SGEIS (fracking review) in good faith, reflecting their concerns. These conflicts of interest discredit the impartiality of the review process.”
Common Cause also expressed concern about two other consultants who are cited in the DEC’s environmental review, which is meant to guide a decision on large-scale fracking and, eventually, a permitting process. Both Alpha Geoscience and URS Corporation were listed in IOGA’s letter. The two firms were hired by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in 2009 — under then-Gov. David Paterson’s administration — to assist with the state’s review, though their work largely focused on geological issues and how the shale-gas drilling process works.
UPDATED: The DEC on Thursday sent over separate letters from Alpha and URS, expressing a similar situation that Ecology and Environment stated in its correspondence on Wednesday. Both companies acknowledged having employees as IOGA members, but knocked IOGA for listing their companies on the pro-fracking letter sent to Cuomo on Monday.
The good-government group’s concerns were raised a day after the New York Public Interest Research Group mailed Cuomo, asking him to scrap the DEC’s work. Both groups have taken money from the Park Foundation, an Ithaca-based philanthropic fund that has donated a few million dollars to anti-fracking groups. (In Common Cause’s case, the group has received $215,000 since 2009 to look at the gas industry’s lobbying and campaign expenditures in New York and Pennsylvania.)
Others who signed on to the call to throw out the DEC’s review included Catskill Mountainkeeper (a group that was co-founded by current DEC commissioner Joseph Martens), Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Riverkeeper, among others.