Pennsylvania

Energy. Environment. Economy.

ProPublica: Rendell Stumps for Fracking Without Revealing Ties to Industry

More Than a Matter of Opinion: Ed Rendell’s Plea for Fracking Fails to Disclose Industry Ties

by Justin Elliott ProPublica, March 28, 2013, 11:29 a.m.

Chris Kleponis / Getty Images

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell took to the New York Daily News op-ed page Wednesday with a message to local officials: stop worrying and learn to love fracking.

As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo agonizes over whether to allow the controversial natural gas drilling technique, Rendell invoked his own experience as a Democratic governor who presided over a fracking boom. New York state, Rendell argued, has a major part to play in the nation’s fracking “revolution” — and it can do so safely. He rejected what he called the “false choice” of “natural gas versus the environment.”

What Rendell’s passionate plea failed to note was this: since stepping down as governor in 2011, he has worked as a paid consultant to a private equity firm with investments in the natural gas industry.

The op-ed piece was widely noted in other media outlets, and Cuomo wound up being asked about it during a radio appearance on Wednesday. The New York State Petroleum Council promptly issued a press release hailing Rendell’s “strong and confident argument.”

Reached Wednesday, Rendell told ProPublica that he should have disclosed to the Daily News his work at the private equity firm, Element Partners, and that the newspaper “should have included it.”

Rendell said the Pennsylvania-based firm pays him about $30,000 per year. Still, he insisted he is not conflicted on the issue of fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected deep into the ground to extract previously unreachable natural gas from rock. He said he does not own equity in Element Partners or any fracking companies.

“The only conflict would be if I had a pecuniary interest in the natural gas industry doing well, and I certainly don’t,” he said.

Element Partners’ website lists several investments by the firm in natural gas companies, including a company called 212 Resources that specializes in “fluid management systems” for fracking.

Rendell is also a senior adviser at the investment bank Greenhill, which has worked on several large transactions involving natural gas companies. A Greenhill spokesman said Rendell has not been involved in the firm’s work in the energy sector.

“I have no brief for industry,” Rendell told ProPublica. He said he supports fracking because of the potential for American energy independence and jobs.

“If we choose to embrace natural gas, it will help us get past a number of significant economic and environmental challenges,” Rendell argued in the Daily News op-ed. “On the other hand, if we let fear carry the day, we will squander another key moment to move forward together.”

Daily News opinion editor Josh Greenman said in an email to ProPublica that he was unaware of Rendell’s relationship with Element, and indeed had been assured by Rendell’s representative that there was no conflict.

“Had I known, I certainly would have disclosed that and conceivably would have made a different judgment on the piece,” Greenman said.

The Daily News has now added a disclosure line to the online version of the op-ed.

This isn’t the first time Rendell has popped up in New York advocating for fracking. The New York Post ran an interview with Rendell in November in which he said Cuomo would be “crazy” not to lift the fracking ban. That piece didn’t mention Rendell’s ties to the industry either.

 

Topics

Comments

  • Patrick Henderson

    How ironic that StateImpact, which touts itself as a fair and nonpartisan news outlet, has no qualms repeatedly linking to ProPublica – an avowed anti-natural gas ‘media’ outlet. Their latest scoop reports that former Gov. Rendell’s opinion on natural gas must be compromised because he is an operating partner of Element Partners – which actually has greater investments in solar and renewable energy than natural gas.

    Yet StateImpact fails to look at who funds ProPublica itself – such as George
    Soros’ Open Society Foundations and the Sandlers Foundation. And where do they
    get their money?

    The Sandlers Foundation itself has $69 million invested in Farallon
    Institutional Capital Partners, whose founder, Tom Steyer, has been a leading
    Democratic activist, fundraiser, and billionaire investor in alternative and
    renewable energy. Steyer backed legislative efforts to support California’s
    wind and solar mandate; founded Stanford University’s renewable energy research
    institute, and railed against Mitt Romney’s support of fossil fuels at the 2012
    Democratic National Committee.

    NPR, which created StateImpact, also has received
    significant funding from Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

    All of which is perfectly fine and legal. And all of which
    is apparently not worthy of disclosure by ProPublica. Or StateImpact.

    Patrick Henderson, Energy Executive
    PA Governor’s Office

    • Susan Phillips

      Patrick, we have always disclosed our funders, and that list is easily accessed on our website. Here’s the link:
      http://stateimpact.npr.org/supporters/

      Locally we have also received funding from the William Penn Foundation and the Heinz Foundation.
      Susan

  • Sue

    Wow! The gov.’s office is really equating concern for the health of our watershed and, therefore, of our citizens with the financial well being of a bunch of hedge fund zillionaires??

    The moral bankruptcy of the Corbett administration is staggering!

  • Carl

    Mr. Henderson, Just tell us if fracking is safe.

  • imforit

    The best thing for any politician who is no longer in office is to go as far away as possible. We don’t need nor do we want them to continue to influence any political person or industry. Take the hint, Mr. Rendell. Bye-bye!

  • http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/ Susan Phillips

    Patrick, we have always disclosed our funders, which are listed on our website. Here’s the link:

    http://stateimpact.npr.org/supporters/

    Locally, we have also received funding from the Heinz Foundation and the William Penn Foundation.
    Susan

  • Patrick Henderson

    Sue – not equating concern for health with the financial well being of anyone. Not sure what your comment has to do with the price of tea in China. The point is that if prominent disclosure is applicable in one situation, its applicable in all. Some seem only concerned about disclosure when it says something positive about natural gas, so as to unearth some sort of hidden motive.

    Susan – thanks. Not really the same if a reader has to go looking for it though. The whole NY op-ed matter by the former Governor centered on why his affiliation was not being disclosed to the reader of the op-ed at the end of the piece. I do appreciate that my comment was not simply deleted this time by StateImpact.

    Carl – yes.

    Patrick Henderson

  • Jon

    Carl, don’t let the “man” tell you it’s safe. Go out read, educate and form an opinion for yourself. Fracking is as safe as the company doing the fracking wants it to be. The safer it is, the more it hits the bottom line. From this I’d say it’s safe to assume some companies put the safety and well being of the people surrounding the wells into consideration more than others. In other cases there are some that go above and beyond what the state and federal agencies protocol mandates they do. As with all things the truth usually lies somewhere in between.

About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »

Economy
Education