Thursday, September 21, 2006

Is Shell Trying To Buy Influence on the Broadwater Decision?

Does this sound like an attempt to buy influence in the Broadwater LNG decision?

Each year a government grants program called the Long Island Sound Futures Fund doles out money to groups in New York and Connecticut who are working to improve the Sound. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service administers the fund, in cooperation with the Long Island Sound Study, which is a project of the U.S. EPA. Money for the grants generally comes from the Fish & Wildlife Service, EPA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the Department of Commerce.

The fund gives away about $900,000 a year in grants. This year, according to Citizens Campaign for the Environment, $135,000 of that came in the form of a donation by Shell Oil, the company (along with Trans-Canada) who wants to build a huge liquefied natural gas terminal in the middle of the Sound.

Buying influence or simply buying goodwill, which is an oft-practiced public relations technique? NOAA, Fish and Wildlife, and EPA all have roles in the Broadwater review. Here’s how someone with knowledge of the process explained to me the potential for influencing the Broadwater decision:

Broadwater needs a permit from the New York State Department of State's Coastal Zone division; it’s actually a federal permit delegated to the state by NOAA. If the state denies Broadwater a permit, Broadwater can appeal to the guy who oversees NOAA, namely the Secretary of Commerce. EPA and Fish & Wildlife, meanwhile, participate in the Broadwater environmental review by providing information to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will make the final decision on Broadwater’s proposal.

I have a hard time imagining that EPA or Fish & Wildlife would someone give incomplete or biased information to FERC because Shell shelled out $135,000 for a grants program. On the other hand, it might be exactly the kind of thing that influences the Department of Commerce.

The other issue, as someone who has been following the situation put it to me in an e-mail, is “pervasiveness of influence.” Keep in mind that Broadwater, through a company consultant named Joel Rinebold, got themselves a seat on the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Long Island Sound Study. Now one of Broadwater’s sponsors is pouring money into the region to help fund the work of grass roots organizations. The email said:

I think the issue is more about pervasiveness of influence and the chilling effect they could have on the region's stakeholders -- they squirmed onto the LISS CAC and now they are a major cash infusion for the primary granting program of NY and CT LIS work. Will anyone who gets a grant have to plug Shell's generous support?

I don’t know the answer, but it’s worth being aware of what Shell is up to.


Blogger Sam said...

Now hold it a minute, let me play devil's advocate here. I want you all to put a bright line between getting corporate funds for wetland and coastal remediation ... and putright lobbying. By putting a million or more into an environmental account does not mean that Shell or anyone else wants some special treatment. The money itself does not have slime on it. In fact, you might find that many of the corporate leaders you disparage are members of the Audubon Society, are sailors, or have a deep interest in the local ecology.

Now I wouldn't be handing out any committee chairman jobs to these kinds of folks if that makes you nervous, since that could create a conflict of interest.

But let me say that over the years, many companies such as Dutch Royal Shell have invested millions in restoring oyster beds, marshlands, and all kinds of good stuff. I am not aware of any large corporation wanting more than some recognition for their efforts - certainly not a new refinery or LNG terminal in exchange.

The way things are going, the EPA and other state and federal agencies are going to run out of grant money entirely. You have to learn how to work with the private sector folks. Just remember, there is no such thing as tainted money - it all spends just as good once in the bank. /Sam

6:53 PM  
Anonymous caroline dubois said...

There is an unfair statement in the story implying that Broadwater is somehow worming its way onto the Long Island Sound Citizens Advisory Committee. The CAC is an open forum with representatives of all the user groups around the Sound, not just the environmental community. We invite comment and information from the public to help guide us in our recommendations for "eco system based management"
Caroline DuBois (212) 206-1106
Member of the LIS-CAC for 15 years.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Mark Tedesco, director EPA Long Island Sound Office said...

As director of the EPA Long Island Sound Office that administers the Long Island Sound Study (LISS), I would like to respond to the question of what constitutes an appropriate member of the LISS Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC). Membership is governed by the CAC's by-laws (available at, which state the following:

"The CAC shall be composed of individuals representing a cross
section of groups and organizations that use or have concerns about Long Island Sound. The interests shall include:
1) environmental, conservation and watershed associations; 2) the user community including but not limited to business, industry, real estate, sport and commercial fisheries, recreation, boating; 3) regional and local government; and
4) the environmental education/academic community."

Futhermore, the criteria for membership is that members shall: "1) be potentially affected by the management recommendations
contained in the CCMP; 2) be willing to assume responsibility for communicating with a
major user or interest group, and to attend regular meetings;
3) have some knowledge and interest in Long Island Sound water
quality and resource management issues."

There are many difficult, complex issues facing Long Island Sound. As should be clear from the by-laws, which were developed and approved by the CAC itself, the Long Island Sound Study believes that those issues are best addressed when we involve all perspectives in an atmosphere of open, honest dialogue and mutual respect. That has been a tenet of the CAC, to its credit, and one that we will continue to honor.

4:09 PM  
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4:03 PM  

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