According to a report by the Public Accountability Initiative, officials at the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CCSD) in Pittsburgh have more ties to industry than initially reported. The center was founded to establish guidelines and certify fracking companies as ‘safe and environmentally responsible.’
The PAI report calls into question whether their findings will be independent:
The major philanthropic force behind CSSD, The Heinz Endowments, has significant, undisclosed ties to the natural gas industry. The foundation has contributed more than $250,000 to CSSD, providing funding to every environmental group involved as well as to CSSD itself. Heinz Endowments president Robert F. Vagt is currently a director at Kinder Morgan, a natural gas pipeline company, and owns more than $1.2 million in company stock. This is not disclosed on the Heinz Endowments website or the website of CSSD, where Vagt serves as a director.
Environmental sponsors with CSSD board seats are closely linked to the natural gas industry. Although five environmental groups were involved in the discussions leading to CSSD’s creation, only three have seats on the Center’s board of directors. One of the groups on the CSSD board, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, is controlled by fracking interests: half of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s board comes from Marcellus Shale Coalition member companies and all but two directors come from companies with a stake in the natural gas industry. Another group on CSSD’s board, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), has significant board and funder ties to the natural gas industry and has lent its name to studies proclaiming fracking to be environmentally safe that were later discredited. The third, the Clean Air Task Force, has ties to the industry through several board members.
According to the Western Pa.-based news website, the Times Online, one official at the center has acknowledged that his ties to the industry make him less-than-ideal for the position he holds:
In May, The Times reported that CSSD’s interim director, Andrew Place, was also the corporate director of energy and environmental policy at EQT Corp., a company that had nearly 80 billion cubic feet of natural gas production in the Marcellus shale in the first quarter of this year. This connection was also included in the PAI report.
Place also openly shared his EQT ties with The Times and said that ultimately his position as interim director of CSSD “should not be held by someone whose paycheck is written by a gas company.”