There Ought To Be A Natural Gas Law – Part II

A little while back, I wrote about the stark hypocrisy on the part of some of our friends on the other side, in a post entitled “There Ought To Be A (Natural Gas) Law.”  We’re all hypocrites to some extent, of course, and it may be said hypocrites, at least, have standards.  Nevertheless, one is taken back a step when learning some of the most vocal natural gas opponents heat their homes with the very fuel they proclaim is responsible for every ill known to man and beast.

They can argue, I suppose, they are in favor of natural gas and just opposed to hydraulic fracturing and “unconventional” production.  Today, however, unconventional natural gas makes up 60% of marketed production in the United States (see page 102) and up to 90% of all natural gas wells drilled in the U.S. require fracture stimulation.  This means most of that gas used to heat Tony Ingraffea’s home comes to him via the processes he regularly attacks and, which he suggests causes climate change and sundry other calamities.  We documented his use of natural gas in our last piece on this subject, noting Josh Fox and Mayor Matt Ryan also relied upon natural gas to heat their places of work.  As hard as it may be to believe, these are the small fry.  There are much bigger hypocrites.

The Park Family

We’ve done numerous reports on this blog about the role of the Park Foundation in funding all things opposed to shale gas development.  Their fingerprints are everywhere, including on the recently released and, already thoroughly discredited, Myers report.  It was funded by them, of course, as was Bob Howarth’s and Tony Ingraffea’s ludicrous methane study, debunked by their own Cornell brethren.  They have also funded everything from DC Bureau to ShaleShock Media on the public relations side, EarthJustice to NRDC on the litigation side and CEDC to CELDF on the special interest lawyering side, not to mention Gasland and American Rivers (sponsor of the fraudulent “most endangered river” fiasco every year).  They also fund the Common Cause Education Fund to attack anyone else doing what they’re doing and reward the Park heirs who fund them with rosy praise at tony Manhattan events for the well connected.

Home of Roy and Dorothy Dent Park, Cayuga Heights, NY

The Park Foundation, like so many, spends the money made by the hard-working honorable first generation under the watchful eye of a spoiled second and third generation committed to causes it supposes will allow it to enjoy the reputation of the first.  It’s  an all too familiar story, of course, but what is utterly fascinating is the fact there are three generations of Park family living in the Ithaca area who rely upon natural gas to heat their homes, oblivious to the inherent conflict in using a product they bemoan being produced anywhere near them.

Roy Park built the Park Communications empire which owned numerous publications and other media outlets.  Roy Park operated from Ithaca, where he resided, and had many interests there and in North Carolina where he grew up.  Forbes identified him as the 40th wealthiest person in the U.S. in 1993 and, when he died, he left 51% of his company to the Park Foundation, which funded a variety of causes connected with Cornell University, the Ithaca area and ornithology, among other things.  He and his wife Dorothy Dent Park lived in a 6,558 square feet home on Devon Road in the Village of Cayuga Heights.  Mrs. Park was still residing in the home as of 2011 and it will be no surprise for the reader to learn it is heated with natural gas.

The home sits on 4.7 acres of land and resembles an English noble’s home with no apparent solar panels or windmills in sight.  No, the home of Roy and Dorothy Dent Park, still owned by the family, is heated by natural gas, according to Tompkins County Department of Assessment records.  REPEAT: the homestead of the family leading a relentless broad-based campaign against natural gas development in New York State and North Carolina is heated by that same gas and the owners have made no apparent effort to shift to other fuel sources.

The Second Generation

It doesn’t end there, however.  Roy and Dorothy’s daughter Adelaide Park Gomer essentially controls the Park Foundation at this point and is extremely committed to doing anything and everything to stop natural gas development in New York State.  She modestly suggests it “will ruin our pristine landscapes, agriculture, our tourism, and our wine industry.”  Then she uses the silver spoon in her mouth to feed us this bit of self-righteous mush:

It is heartening that people are beginning to realize that if frackers are invited into New York State, the only recourse we’ll have is to hit the streets and use civil disobedience. Nothing short of a total ban can save us from this unfolding tragedy! We believe that New York must become the first state to ban fracking, taking a leadership role that the rest of the country can then rally behind. There is nothing less than our future at stake.

Home of Adelaide Park Gomer, Cayuga Heights, NY

So, natural gas development using current technologies, the same technologies now responsible for delivering most of the gas to her home, is an “unfolding tragedy” – a tragedy of such proportions only a ban will do.  Really?

If you were contributing to an unfolding tragedy wouldn’t you want to alter your own behavior as well as ban that of others?  If you really believed your future was at stake wouldn’t you consider changing the fuel source used to heat your home?  Is that too much intellectual honesty to demand?

Apparently, it is too much to ask of Adelaide Park Gomer, who owns a two-family residence on Wyckoff Road in Cayuga Heights heated with gas, the production of which she says will “ruin our health.”  Perhaps, just perhaps, Ms. Gomer is given to overstatement.  Yeah, that must be it.

The Third Generation

Park hypocrisy extends a bit further , however.  Adelaide Park Gomer’s daughter, Alicia Park Wittink, lives on Highland Road in, you guessed it, Cayuga Heights.  The village income per capita is 79.8% greater than the New York State average and 116.8% greater than the national average, and it’s hardly surprising given all the Park family members who live there (along with Tony Ingraffea).  Mrs. Wittink serves on the board of the Environmental Working Group (funded by the Park Foundation, of course) and was “Co-Founder” of the DC EcoWomen’s Hour.  She is also on boards of directors at Mother Jones Magazine/Foundation for National Progress and the Center for a New American Dream (both also funded by the Park Foundation).

The last of these says “envisions a society that pursues not just ‘more,’ but more of what matters—and less of what doesn’t.  It also claims it desires to help “Americans reduce and shift their consumption to improve quality of life, protect the environment, and promote social justice.”  I guess that means reducing your standard of living and living more simply.  Mrs. Wittink lives in a six-bedroom, 3,923 square feet home with an estimated market value of $870,000, so she would know something about reducing her standard of living (sense the sarcasm).  And, hey, she also says she’s a “consultant” at the Park Foundation, so I have to assume she’s a heck of a lot smarter than me!

Revealingly, Mrs. Wittink bragged about her then upcoming eco-friendly honeymoon in Tahiti in a “you can’t make this stuff up”  piece entitled “How to Marry Your Sweetheart and Love the Planet” with these words:

We want to find a lodge that employs local people in management roles, that gives money back to the community, and that treads lightly, using solar energy.

That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?  Finding a lodge that treads lightly by using solar energy somehow makes up for the massive amounts of jet fuel consumed going to Tahiti.  Get it?  Is this a demonstration in social conscience or what?

That was 2003 and, in 2009, the eco-friendly Wittink couple acquired their home on Highland Road.  Here’s an aerial view:

Wittink Home on Highland Road, Cayuga Heights, NY

This is 2012 imagery from Google.  See any solar panels?  No, I don’t either.  I don’t see any backyard windmills either.  I’ll bet the neighbors wouldn’t go for that.  Maybe she went geo-thermal, as that is pretty well hidden.  What do you think?  Well, it doesn’t really matter, because the one thing we do know is the Wittink home uses natural gas for home heating fuel, as 75% of Cayuga Heights residents do, according to the U.S.Census.  They must think it “treads lightly,” just like solar.

You know … there ought to be a law.

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  1. susan dorsey says:

    We always tell people “if you haven’t been there, take a ride through Dimock” to see for yourself.

    We should start saying “if you haven’t been there, take a ride through Cayuga Heights”

    It is a really a ‘waste’ land.

  2. FS Blank says:

    Is there a difference between the Park Foundation and the causes (anti-fracking) they fund and the gas companies and the causes (fracking) they fund? Oh yeah, the Park Foundation
    is taking their money and trying to make the planet a cleaner place to live and the gas companies are taking their money and trying to make more money for themselves.

    Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson in 2010 made 29 million dollars. How does that compare to the Parks?

    • Tom Shepstone says:

      Making money is not evil. Profits are rewards for doing that for which the market (consumers) vote. Exxon’s salaries are a reflection of the value of those who earn them and if they don’t produce they’re gone. The Park Foundation isn’t trying to clean up the planet (as we demonstrated). Rather, it’s trying to get natural gas out of its own backyard so someone else will produce it for them. It’s NIMBYism and there’s nothing noble about it.

      • Tom you are 100 percent correct… The Park Foundation and it’s followers would be the first to say where is our natural gas should the states drilling shut off those that are not. I am all for cutting NY off it’s natural gas fix should they decide not to allow drilling.

      • FS Blank says:

        I did not say that making money was evil. However, your obvious derision of of the Park family’s income and comparing the average income of Cayuga Heights residents to the state’s, certainly left me with the idea that you thought (or wanted your readers to think)
        that money was an obstacle.

        • Tom Shepstone says:

          Fair enough except that the Park heirs are living off old money. They don’t have to make a living in upstate NY. That makes all the difference.

    • Billy Whyde says:

      Gas and oil companies are owned by stock holders . From a person owning 5 shares to 5000 shares they expect a return upon their investment. I will give you a good example of what a profit from Oil and gas did. Check this out
      Now you might like to know Beman Dawes was the president of the Pure Oil Company see he has done more to protect the environment and save endangered species than the Park Foundation ever dreamed of! By the way the Arboretum is open and free to the general public.

  3. Bill desRosiers says:

    Great write up here Tom. You capture the essence of what has plagued society throughout history. It is despicable that the park foundation can use its money to keep the status quo intact. Said another way, the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. The Parks described who live in Cayuga Heights are residents of Tompkins County. Of the fifteen county legislators in Tompkins, twelve heat with gas, one with oil, and two with electric which is likely produced at least at times with natural gas. All use fossil fuels. The Park Foundation people don’t seem ready to live off the grid, bicycle for transportation, and use nothing but renewable energy.

  5. Tom Frost says:

    You missed R.H. Park III. Perhaps that has something to do with the power that I suspect he has in Park Outdoor Advertising, the outfit that helped your buddy Enough Already do that billboard-censoring in South Montrose last August.

  6. TheProspector says:

    I liked Fox and others who were trying to stop larger pipes from being installed to bring more gas into NYC. “Stop me before I use more gas!” They don’t care about all the home owners who would get cheaper gas and have more money for groceries.

    • Tom Shepstone says:

      Great stuff, Lee!

  7. Many years ago there was a cartoon that appeared regularly in some newspapers, called “There Ought To Be A Law.”  It was a comical look at the frustrations we all have with other human beings doing inexplicable things, the stuff that makes us say “there ought to be a law … Yes, you are right. There ought to be a law against thinly veiled attempts at making attacks personal in nature, regardless of the hypocrisy- actually i think there is. I thought this organization was better than that. Shame on you Tom Shepstone. What an invasion on these peoples lives, regardless of their beliefs. This article was not a comical look at frustrations we have with other human beings, It was a vindictive attack against a group of people whose beliefs you do not share. It just made you look angry and petty. I’m all for a critical look at organizations and what they are promoting, but putting photos of private peoples houses online goes too far. You just lost my support for this organization.

    • Tom Shepstone says:

      Sorry you feel that way, but facts are facts.

  8. Demare says:

    Your opinion is based on the premise that those against natural gas (and other fossil fuels for that matter) want n.g. or prefer it to other methods used to heat their homes or places of work. Nothing could be further from the truth. You write as if homeowners have an option or choice. Some do, particularly those building their homes, but most do not. We use the existing infrastructure available to us.
    Personally, if I could afford to disengage completely from fossil fuels , I would. As it stands, I own a hybrid vehicle, feed power back through the grid via solar, and am in the process of having a geothermal system installed … beats the heck out of being 100% reliant on fossil fuels, but I still have to use them.
    We all use fossil fuels in some way, but not because we want to. We use fossil fuels because it’s all that is made available to us. Given more options, I’ve no doubt the majority would walk away from oil, gas and coal.
    People like me aren’t hypocrites; we’ve no other alternative than to use what the industry you support is forcing down our throats. What would make me a hypocrite is if I stopped fighting to keep slickwater horizontal hydraulic fracturing out of my state.

    • Tom Shepstone says:

      No choices? Are you kidding? And what power plant fuels your hybrid–coal or natural gas?

      • Demare says:

        Split hairs much, Tom?
        By choices I meant alternatives to fossil fuels, but to answer your question, the hybrid is connected to my solar. So far, I’ve been able to recharge with little help from Orange & Rockland.

        • Tom Shepstone says:

          And, when the sun doesn’t shine?

          • Tom Frost says:

            You mean, WHERE I told your buddy Cabot to stick its 1% royalty difference when I signed with SWN in late 2009? Thank you for your continued and ongoing confirmations (not that I needed any) that I made an excellent choice.

          • Tom Shepstone says:

            We’re happy you like SWN – they’re a great company!

          • Tom Frost says:

            Your buddy Cabot doesn’t think so. If it did, it wouldn’t CENSOR my CLEAR jug of actual local water (which I label, “Southwestern Energy leasehold water – still the best!”) at the gate of its picnic and thereby make me walk around thirsty on a 100-degree day.

          • Tom Shepstone says:

            It’s their picnic and they have every right to stop gimmicks at the gate.

          • Tom Frost says:

            The “gimmick”, which I was considering doing, would have been to keep on walking around in the picnic long enough to collapse of thirst.

  9. Pete Huston says:

    The NIMBY hypocrisy is very evident in the affluent neighborhoods and suburbs of Pittsburgh- usually in places where drilling will never occur. I have seen anti-drilling signs in the front yards of many McMansions. These people want the benefits of cheap energy to heat their homes (in many cases beautiful old stone homes that leak heat like a sieve) but they want to no part of the costs in producing this energy. At a deeper level of hypocrisy, these are the same affluent people that never serve in the military, or have sons and daughters overseas, to fight in wars that at their very core are based on the pursuit and security of energy resources. My old Regiment has consistently take casualties since 9/11 and I have had family members wounded in Iraq. Without oil and gas, the countries of the middle east and all of their attendant baggage would be nothing more than the difference between an A or a B on a geography quiz. Domestic production, done safely, offers at least a chance to break this cycle.

  10. JB says:

    Hi Tom,

    I came across your article a few days ago, and while I tried to ignore it, this has really bothered ever since, so I simply have to share why I think this post is completely lacking in taste, maturity, and logic. Also, before you or your readers immediately bash me for the points I’ll make, please consider the fact that this is coming from someone who is probably one of the people you are hoping to influence. That is, I’m a left-leaning person who has seen research from all sides, and is against hydrofracking, but still takes the time to read blogs and research from sources that advocate for natural gas so that I can remain open-minded, keep learning and be fully informed about this issue.

    Your core argument here seems to be that the examples you give prove these people are hypocrites, and that this hypocrisy somehow makes their arguments against hydrofracking (or the entire anti-fracking movement) less credible, so I’d like to address those points.

    You state that the Park Family is “oblivious to the inherent conflict in using a product they bemoan being produced anywhere near them,” and you base your argument on the fact that their homes use natural gas, that there are “no apparent solar panels or windmills in sight,” and that “the owners have made no apparent effort to shift to other fuel sources.”

    Tom, how in the world could you possibly know any of this? Seriously, maybe, like many people in the southern tier, they are well aware and furious that natural gas is the standard option. Maybe they looked into the countless ways to support their cause and realized that helping out anti-fracking organizations will have a far larger impact on this issue than spending their money on these enormous projects that will only help their own homes, and that it’s worth taking this path even at the risk of looking hypocritical.

    Maybe ensuring that their honeymoon was environmentally responsible and helpful to the local economy is how they choose to live and help the environment. Who are you to say that’s not good enough? Who are you to tell someone that the size of their home is the measure that really matters when it comes to living simply? You open your post by stating that “We’re all hypocrites to some extent,” but that some have standards. Are you claiming that you’re the one who knows what standards allow someone to remain credible while still being a little hypocritical, because that’s a remarkably arrogant message that is at the heart of this entire article.

    The truth is, ad hominem attacks like the ones you’ve written here have always been and continue to be the default of those who can’t find stronger arguments to support their beliefs. Maybe the people you wrote about have considered doing all the things you suggest, but they realized that critics like you would then simply bash them anyway for being able to afford alternative sources of energy while a lot of other people can’t. I have no idea what the Parks or Josh Fox or Matt Ryan are thinking, but the fact is, neither do you, and the way you’ve gone after these people is only going to hurt your attempts to try to get people on your side.

    There are 500 other reasons for the decisions that they and the rest of us make about how we live, how we spend our money, and how we advocate for the things we believe in, even at the risk of appearing hypocritical, but you don’t acknowledge any of these other possibilities. Instead, you made unsubstantiated claims about their lives and decision making. You immaturely posted pictures of someone’s home. You gave unnecessary details about their personal lives. And you did all of this using angry and childish rhetoric about silver spoons and being spoiled. In short, instead of focusing on the issues, you’ve simplified and demonized these people like a petulant teenager scrambling to find anything they can to win an argument, and that says a lot more about you and how strong your arguments are than it says about them.

    • Tom Shepstone says:

      You make a serious comment that deserves a serious answer. First, let me correct your quote of what I said about hypocrites and standards. I said “it may be said hypocrites, at least, have standards,” not that some hypocrites have standards. That is a good natured comment intended to reflect the anyone could probably say similar comment was things about me or you on occasion. None of us is perfect and that comment was intended to set the stage by acknowledging that simple fact.

      Secondly, I am rather amazed at the hurt feelings I received from some on this post. It indicates to me I hit very close to the truth if, not a bullseye. Nothing I revealed was not public information, obtainable by anyone with a computer and a knowledge of Google Earth, real property tax records and the like. Moreover, the broader public in Upstate New York, that is to say the thousands of landowners desperately trying to hang on financially and the youth who would like nothing better than to find decent jobs close to home, absolutely deserve to know the Park family, which spends tens of millions of dollars they didn’t earn to kill the best hopes of these folks, heats their own homes with the very natural gas they don’t want these impoverished neighbors to develop. It is not petty to give voice to the landowners who met with the Park Foundation and begged them not to squander this economic opportunity and were met with dismissal as “collateral damage.” Surely, you have read Dan Fitzsimmons’ account of that meeting. The Park Foundation is determined to get its way no matter what the cost to locals who urgently need this economic development. I’ll take that battle on any day of the week.

      Finally, you suggest this was an ad hominem attack. It was nothing of the sort. It offered highly relevant information and only supplemented the facts we brought forward about the work of the Park Foundation in funding things such as the recent Myers report or the Howarth study, both of which were so bad as to be rejected by virtually every reputable scientific authority. It is not wrong to point out the emperor has no clothes and that’s all I did. Thank you for your comment and best wishes.

      • JB says:

        Hi Tom,

        The thing I strongly disagree with, and what I believe is an ad hominem attack, is what seems to be the overall point of the article: that the “hypocrisy” of the Parks that you mention means these are somehow uncaring people who won’t even live by the things they claim to stand for. However, the comment you start with about us all being hypocrites to some extent, which I completely agree with, does not set the stage, but instead supports the notion that everything you said about these people should in fact NOT be seen as a reason to look down on them or their beliefs.

        If you are this angry at people who advocate against fracking, but still, for whatever reason, accept that they must use natural gas in their homes, how do you feel about the the enormous number of people who bash public education and elite colleges, but still happily send their children to these institutions even though there are other options? And what about the huge percentage of people who claim to hate government and everything it stands for, but regularly accept benefits from government programs like Medicare? Is this enough to consider them too hypocritical to respect their anti-government beliefs? What about free-market supporting bankers who accepted millions in bonuses paid for by tax dollars? You seem to take an incredibly hard line with these people against fracking, but are their hypocrisies anywhere near as bad as the people mentioned above, particularly so bad that we can fairly claim “the emperor has no clothes?” What exactly makes someone so hypocritical that they should not be taken seriously or they should be seen as a bad person? I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m certain that for the reasons I stated in my initial comment, the Park people don’t seem to fall into this category.

        I’m not really expecting you to take time out of your day to address each of those questions either, I just mention them to point out that there are countless examples of far worse hypocrites in our society, and I don’t feel like the examples you gave are anywhere near as bad as these groups, hence, I don’t think it was appropriate to lash out against the Parks, Josh Fox, and Matt Ryan for their situations and decisions.

        As for the notion that it might be ok to share what you did because this information is public, I don’t think that’s a fair defense. In the Internet age, far more information about all of us is now public to an extent that millions of people find disturbing. It’s bad enough that both private industry and government now reach into our lives and make personal info public that we used to be able to keep private. That such information is now public is not a defense for taking steps that spread this information and make it even more accessible. I believe it’s disrespectful and unnecessary, and no matter how much we all disagree, we should act in ways that respect each other’s privacy to whatever extent possible. I believe it’s just as bad in this case as it is when angry liberals post the personal info of CEOs they don’t like. Disrespecting privacy and basic tenets of decency is the best way to ensure that no progress is ever made on any issue.

        Also, I have read Dan Fitzsimmons’ version of what went on in that meeting. I have not heard the Park Foundation’s version, and I do not believe any of us should swallow any one person’s story about an event. I know that a lot of people bash those against fracking for supposedly not caring about the landowners or other people who could really use more, higher paying jobs and lower energy costs. But I’ve been told this on multiple occasions. They’re talking about me! And they’re taking about a lot of the anti-fracking people I know.

        And Tom, I swear to you not a single one of us wants anything but the best for all of the people in all of our cities in terms of jobs, health, and strong, sustainable communities, including (and especially) those who are so strongly in favor of fracking. We genuinely believe that they may be accepting short term gains that can lead to long term losses in both their economic situation and their health. We genuinely believe that they and their children may be at risk.

        So, despite what Dan reported about his meeting, I hope you will understand that I am more prone to believe that the Foundation, the Parks, Josh Fox, and everyone else I see bashed on websites and in the news are not the demons they’re proclaimed to be, but rather, like literally every single other person I have ever met who is against fracking, they care deeply about the long term safety and prosperity of every person who may be influenced by it, even the most pro-fracking right-wing person out there who thinks we’re the devil. If this was understood better by people at your organization and throughout our region, I feel like we’d be on a much better path to finding a solution to our energy and economic problems, and that is why I was really disappointed that you made the arguments you did in the way you did.

        • Tom Shepstone says:

          Fair enough, but I’m not convinced by your examples or arguments. Moreover, I think you should ask the Park family what THEY are doing to recognize the legitimate interests of upstate New Yorkers who desperately need this and know from the evidence it can be done safely and responsibly, as Lisa Jackson has said more than once. Are they doing anything to advance reasonable discussion? No, they’re funding attacks on anyone who disagrees with their view, including fake letter campaigns, frivolous lawsuits and bogus studies. Are they doing anything but bashing us and ignoring the legitimate interests of landowners? Have they done anything but advance the narrative Dan set forth? No, they are waging war against upstate New Yorkers, as is Josh Fox, and when you defend his charlatan ways I know you’re not serious but, rather, a committed anti yourself. Fox has lied about everything and he’s done so with funding from Park. Sorry, but that’s how I see it.


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