ABOUT THE ALLIANCE TO PROTECT NANTUCKET SOUND: A Cape Cod Shell Game
1. a sleight-of-hand swindling game resembling thimblerig but employing walnut shells or the like instead of thimblelike cups.
2. any deceit, swindle, fraud, or the like.
No organization has been more centrally involved in the effort to stop the Cape Wind project – delaying the tremendous clean energy, jobs, environmental and public health benefits of American offshore wind – than the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound (the “Alliance”). Although the Alliance claims to be a “nonprofit environmental organization” dedicated to the preservation of Nantucket Sound, the group admits that it was formed in 2001 in response to Cape Wind, and the past decade has revealed it to be a single-issue organization hell-bent on stopping the nation’s first offshore wind energy project. As such, it is not surprising that many people view the Alliance as a classic “NIMBY” (i.e., Not-In-My-Backyard) group. But a closer look reveals a much more sinister picture: a pseudo-environmental organization with extensive ties to dirty energy interests and a track record of dishonesty, deception and disregard for fairness and facts.
Here is just a brief snapshot of the Alliance’s long history of dirty energy ties and deceptions that reveal its true colors.
The Alliance’s history of dirty energy leadership:
- In its early years, the Alliance’s president was (now deceased) Douglas Yearley, former CEO of mining conglomerate Phelps Dodge, known for its significant releases of toxic air pollution and ties to over a dozen Superfund sites. Yearley, who was inducted into the Mining Hall of Fame, also was a member of the Board of Marathon Oil, and reportedly “took a dim view of environmental groups.”
- The Alliance was led at the CEO level for two years (2007-2009) by coal industry insider Glenn Wattley, who vowed that the Alliance “will do whatever it takes to win” against Cape Wind. After leaving the Alliance in 2009, Wattley assumed a new position as executive vice president at WTgreen working on projects including a new coal plant in Dalian, China, notably remarking that “[The Chinese are] not going to stop using coal — that’s like asking people to stop breathing.”
- Starting in 2005 and continuing today, the Alliance is helmed by multi-billionaire dirty energy magnate Bill Koch, whose privately held energy company, Oxbow Carbon, brings him a fortune from the mining and marketing of energy and commodities such as coal, natural gas, petroleum and calcined coke. A few examples of Oxbow’s polluting track record:
- Oxbow mines millions of tons of coal each year from its Elk Creek coal mine in Colorado, an operation that has been found responsible for thousands of violations and subjected to nearly $1 million in fines as of 2010.
- Oxbow, through its Elk Creek Mine Environmental Director Jim Kiger, has railed before Congress against (i) federal environmental policies that it claims are “limiting energy independence,” “killing jobs,” and disfavoring coal; (ii) “nuisance lawsuits and appeals by the environmental community on every federal coal decision;” and (iii) greenhouse gas regulations that are burdensome and directed toward solving “a nonexistent problem.”
- Another Oxbow subsidiary, Gunnison Energy, recently was fined $275,000 for collusion and rigging bids to deprive the government of energy royalties.
Follow the money: dirty energy dollars prop up the Alliance
Beyond the organization’s direct leadership by dirty energy magnates, the Alliance has been propped up financially by these interests as well – none more so than Bill Koch.
- As of 2006, Koch had pumped $1.5 million into the Alliance’s coffers. The amount of money Koch has put into the Alliance in the past six years as chairman is not known to the public.
- The Alliance’s 2009 tax filings include the extraordinary disclosure that Koch personally made a $100,000 contribution “to pay the [Alliance] President’s salary.”
- Koch also reportedly spent $620,000 through his company Oxbow to lobby against Cape Wind in 2006 and 2007, when an unsuccessful effort was made to derail Cape Wind through a provision quietly inserted in a Coast Guard funding bill.
The Alliance’s history of dirty tricks and lies
As widely reported by the press, the Alliance has a penchant for exaggeration, misrepresentation, and worse. From advertisements that distorted the size of the Cape Wind project to petitions bearing signatures of questionable provenance, demonstrably false claims regarding project costs, and political maneuvering, the Alliance has shown its disregard for the law and undermined its credibility. Beyond its unseemly tactics that have not fared well in the court of public opinion, the Alliance also has been held accountable for at least some of its questionable activities.
- Former Alliance Research Director John Donelan resigned after being caught putting out a fake press release – pretending to be from a Cape business – that a state court judge found to be defamatory with respect to Cape Wind.
- In March 2012, the Alliance and one of its board members were jointly fined $22,500 by the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance for violating campaign financing limits when it ran radio ads targeting then-candidate Governor Patrick over his support for Cape Wind.
Against this backdrop, it is no wonder that the Alliance once earned Toxic Action Center’s “Dirty Dozen Award” – an ignominious recognition typically reserved for the worst polluters – for using untruths and misrepresentations in fighting against clean energy.
Over the past decade, it has become increasingly plain that the Alliance is nothing more than a well-funded front for dirty energy interests, in business for the sole purpose of blocking Cape Wind and the clean energy momentum that it will unleash in the United States. Although the Alliance has lost nearly a dozen lawsuits against Cape Wind, and has seen its base of support shrink dramatically, it continues to press on with two pending cases in federal court and one in state court. It is well past time to call out the Alliance for what it really is.
A Cape Cod shell game, indeed.