Monday, July 6, 2015

On a need-to-know basis?

On a need-to-know basis?

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Earlier this week, former Gov. Ed Rendell wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Daily News urging New York to get with the program and allow hydraulic fracturing - commonly known as "fracking" - within its borders.

In the piece, headlined " Why [NY Gov.] Cuomo must seize the moment on hydrofracking," Rendell listed at length the benefits of natural gas, not just for economic development but for the nation’s energy future, and maintained that Pennsylvania has struck the balance of benefiting from natural gas production while also protecting the environment.

The one thing Rendell didn't mention was that he draws a consulting fee from a private equity firm that invests in energy companies, including a number with a stake in natural gas drilling. 

ProPublica first wrote about the potential conflict, and attempted to nail  the governor down on why he didn't disclose his relationship with the private equity company, Element Partners. ProPublica noted that the New York Daily News was not aware of Rendell's relationship with the firm when they ran his op-ed Wednesday, but has since added this pointed disclaimer to the online version: "Rendell is a paid consultant to Element Partners, a private equity firm with stake in a number of energy companies, including hydrofracking/natural gas interests. This information was not disclosed at the time his op-ed was submitted to the News."

In a brief telephone interview earlier today, Rendell called the matter "ludicrous," because he said he does not make any money from natural gas drilling, and would not "get a dime" if New York allowed fracking in its borders.

Rendell said Element pays him a $30,000 fee for his work, but that the money is not tied to any natural gas investment performance. He also noted that Element invests in a number of other industries, including methane and wind energy.

"This idea that I'm a shill for natural gas companies is ludicrous," the former Democratic governor said. "I have no contact with [natural gas] companies and I don't advise them."

Having said that, Rendell said he believes that his relationship with Element should be disclosed going forward.

Does he acknowledge, then, that it was an oversight not to mention his work with Element?

"It’s an oversight only in procedure not substance," the onetime governor said, "because I do not advise natural gas companies or benefit from them, or make any money on them."

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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.



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