Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line partners PSE&G and PPL announced in their comments on the National Park Service's Draft Environmental Impact Statement earlier this week that they will "mitigate" for the permanent damage their new transmission line causes to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and the Appalachian Trail by way of a $30 - 40M "endowment" to "a not-for-profit organization with demonstrated expertise in land and resource conservation and successful collaboration with the Department of the Interior." They also share that they "have engaged and provided funds to a nationally respected land conservation organization to begin acquiring interests in private properties of high value to the Department of the Interior’s conservation mission in the area around DEWA, MDSR, APPA and Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge."
It looks like PSE&G and PPL have quite a perverted definition of the word "respected".
According to this NPS document, Internal Scoping Meeting Report. Susquehanna to Roseland Transmission Line Proposal And Right-of-Way Request. Environmental Impact Statement from October 2009, one of the "Action" (as opposed to "No Action", or denial) alternatives to be considered was an "Alternative that outlines the proposal with a framework for mitigation based on a conservation plan being developed in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy."
Despite PSE&G & PPL's attempts to be coy, it's obvious that their purported "respected land conservation organization" is the infamous corporate greenwasher, The Nature Conservancy.
Who is The Nature Conservancy, other than one of America's most prolific junk mailers? (Thanks for all those free address labels your contributors pay for -- I like to write nasty comments about The Nature Conservancy next to their logo before use.)
The Nature Conservancy describes themselves as "sleeping with the enemy" (well, someone is certainly getting screwed here, and it's not The Nature Conservancy), or as practicing "Development by Design". Others opine that, "Perhaps TNC should turn itself into a for-profit, environmental mitigation company. Then again, perhaps it already has."
The Nature Conservancy receives mediocre ratings from charity watchdog groups, with 14% of annual income spent on "administrative costs". Let's see, 14% of $40M is $5.6M of additional costs you will pay in your electric bill to fund The Nature Conservancy's fat cats like CEO Mark Tercek, who pulled in $493,993 in compensation in 2009. You'll also be supporting the other 22 officers, directors, trustees and key employees who make up their highest compensated employees. On this list are 3 individuals making between $400 - 500K, 6 making between $300 - 400K, 12 making between $200 - 300K and 2 bringing home between $100 - 200K. See The Nature Conservancy's 2009 IRS Form 990 here.
But that's chump change in comparison to the real swindle going on here. What The Nature Conservancy does is buy up private land "for conservation" at a reasonable price, then resell it at a much higher price to the federal, state or local government for use as a park, nature preserve, recreation area, etc. That's where they make their real money. So, if we look at the Susquehanna-Roseland bribe through this lens, it is also the taxpaying citizens of the United States who get screwed in this deal because The Nature Conservancy is playing the part of the well-heeled front man, or real estate broker, for the power companies and the National Park Service, who will eventually buy this land from The Nature Conservancy to complete the "mitigation." How much will the federal government eventually spend as the ultimate purchaser of the $40M of "mitigation" land from The Nature Conservancy, in order to complete the deal to expand the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area? Or will this land, paid for in your electric bill, be "donated" to the NPS by The Nature Conservancy? That part isn't clear, but my guess is that The Nature Conservancy doesn't do anything for free. But, of course, PSE&G and PPL are still keeping the details of this "deal" under wraps. If it was such a great deal for the public, they'd be so proud of it that they'd be anxious to show it off, don't you think?
As a comparison, a truly "nationally respected" conservation organization would be The Sierra Club, but then again, The Sierra Club would never accept corporate blood money. Although some have told me my opinion is "wrong," I have yet to be persuaded to change it. However, in an effort to provide for the free flow of different opinions, here's a link to a Time magazine blog post about the recent brouhaha regarding Sierra Club's past acceptance of millions from Chesapeake. Further, I'm really not a fan of how this is being spun to portray the WV Coal Association as a poor, downtrodden victim. If this outs me as "not a true environmentalist," so be it. As well, I am opposed to fracking, but this isn't a fracking blog, so let's get back on topic. If you want to continue this off-topic conversation, you're free to email me.
The National Park Service employees are being turned into stooges and their EIS process is being utilized as cover for a big money swindle of electric consumers taking place between the politically appointed Director of the Interior, Ken Salazar, and Susquehanna-Roseland project sponsors PSE&G and PPL, with the assistance of corporate greenwasher, The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy's part in this charade involves "administration" of PSE&G and PPL's "mitigation" purchase of inferior quality parcels of land on the fringes of the current parks as a consolation prize to the citizens of the United States, who will lose the most scenic vistas of their park to an unnecessary electric transmission line. For 61 million of these citizens in the PJM Region, insult will be added to injury by having the cost of the $40M bribe (plus 12.93% interest) added to their electric bill for the next 50 years. This is outrageous!
Almost 10 years ago, The Washington Post did an expose of the corruption going on at The Nature Conservancy, which triggered a Senate investigation and caused them to pretend to clean up their act for a short time.
Range magazine also did a piece about The Nature Conservancy, with the opinion, "Unless we as a people are willing to accept the continued loss of not only private property and individual rights, but of large portions of our national culture and customs as well, the Nature Conservancy must be brought to heel. Right now, it is a well-fed and generally admired beast leading us in a wild run that is as destructive in its seemingly friendly character as it is in its seldom-seen attacks. This is no errant clumsy puppy we can finally calm. It is a runaway predator that will turn on us in defense of its territory. The Nature Conservancy is the wolf we raised ourselves, the grizzly we fed from the table. The monster we made with indifference. If it is left to go on growing, it will be the master and we the obedient slaves." And again, I'm told I'm "wrong" for including this link. I do realize there is an agenda at work in this article, however, it does a nice job of unmasking The Nature Conservancy's scam and their continued attack on private property rights. I am a fierce defender of private property rights, but if you believe in the taking of private property to serve some other party's idea of a higher purpose, you're certainly entitled to that opinion. Just don't try taking my property on that basis, because you'll have a fight on your hands.
The excellent Range piece talks about The Nature Conservancy's board and trustees, comprised of corporate bigwigs, like Anne E. Hoskins, PSE&G's federal and state governmental affairs director (i.e., political schmoozer).
The Nature Conservancy is like a toilet: Every now and then it needs to be thoroughly scrubbed and flushed.