Politician Working to Curb Pipeline Protestors Has Ties to Shadow Lobbyists
By Itai Vardi
A recent intensification in protests against Williams Partners' planned Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania prompted a state senator to propose legislation aimed at limiting demonstrations.
Last month, Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Martin (R-Norman) announced his intention to introduce legislation that would pass the costs of law enforcement responding to protests onto the demonstrators. Martin also helped introduce a different bill that would criminalize protests at natural gas facilities.
A DeSmog investigation has found, however, that Martin is intimately tied to an obscure group of lobbyists recently hired by Williams Partners.
State Legislators Against Pipeline Protestors
The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Williams Partners plans to construct the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline through its subsidiary, Transco. The $3 billion 200-mile project, which would transport fracked gas from the state's northern shales southward to the company's interconnecting pipeline systems, received federal approval earlier this year but still requires several state permits.
Grassroots and citizen opposition to the pipeline, which has been ongoing since the project's original proposal in 2014, has intensified in recent months. In February, activists built an encampment on the planned route near Conestoga in Lancaster county, which Scott Martin represents.
Led by the group Lancaster Against Pipelines, they signaled their willingness to engage in nonviolent direct action.
Yet in early May, a day after arranging a conference call between local first responders and North Dakota law enforcement officials who dealt with the Dakota Access pipeline protests, Martin published a legislative memo detailing his plan to propose a bill penalizing protestors. The memo, which directly referenced the Dakota Access pipeline demonstrations, is aimed at "shielding taxpayers against the additional costs resulting from protests." Martin is currently seeking cosponsors for his legislation.
Dallas Goldtooth: The Fight Against DAPL Is Not Over https://t.co/Jc3qjn8yyt #NoDAPL #StandWithStandingRock— IndigenousEnviroNet (@IndigenousEnviroNet)1498146068.0
Two weeks earlier, Martin was among a group of senators advancing a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Regan (R-Carroll Township) seeking to essentially criminalize civil disobedience and other forms of demonstrations at critical infrastructure sites, including gas pipelines and facilities. According to the bill, those who "impede or inhibit" the operations of the facility will be charged with a felony, face imprisonment and pay hefty fines.
Williams Hires Secretive Group with Ties to Sen. Martin
A recent disclosure by Transco to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) revealed that last year the company hired an entity generically called the Pennsylvania Advocacy Group LLC.
From Transco's latest financial report to FERC, showing a payment to Pennsylvania Advocacy Group LLC
State corporate records reveal that Pennsylvania Advocacy Group LLC was created in 2014 by five lobbyists from two different firms: Alan Novak, Angela Leopold and Dan Hayward from Novak Strategic Advisors, and David Feidt and Michael Musser from Community Networking Strategies LLC.
Novak, Leopold, Hayward and Feidt are also long-time top Pennsylvania Republican operatives. Musser runs a political action committee that supports politicians from both parties.
Although it does not have a website, state corporate records indicate that Community Networking Strategies is a subsidiary of the Harrisburg-based legal and lobbying firm McNees, Wallace & Nurick. While Community Networking Strategies is not officially registered as a lobbying firm in Pennsylvania, state disclosure records show that McNees, Wallace & Nurick is currently lobbying for several fossil fuel entities, including Gulf Oil Ltd, Industrial Energy Consumers of Pennsylvania and Sunoco Logistics.
Scott Martin is closely tied to Community Networking Strategies. According to his state senate financial disclosures, Martin worked at Community Networking Strategies immediately before starting his tenure as legislator in January.
Disclosing a position of "vice president," Martin described his professional activities in the company as "business development." The address he provided on the disclosure matches McNees, Wallace & Nurick's address for the firm's Lancaster Pennsylvania branch.
From Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Martin's financial disclosure, showing his work for the lobbying firm Community Networking Resources, a subsidiary of McNees, Wallace & Nurick
Martin's LinkedIn profile states that he worked for Community Networking Strategies between January 2016 and January 2017.
Community Networking Resources Fundraises for Sen. Martin
Apart for its business lobbying, Community Networking Resources also engages in political campaigning. According to Pennsylvania campaign finance records, in recent years the company has provided political support and fundraising services—including for Martin.
Michael Musser, whose two hats include Community Networking Resources and Pennsylvania Advocacy Group, runs a PACcalled Better Government for PA. A review of the PAC's records show that since 2008 it has contributed over $36,000 to Martin's PAC, Friends of Scott Martin. At the same time, Friends of Scott Martin hired Musser's Community Networking Resources on several occasions for fundraising services when Martin served as Lancaster County commissioner.
Lobbyist David Feidt, also of both Community Networking Resources and Pennsylvania Advocacy Group, is registered as the treasurer of Better Government for PA PAC.
By contracting with Pennsylvania Advocacy Group, Transco can potentially benefit from its deep ties to the state's GOP. From the Novak Strategic Advisors side of the firm, Alan Novak is former chairperson of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, while Dan Hayward served as the party's executive director. Angela Leopold served in the past in the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania.
From the Community Networking Resources side, David Feidt currently serves as chairperson of the Dauphin County Republican Committee. Feidt's twitter account continuously promotes the use of natural gas, including support for the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline.
In a conversation with DeSmog, Michael Musser confirmed that Pennsylvania Advocacy Group was formed jointly by the firms Community Networking Resources and Novak Strategic Advisors, but said his involvement in the company is minimal. He referred DeSmog to Dan Hayward from Novak Startegic Advisors. Hayward did not reply to several requests for comment. A spokesperson for Transco did not provide comment, either.
Martin denies his previous work for Community Networking Resources had any effect on his legislative efforts concerning pipeline protests. In an email to DeSmog, Martin responded to a series of questions:
Have you ever provided work for Transco as part of Pennsylvania Advocacy Group and/or in any other capacity?
"I have never provided work for Transco in any capacity and haven't done work for Pennsylvania Advocacy Group."
As senator, were you ever contacted by employees of Pennsylvania Advocacy Group and/or Community Networking Resources and/or Novak Strategic Advisors in relation to Transco's gas projects?
"As Senator, I was never contacted by these groups in relation to Transco's gas projects."
Did your ties to Community Networking Resources have any effect on your recent legislative efforts related to pipeline protesting?
"No, Community Networking Resources had no effect or involvement on my protestor legislation being worked on. I started that initiative to try to be proactive in our community having seen the aftermath and costs of the NDAPL protests. Having been heavily involved with Emergency Management as a commissioner and concerned about costs and impacts on our community is what motivated me to look at this legislation."
Do you currently receive any compensation from Community Networking Resources and/or its parent firm, McNees, Wallace & Nurick?
"I receive no compensation from any source except for my job as State Senator."
Can you describe your relationship with Mike Musser of Community Networking Resources? According to state campaign finance records, Musser's PAC contributed to your PAC in the past, while Community Networking Resources provided political consulting and fundraising for your PAC.
"Mike helped organize my annual fundraisers throughout my time as county commissioner. I was employed by CNR [Community Networking Resources] for a year after I left being a county commissioner, before starting with the Senate."
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
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theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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