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SUNY Spokesperson Tells Journalist What to Write

Yesterday, I published this blog post about SUNY signing a $22 million contract to buy hydrofracked natural gas for five of its campuses. It was interesting that the VP of EnergyMark—the vendor who got the lucrative contract—stressed that SUNY didn’t want the company’s press release to mention anything about fracking “because of the political nature” of the controversial drilling technique.

After numerous phone calls, SUNY spokesperson David Belsky finally replied via email:

Buck –
The word “hydrofracking” – who said it, and who didn’t – is irrelevant to what this story should be about. The EnergyMark contract was achieved by five SUNY campuses working together to reduce costs. In fact, it’s one component of a larger, collaborative energy buying program that SUNY uses to bring all kinds of energy sources to campuses, saving our system approximately $1.5 million a year.

I disagree. I think the story is about how purposefully misleading SUNY is to the taxpayers of New York State. Do all New Yorkers agree that fracking is a good idea? No. That’s why SUNY didn’t want it known that they had signed a $22 million contract to buy natural gas produced this way.

SUNY is neck-deep in the drive to frack. UB has hosted seminars advocating the practice. Note that state geologist Langhorne B. “Taury” Smith Jr. was scratched from the speakers list because the State Education Department had barred him from talking publicly about fracking after he created controversy with his pro-fracking remarks. Consider the SUNY Fredonia Shale Research Institute, supported by several fossil fuel companies. Sources tell me UB is planning a big, team-taught course on the shale phenomenon this fall. Here’s the head of EnergyMark speaking at the last one:


SUNY greenwashes its image with this list of renewable energy accomplishments. Why not include this new deal to buy fracked natural gas and pipe it in to five campuses?

Here’s my message to you, David Belsky: You are out of line telling me what this story should be about. You’ve been a mouthpiece for SUNY administration ever since your days campaigning to be Trustee and President of the Student Association:

You are the paid spokesperson for the State University of New York, yet you don’t return phone calls from reporters. You are a brown-noser who thinks it’s cute to spout platitudes like “Hakuna matata,” as you did in this commencement speech at SUNY Binghamton in 2008.

The issue of fracking is of great concern to many New Yorkers, and SUNY has been caught downplaying its support of the practice. The most you can offer in defense is a lame, three sentence reply in an attempt to change the subject.

Have a nice weekend, sir. And don’t tell me what my stories “should be about.”



  • NYShaleGasNow

    “UB has hosted seminars
    advocating the practice. Note that state geologist Langhorne B. “Taury”
    Smith Jr. was scratched from the speakers list because the State
    Education Department had barred him from talking publicly about fracking after he created controversy with his pro-fracking remarks.”

    Actually, Dr. Smith did speak at UB as scheduled.  But for some reason they never posted the video.  It was kicked loose months later under FOIL.  The whole thing was covered in two posts here (including YouTube links to the lecture, which was informative, but not controversial, or full of advocacy):

  • Charley_Tarr
  • Jim_Holstun

    Mr. Belsky would seem to be almost as incompetent as the EnergyMark VP, with the one saying “Don’t talk about hydrofracking” as if that settled the matter, and the other saying “Yeah, we’re hydrofracking, but I hope nobody finds out about it!” There’s some good news in the incompetence of the corporate shills.

    Interesting comment from “NYShaleGasNow” (your parents must really have hatred you) below that Foghorn T. Langhorne B. “Taury” Smith Jr. pulled his video from the UB website, since it underlined the integration of state regulatory agencies and the capitalist envirorapists they are supposed to regulate. But shame on UB for hosting a corporate PR-fest in the guise of an actual academic conference.

  • Really nice point. I am a student of the SUNY system, and whenever fellow students and I attempt to discuss the dangers of hydro-fracking with campus PR -whose information about the controversial practice has been, in a word, misleading- the conversation has been immediately shut down. I’m all for having an open conversation. If the benefits of hydro-fracking really seemed to out way the dangers, I would shut my mouth. At this point, it seems that there is a lack of long-sighted vision when it comes to energy. SUNY wants the cheapest the fastest, which, in my opinion, is not a great goal for an institution of higher education-where students are supposedly made to think about “the big picture”. Thank you for posting this article. I think the response you got to inquiries is appalling. 

  • Charley_Tarr

     Senator Mark Grisanti,

    It was my sincere honor to have spoken with you days prior to your
    election on the subject of hydro fracture.  I have always shared very
    publicly that you have never wavered in your considerations and
    representations from the moment of that conversation.  At times, I have
    even offended my brothers and sisters in the environmental movement as I
    have endlessly demanded fair and honest writing and representations
    from them.

    It was my sincere honor to have federally delivered Buck Quigley’s
    outstanding work alongside my own observations and concerns in relation
    to the original (and horrendous) PHEEIA Drafts of UB2020.  Again, this
    was a moment in which you rose and delivered strong bi-partisan
    leadership with sane compromise.

    I was my sincere honor to have delivered Chip Northrup and Helen
    Slottje to meet with you on the topic of Home Rule, many weeks before
    the historic court decisions were reached in Dryden and Middlefield.  I
    remain with a revised copy of Senator Seward’s Bill….changes that return
    the legislation to the original intention of simple clarity.

    It was my sincere honor to have forwarded a full copy of the Hydro
    Fracture Health Impact Assessment, my friend Dr. Larysa Dyrszka, a
    contributing author and the coordinator of the effort.  I am concerned
    to know if you read it….particularly as Governor Cuomo and the
    Republican Senate failed to fund it in the budget.
    Isn’t it fantastic
    how Environment and Education and Health and Ethics and Honor are all
    so deeply intertwined?  They are palpable, breathable with all the
    sensory potency of the delicious air in Chuck Falletta’s kitchen on a
    busy afternoon of dinner preparations.

    Here’s the damnedest thing and the reason that I hope you read
    Larysa’s fine work.  I do not believe that we would have worked so hard
    on SUNY in the last two years to allow some jackass to consign the
    students to concentrated radiological exposure.  Speaking of kitchens,
    here’s a recipe for you…

    1 Becquerel= 27.027 Picocuries   (RADIATION)

    That’s Becquerel-not-Bechamel (years ago, Chuck taught me to pull a perfect Carbonara)

    Start with Dr. Marvin Resnikoff, Ph.D., Radioactive Waste Management
    Associates, September 2011.  Let me help with the Abstract…Our friend
    Marvin demonstrates that the radiation arrives right in the pipe…cook
    your Carbonara, cook your lungs.  The closer you are to well source in
    PA, the worse it gets.

    International Atomic Energy Agency  overview

    p 50-info on radiation in the oil and gas industry; p 64-info on
    waste management p 67 recommended regulatory approach; p 78 waste
    management facilities; p 92 dosimetry

    How about an ICRP NORM management strategy?

    Just for fun, this is what Norway is doing… 

    Mark, I remember a Saturday morning 2-years ago when you honored me
    with an 8:00 AM return phone call to my home.  It was clear that you had
    awoken that morning with determination and devotion toward becoming a
    New York State Senator.  On the occasion you remain with the same devotion and you are committed to winning the next election, I hope
    you will phone me again. 
    The man who leads New York State above and
    away from this insanity is the man with a genuine bid for the White
    House.   Evil is all that will succeed in the presence of your silence.

  • Charley_Tarr

     My environmental colleagues should be extremely proud of the wisdom,
    devotion, integrity and honesty that they have patiently  brought to
    nearly 3-years of the hydro fracture debate in Pennsylvania and New

    Absolute in juxtaposition, Industry has continually and perpetually
    either lied or skewed the foundations of conversations with
    creative semantics.

    I greatly admire Mark Grisanti as a person.  I believe he has
    demonstrated an astounding potential for future leadership on past
    occasions.  I am saddened, concerned that influences surrounding the
    ‘Office’ of  Mark Grisanti are desiring for hydro fracture to succeed
    and for our intoxicated dependency on fossil fuels to continue

    I predict that the ‘Race- for-the-60th’ will be a single-issue event.

    I am indelibly certain that Senator Grisanti’s opportunities to
    demonstrate leadership on this issue-of-the-decade are quickly
    evaporating.  Make no mistake that the clock has been running on the
    failure of the Chair of the Senate Environmental Committee to rise and
    act in a manner beyond silent contemplation and complacency.

    Semantics are not a suitable substitution for debate

    Neutrality and Silence are not suitable substitutions for Leadership

  • Charley_Tarr

    RADIUM in well water from coal-ash ponds is the leading story this morning on CNN

    Take time to listen to the podcast as it summarizes beautifully the silence accomplished by industry within buyout legal settlements provided to the desperately ill and financially ruined.

    Imagine the Power Authority quietly purchasing your next-door neighbor’s property, bulldozing the house  and sealing the water well with concrete……planting lovely pine saplings as a full demolition crew and scores of trucks depart within a single day.


  • In the past year, the Harpur Forum, a part of SUNY Binghamton, hosted 2 programs on hydro-fracking, both of which indicated it can be done safely. At one there were 4 panelists, all linked to gas industry. No full disclosure there! At the other, the speaker was from Penn state, and had a background of working with the Governor. The SUNY bias in favor of hydro-fracking is pretty obvious. 

  • Charley_Tarr

     Technologically Enhanced Naturally
    Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM):

    The use of lubricants and “slickwater” additives along with hydraulic
    fracturing for oil and gas production have been shown to mobilize naturally
    occurring radioactive materials, including uranium- 238, radium-226 and
    radon-222.  This has been identified as one of the greatest challenges facing the
    American gas industry today. Of these, radon is of special concern because as a gas it is extremely mobile, and it is
    intensely radioactive. Exposure by inhalation or ingestion typically
    results in migration to the lungs, which are susceptible to damage from its
    nuclear decay; exposure to radon is considered the second leading cause of lung
    cancer after tobacco smoking.

  • EthicsInJournalism

    I really have a problem with what was said in this blog.  I don’t have any issue with you objecting to the concept of fracking, which is clearly controversial and, in the best scenario, has many questions which still need answering.

    However, where YOU crossed the line Mr. Quigley, is in attacking Mr. Belsky on such an immediate and personnel level.  You instantly lost your credibility and your “journalistic” ethics when you did.

    This young man is speaking at his 2008 graduation, right?  That makes him probably 25 or 26 today.  Do you really think he has any say in this?  Do you think HE is the evil puppetmaster who we should all be fearing?

    But simply because he didn’t give you the answer you wanted, either in content or in length, you decided it’s perfectly fine to dig up “dirt” on him?  “Horrible” things like him striving to take a leadership position in his college, or give a speech to his classmates that he clearly earned as a result of that hard work? He is not a relative or friend of mine, but if he were, I’d be even more disgusted. Perhaps SUNY should not have entered into this contract.  Perhaps fracking is not the best way to access natural gas.  Let’s discuss those issues — and ONLY those issues.

    Channel 2 likes to talk about how they “hold people in power accountable.”  It’s time we as a society recognize and accept that journalists are among the most powerful people alive today, and they can pretty much write and report whatever they want, without consequence.  It’s wrong, and your readers should hold you accountable when you cross that line of decency.

  • Charley_Tarr

    Dear ‘EthicsInJournalism’,

    Please note th

  • Mike Knapp

    Almost every natural gas well that has been drilled in the last 30 years has been hydraulically fractured.