David Smith selected as chair of New York State Business Council

The National Fuel Accountability Coalition (NFAC) has released this statement about National Fuel Gas CEO David Smith's recent appointment as chair of the Business Council of New York State INC: “New York’s business community needs a forward-thinking, honest, accountable, and engaged leader to tackle the challenges posed by the worst economy since the Great Depression. Unfortunately, in National Fuel CEO David F. Smith, the Business Council of New York State has selected a leader with none of these qualities. As the highest-paid executive in Western New York, Smith has proven himself to be the least engaged and accountable executive in the region. For the past two years, as CEO of National Fuel, Western New York’s gas utility, Smith has outright refused to meet with the community regarding efforts to address the region’s home energy crisis. The National Fuel Accountability Coalition, an umbrella group of Western New York organizations led by People United for Sustainable Housing and VOICE Buffalo, has been seeking energy efficiency initiatives that address this crisis by insulating housing stock and creating green jobs. Rather than embrace this vision to tackle pressing economic and environmental challenges, Smith and National Fuel have ignored all requests for constructive engagement and pushed forward with a sham energy efficiency program that earmarks millions of dollars in ratepayer funds for television commercials that tout National Fuel’s brand. The Buffalo News has labeled Smith “Clueless about Community,” arguing that “Sopranos” sets the tone for Smith and National Fuel’s behavior. Smith and National Fuel filed a costly lawsuit against PUSH following a peaceful protest outside of company headquarters, and have followed up by threatening retributive action towards any organization that works with PUSH. Smith and National Fuel have repeatedly lied to the press, the public, and regulators in characterizing PUSH’s agenda. National Fuel under Smith’s leadership appears to be entering a deeply unstable period, due to its headfirst plunge into risky hydrofracturing in the Marcellus Shale. The company has exponentially increased its capital spending and drilling in Pennsylvania in the last two years, despite growing environmental concerns surrounding hydrofracturing. In 2010, one National Fuel well experienced a BP-style blowout that resulted in a historic fine from Pennsylvania’s DEC. Currently, National Fuel’s stock is down 26% from its 52-week high. In July, it tripped a single stock circuit breaker on the New York Stock Exchange after the company announced that it had failed to secure a joint venture partner in the Marcellus Shale. With Smith at the helm, the Business Council will likely pursue a petty, short-sighted, and divisive agenda, rather than work to address the huge economic challenges facing the state. His appointment is a lost opportunity for true business leadership and will likely do lasting damage to the state’s business community and economy.”