Hometown Newspaper Has Labeled CEO “Clueless about Community”
The Business Council of New York State has made a deeply regrettable choice in its selection of David F. Smith as chairman. As CEO of National Fuel Gas, Smith has proven himself to be a divisive, short-sighted, and short-tempered leader. He is wholly incapable of rising to meet the most basic challenges of corporate citizenship in Western New York, much less the huge challenges posed by the worst economy since the Great Depression. Smith replaces Kenneth Adams who left the Business Council to lead the NYS Economic Development Corporation.
Smith is Western New York’s most reviled corporate leader. Smith’s hometown newspaper has labeled him “Clueless about Community” and compared him to Tony Soprano. Since 2009, he has refused to meet with community organizations challenging National Fuel to invest in weatherization programs that create green jobs and address Western New York’s home heating crisis. Rather than invest in these innovative energy efficiency programs that address the local poverty and jobs crisis, National Fuel currently chooses to devote millions in ratepayer funds to television commercials that build the company’s brand.
In 2010, in response to a peaceful assembly outside National Fuel’s corporate headquarters, Smith and National Fuel filed a frivolous and costly lawsuit against one of these groups, People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH). Smith threatened to take retributive action against any group that worked with PUSH. Smith’s actions have inspired the formation of the National Fuel Accountability Coalition (NFAC), an umbrella group of organizations representing thousands of ratepayers throughout National Fuel’s Western New York service territory.
As Smith takes this act to the state level, the New Deal for New York campaign, representing community organizations across the state, and its allies will work to hold Smith and the Business Council accountable at the state level as they continue to push for tax break for New York’s wealthiest, while cutting jobs and services for the rest of New Yorkers.
Smith made $7.1 million in 2010, or roughly $3,500 per hour, on the strength of steady utility profits and a spike in National Fuel’s hydraulic fracturing activities in the Marcellus Shale. There are already signs that he will pursue an as chair of the Business Council by protecting his personal profits by promoting hydraulic fracturing and supporting the tax break for millionaires set to go into effect in December 2011.
New York needs programs that create jobs for New Yorkers, and we need them now. There is proactive action to create jobs that can and must be taken by our state’s elected leaders, and that action must happen today