A Democratic senator has asked for an investigation of state Republican Chairman Ed Cox for his campaign supporting hydraulic fracturing while he has a personal stake worth millions of dollars in a gas drilling company.
Sen. Timothy Kennedy of Buffalo asked the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics to investigate Cox for “unethical or potentially illegal” actions based on a report by The Associated Press on Wednesday. Cox is criticizing Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s indecision over whether to allow hydrofracking and the upstate jobs it could provide.
The state Republican Committee hasn’t yet committed to a position on hydrofracking for natural gas.
The commission “should investigate whether or not Mr. Cox is using his position as a chair of one of the state’s major parties to shill for the billion-dollar gas industry and his own financial benefit,” Kennedy stated in a letter provided Friday.
GOP spokesman David Laska noted Cox has been open about his holdings and said Kennedy is taking a cheap political shot. Cox said the company has no plans to operate in New York.
Cox and his wife hold up to $4.25 million in stock in Houston-based Noble Energy. Records also show Cox collected $250,000 to $350,000 in 2012 alone for his longstanding role as a member of the company’s board of directors, according to state records.
Cox told the AP, however, that he probably wouldn’t be using the hydrofracking issue as an example of his criticism of Cuomo if Noble Energy operated in New York. Cox has said Cuomo has delayed his decision on whether to allow hydrofracking and the upstate jobs it could produce for three years for his own political benefit. Cuomo’s his liberal and environmentalist base oppose the practice as a threat to the environment. Cuomo says he’s waiting for another study by his health commissioner.
The spokesman for the ethics commission didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cox doesn’t appear to be violating any laws or regulations, but his relationship as party chairman and his personal stake in the industry creates a “murky” situation, said the New York Public Interest Research Group, a good-government advocate.
The state Republican Committee defended Cox’s actions and criticized Kennedy.
“Ed Cox has been admirable in his full, voluntary public disclosure of his ties to Noble Energy, a successful company with no stake in New York state,” said committee spokesman David Laska.
“By electing a new Republican majority to the County Legislature on Tuesday, Erie County told Sen. Kennedy that he should spend more time worrying about jobs for western New Yorkers and less trying to score cheap political headlines,” he added.
Page 2 of 2 - The Buffalo News first reported Kennedy’s request.
Kennedy also called for an investigation into whether Cox should have registered as a Noble lobbyist.
Cox, however, had told the AP that Noble Energy has no operations in New York and has no plans to set up there if Cuomo approves hydrofracking for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale deposit. Noble drills in the massive Marcellus, but only in Pennsylvania, according to its website.