It’s alarming that Ed Cox, the Republican state chairman, is a honcho with one of the biggest hydrofracking companies in the business — he’s on the board of directors of Noble Energy, for which he was paid upwards of a quarter-million dollars last year, and he and his wife hold $4.25 million of the company’s stock. What’s even worse is that he’s used his bully pulpit to badmouth Gov. Andrew Cuomo for dithering over whether to legalize hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York state.
State Republicans insist that there’s no conflict of interest because Noble, which is one of the industry’s big players, is not currently operating in New York state and has no intention of doing so even if the state legalizes the controversial natural gas extraction method.
Perhaps that’s true right now, and while Cox presumably has some knowledge about his company’s plans, never is a long time. Noble is already engaged in drilling over the gas-rich Marcellus Shale deposit in Pennsylvania, so it’s hard to believe, frankly, that the company would not eventually want to join the prospecting over the part of Marcellus that extends over the Southern Tier.
What Cox is doing may not be illegal, as the New York Public Interest Research Group told the Associated Press in Saturday’s Gazette story, but it certainly does raise ethical questions. If he doesn’t want to quit his board position and divest himself of his Noble holdings, he should at least keep quiet on the subject of hydrofracking when wearing his state GOP hat.