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COMMENTARY

Bob McCarthy: The GOP's behind-the-scenes power broker

Charlie Joyce finds his way out of Wellsville every once in a while – even all the way to Crosby, Tx.

That’s where the oil and gas supply executive and major GOP donor turned up a few days ago, right next to President Trump, who likewise found his way out of Washington to sign an executive order easing regulations on energy pipelines. And when Fox News reported the event back on April 12, there was Joyce at his side offering applause and wearing a major smile.

As The Buffalo News reported back in 2016, Joyce may be the most influential New York Republican you never heard of. That’s because he goes about his business in a quiet and unassuming way, even if he has been good to Catholic Charities, Southern Tier causes, and nearby universities like Alfred and St. Bonaventure.

He remains one of only two New Yorkers on the Republican National Committee, and has been a member of the Executive Roundtable of the Republican Governors Association. He travels in lofty money circles like the RNC’s Regents, the National Republican Senate Committee’s Majority Makers Club and the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Chairman’s Club.

President of Otis Eastern, the big pipeline and oil supply firm in Allegany County, Joyce feels more comfortable in some oil field and mud spattered coveralls than black tie Manhattan fund raisers – where he’s also a regular. He’s an official “lay low” guy, who quietly goes about his business but can end up standing next to the president.

“This something I’ve been lobbying for,” Joyce said last week, referring to the executive orders Trump signed at the Texas ceremony expediting oil and gas pipeline projects. It’s the kind of action Joyce wishes his own state government would embrace, but knows won’t happen. He has long complained that he must dispatch his large workforce across the border to Pennsylvania’s oil fields because of New York’s strict prohibitions against fracking.

So, while he was also traveled to Texas to continue support for the new, international training center for oil and gas workers established in Crosby by the industry and its unions, Joyce was a natural to witness the presidential signature.

“I really didn’t expect to be up there standing next to him as he signed it, but there I was,” he said. “It was cool.”

At the ceremony, Trump’s jabs at New York and Gov. Andrew Cuomo over its pipeline regulations stemming from environmental concerns brought another smile to Joyce.

“He mentioned New York State several times as one of the states where we can’t move our product, blocking energy growth,” he said. “And he mentioned Cuomo – rather strongly.”

The governor, meanwhile, didn’t spare his own jabs at Trump. He thinks states should have a say in regulations that protect rivers and streams from pollution.

“States must have a role in the process for siting energy infrastructure like pipelines, and any efforts to curb this right to protect our residents will be fought tooth and nail,” Cuomo responded.

Trump might as well have aimed his pen at Cuomo while signing his executive orders. In 2017, the state Department of Environmental Conservation rejected a National Fuel permit for the Northern Access pipeline, though a federal appeals court in Manhattan invalidated the DEC’s action on Feb. 5. Now the company still needs approvals from the Army Corps of Engineers and faces lawsuits.

So Joyce is OK with how the president approaches the situation, even if it has taken him a while to warm up to his fellow New Yorker. He backed Trump in 2016, sort of by default. But now Joyce cannot argue with the way he is addressing causes he considers important.

“Like everybody else, I have qualms about the way he approaches things,” he said. “But dammit, I have to admire how he sticks to his guns.”

You’re probably not going to see Joyce that much more on national TV. But you can bet he will remain involved in Republican causes, and that he has had a hand in what takes place behind the scenes.

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