George Mitchell second most generous donor of 2013

A Houstonian came in just under Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a list of the country's most generous people.

George P. Mitchell, a Houston pioneer in fracking, died last year, but his commitment to good environmental stewardship made him No. 2 on this year's Philanthropy 50, the list of the country's most generous givers.

Mitchell, John and Laura Arnold, and Richard and Nancy Kinder made the 2014 Philanthropy 50, a list compiled by the Chronicle of Philanthropy of the country's most generous people when it comes to charitable giving.

Mitchell, who pioneered hydraulic-fracturing for finding natural gas, was No. 2 on the list at $750 million, about $200 million less than Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan's total donations of $992 million.

When Mitchell died in July, he left an estimated $750 million to his family foundation, which supports conservation and sustainability. A key goal for the foundation: to make sure the fracking technology he created doesn’t cause serious environmental damage.

Although top donors in 2013 gave little to environmental causes, the Mitchell foundation counts among its assets a 5,600-acre preserve in the  Piney Woods of East Texas and supports water quality and conservation programs in Texas to influence new policies at a time when drought has become a crisis in the West. The Mitchell foundation also supports the nonpartisan Texas Clean Energy Coalition and other groups that lobby against traditional coal-plant construction.

Coming in at No. 5 on the list was John and Laura Arnold, who gave $296 million in 2013 and loaned $10 million to the National Head Start Association in October to keep 7,000 children in programs that have either closed or were set to be shuttered as a result of the federal government shutdown.

Last year the Arnolds gave $236 million to the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, which supports programs to improve the reliability of scientific research, K-12 public education, the criminal justice system, and public policy practices.

Another Houston couple, Richard and Nancy Kinder, gave $70 million to their Kinder Foundation last year, making them 28th on the Philanthropy 50 list. Kinder is co-founder and chairman of Kinder Morgan, an energy company in Houston.

The Kinder Foundation primarily supports green-space projects, education groups and programs aimed at improving the quality of life in Houston. The philanthropy has awarded grants totaling more than $230 million since its inception, including $50 million last year to the Houston Parks Board for the Bayou Greenways 2020 project, which will create 1,500 acres of new parkland in Houston and connect 150 miles of trails along the area’s bayous. It also gave $10 million to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston for a new building.

Total giving last year, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, was $7.7 billion last year, a 4 percent rise from 2012. The complete list of the Philanthropy 50 can be found here.

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