What A Biased Natural Gas Report Looks Like- Part I

Environment America last week – and its many state chapters across the country – released a report titled, “The Costs of Fracking.”  In that report researchers from – well that depends on what state you’re in – go through what they perceive as the monetary costs associated with the full life cycle of natural gas development.  What was most interesting about the report was the majority of “costs” the authors claimed would burden locals, are paid for by the industry and actually stimulate economic development.  It’s very telling of the report as whole.  We’re going to focus on the Pennsylvania (Penn Environment) and New York (Environment New York) versions for this particular post, but the document looks exactly the same across the board – no matter which organization claimed it as their own.

Who’s Report is This Again?

The report is co-authored by Tony Dutzik and Elizabeth Ridlington of Frontier Group and John Rumpler of the Environment America Research & Policy Center. Environment America, Penn Environment and Environment New York are all affiliates operating under different 501(c)(3) designations, as are their policy centers.  For this report, depending on what website or press release you used to access it, you will find the report is copyrighted by each organization individually.  In other words, you may come across the same report several times with different “owners,” but the authors remain the same.  We can only speculate as to why they would release it in such a manner.

Here’s what we do know, though.  Penn Environment is notorious for a certain photo they circulated last year during the horrible flooding our region experienced from Hurricane Lee.  The Harrisburg Patriot-News covered this in September 2011, excerpts below:

The anti-drilling environmentalist group Penn Environment posted a photo of a submerged drilling rig to its Facebook page and Tweeted it saying, “Here’s more evidence Marcellus Shale drilling pads should NOT be allowed in floodplains.”

Except the rig wasn’t in the Marcellus Shale.

It wasn’t even in the United States.

“Apologies folks,” Penn Environment later admitted: the photo was of a flooded rig in Pakistan.

Here’s a description of the Frontier Group, from their website (emphasis added):

Frontier Group is a think tank, producing ideas and research to promote a cleaner environment and a fairer and more democratic society…Since 1996, Frontier Group has produced more than 200 reports, white papers, fact sheets, op-eds and testimonies that document social problems and propose powerful solutions. Our work has helped pave the way for policy changes to expand America’s use of renewable energy, reduce our contribution to global warming, and protect the public from dangerous chemicals, among other advances.

Here’s what we know about the Frontier Group and their previous work with Penn Environment. Again covered by the Harrisburg Patriot-News, this time in March 2012.

Are environmental agendas compromised when they employ images from foreign countries to frighten American readers?

That’s a question some environmentalists are asking in light of a PennEnvironment report on pollution in United States rivers being published with a misleading photo from South Africa on the cover.

Although the photo purports to portray “toxic industrial pollution” spewing from a pipe into a waterway, the pipe is in fact inside a treatment plant — the opposite of pollution.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection learned Friday the pipe isn’t even in the United States.

… PennEnvironment on Thursday took no responsibility for the South African photo on the cover of its report, blaming the contractor that produced the report, the Frontier Group of Boston.

At the Frontier Group, the report’s lead author, Rob Keth, said he was not aware that the pipe was not discharging toxic industrial sludge into an actual river. He said he had simply searched the website, found the photo and used it — without checking other photos from the same photographer or making any other effort to verify its accuracy (emphasis added).

 

Penn Environment’s “Double Oops”- Photo from nogreenslime.com

Shall we take a look at their latest cooperative endeavor to scare the public without fact checking?

Wrong on “Fracking: The Process and Its Impacts”

From the PennEnvironment report (Page 7): Public debates about fracking often descend into confusion and contradiction due to a lack of clarity about terms. To the oil and gas industry, which seeks to minimize the perceived impacts, “fracking” refers only to the actual moment in the extraction process where rock is fractured by pumping fluid at high pressure down the well bore. Limiting the definition of fracking in this way also allows the oil and gas industry to include its long history of using hydraulic fracturing in traditional, vertical wells—a process with fewer impacts than the technology being used in oil and gas fields today—to create a false narrative about the safety of fracking.

  • We agree with the authors when they say a lack of clarity about terms creates confusion and contradiction; however, using incorrect terms to blanket a complex process only adds to this. There are several phases of development including site construction, drilling, hydraulic fracturing (stimulating), pipelines to put wells in production (midstream) and reclamation of the pads. Each phase involves different equipment, processes, and yes, risks, because no activity is risk free. In order to educate on the entire development process and reduce the confusion in the discussion, one must talk in terms relevant to each stage.

  • “The concept of non-straight line, relatively short-radius drilling, dates back at least to September 8, 1891, when the first U.S. patent for the use of flexible shafts to rotate drilling bits was issued to John Smalley Campbell (Patent Number 459,152) (Horizontal Drilling, page 2).” Horizontal well drilling was first used in Texon, Texas in 1929 and began being used commercially in the 1980s. Hydraulic fracturing was first used in the 1860s in Pennsylvania, New York, Kentucky and West Virginia; however, it was not until 1947 when the Stanolind Oil first used experimental stimulation and the process was patented by Halliburton Oil Well Cementing Company (Howco) in 1949. This is not new technology. The ability to develop shale reserves came from advances with existing, proven technology and processes.
  • Vertical development of natural gas wells does not have fewer impacts. Improvements in technology have made it so one well pad with horizontal wells can replace 24 vertical well pads, drastically reducing the surface impact of development in an area.

 

Stay tuned for Part II as we work our way through the rest of this 49-page report.

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