Blame it on the heat. Or, the start of the Olympics. Or, the ill-timed Associated Press investigation revealing how top anti-gas activists routinely distort science. Or, EPA’s decision to announce earlier that same week that Dimock’s water was, is and has always been safe to drink – demoralizing those who have dined-out on that talking point for years.
Whatever the reasons, Saturday’s anti-shale rally in Washington didn’t quite generate the volume of attendance and attention its organizers thought it would, and as a result, didn’t collect as many mentions in the press as they hoped it might. But neither the heat nor the hypocrisy kept EID away from the day’s proceedings – even as we struggled to understand why folks from areas where no shale development is taking place (New York) would travel to another city where no oil and gas development is taking place (Washington), to lobby for legislation that even the event’s organizers admit is going nowhere.
But hey, to be fair: some folks actually did show up to this thing, as the picture below makes clear. Writing in the Huffington Post today, a woman named Stefanie Penn Spear with a group called EcoWatch says the turnout exceeded 5,000 people. The police officers to whom I spoke at the event on Saturday put it closer to 1,500, and pictures like the one below suggest it could have even been smaller than that:
Does this look like 5,000 people to you? Apparently, to the Huffington Post, it does.
Phony attendance numbers aside, the other aspect of the day’s proceedings that could have definitely benefited from some independent fact-checking and verification was the speaker presentations themselves.
For starters, they all basically read off the same script, with two or three sentences reserved for a personal intro section, followed by a five-minute recitation of talking points that must have been scribbled in long before last week’s Associated Press article ran. How else to explain that at least half of the speakers at the podium cited that same discredited talking point about cancer rates in Texas that the the folks over at the Susan G. Komen Foundation debunked in that piece? These activists may be good at generating press, but from what I saw, it doesn’t appear that they’re any good at reading it.
Of course, given the background of those presenting, it wasn’t surprising that every single speaker failed to mention that hydraulic fracturing has been used since the 1940s, or that even the Environmental Protection Agency has, on at least a dozen occasions, confirmed that fracturing technology is safe and not responsible for any adverse impacts to groundwater. The presenters also failed to mention that regulators in over 15 U.S. States as well as the Groundwater Protection Council have all come to the same conclusion.
While facts and science were in short supply; hyperbole, sensationalism and creativity certainly were not. The first speaker provided a bit of a treat for the audience with her rendition of this “little light of mine.”
This was followed by a sermon, of sorts, about hydraulic fracturing. Though it’s not entirely clear to us which church this fellow belongs to:
But actually, what was even more interesting than the performances on stage were the opinions of some attendees who seem to think that everyone who doesn’t share their worldview is conspiring against them.
One such attendee – Ray Kimble – is a water hauler from Dimock, Pa., who just happens to be engaged in a lawsuit against a natural gas producer in that region. As mentioned earlier, the EPA recently joined the Pennsylvania DEP in declaring Dimock’s water is safe – once and for all. Like so many others in the audience, this attendee appears to refuse all objective assessments provided on the safety of hydraulic fracturing including those from the state and federal regulators who indicated after an extensive four year review that oil and natural gas development had no impacts on his water supply.
Climate change was another big theme at the event, with most speakers doing their best to ignore or minimize the fact that, thanks to natural gas, the United States is now leading the world – yes, leading it – in the annual percentage decrease in carbon dioxide. For this speaker below, that progress was not enough. For her, no energy is good energy unless it is delivered to us … from heaven:
With energy from heaven still eluding scientists, these activists relied on petroleum fueled vehicles to get them to and from Washington, D.C.
So, in the end, what was accomplished? Boil it all down, and what you have is a smaller-than-advertised turnout for a rally against a technology that’s been in use since the Truman administration; led by people where no shale development exists; doing their best to deny the jobs, revenue and opportunity that shale development makes possible to people they’ve never met; all while ignoring the obvious environmental and security benefits that natural gas continues to bring online.
So, in other words: nothing much at all.