The trial in Dimock over water contamination allegations continued this week as anti-fracking activist and former Cornell professor, Anthony Ingraffea, most known for his debunked studies on methane, took the stand. Ingraffea is often cited by media as an “expert” but his comments on the stand this week show that title isn’t exactly merited. Not only did Ingraffea admit that he is biased against fracking, he also told the courtroom that he has no experience whatsoever with shale development.
During cross-examination, Ingraffea was asked,
Q. In fact it goes beyond opposition, does it not, sir? You are self admitted advocate?
A. I am a self admitted advocate, yes.
“You can read any of the papers I participated in writing and you can easily detect the words we use, the phraseology…predilection. I wouldn’t say bias…it’s too strong a word. But, in the conclusions and in the summaries and the abstract, it’s clear what we owe people to provide by reading this paper. And that’s a form of advocacy. And we have advocacy-laced…advocacy-laced words and phrases in our papers.”
In the second day of his cross-examination, he was asked about a picture taken during a presentation he gave in 2010 for the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC), a group whose website leaves no question that it want to ban fracking. It contains a banner at the top declaring “you can’t drink natural gas” and “protect our communities from natural gas drilling.”
Nonetheless, during testimony Ingraffea maintained it was an educational, not an anti-fracking presentation:
Q. Do you recognize yourself in that photograph sir?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Okay. Who is the — what is it — my vision is not so great. GDAC coalition dot O.R.G.
A. I’m not sure, I don’t know that — there are many coalitions and organizations pro and con with the word frack is there I suppose since it’s crossed out it’s an anti frack organization. I do recognize where it was taken
A. Here in Pennsylvania at an invited presentation, I was giving to a public audience open to the public to lecture on the development of shale gas. It was not an activist meeting it was not meant to have me protest, it was in, I believe, a high school auditorium or college auditorium or library auditorium open to the public it was advertised as me giving a public presentation.
Here is the image being discussed:
Ingraffea goes on to say that the photograph itself was deceptive because “the podium is a long distance away from those frack signs which were inside the door.” So perhaps he really didn’t know that GDAC is a group that is very vocally opposed to fracking. But what about the event Marcellus Shale Exposed back in March 2012 where Ingraffea was the keynote speaker? Interestingly, former Dimock litigants, Craig and Julie Sautner, were headlining the event as well.
That event was organized by Berks Gas Truth (BGT) whose website banner reads: “Saying NO to Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania.”
Perhaps he also wasn’t aware of BGT’s standpoint on drilling, the event that was advertised this way:
“Environmental and social organizations throughout the state have been fighting their misleading claims with the facts. Those organizations are joining forces to bring an important symposium to Eastern Pennsylvania called Marcellus Shale Exposed this March featuring a virtual appearance by Gasland director Josh Fox and a keynote address by Dr. Anthony Ingraffea, Cornell University fracking expert and outspoken critic of drilling.”
“Craig and Julie Sautner of Dimock are among the panelists. They came to national attention when deliveries of clean water were cut off after three years by Cabot Oil & Gas, with permission of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, even though the well water of the affected families is still contaminated.”
Activists, organizers, and researchers from environmental and social organizations will join the speakers in leading the afternoon task forces. Adam Garber of PennEnvironment, Thomas Au of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club, Iris Marie Bloom of Protecting Our Waters, Michael Wood of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, Jay Sweeney of the Green Party of Pennsylvania, Matt Walker of the Clean Air Coalition, Wendi Taylor of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club, Julie Edgar of Lehigh Valley Gas Truth, Dennis Winters of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club and Wayne Kenton also of the Pennsylvania Sierra Club are among the leaders.
Organizations exhibiting at the event include the Pennsylvania League of Women Voters, the United Sludge-Free Alliance, Berks Gas Truth, Green Party of Pennsylvania, Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, PennEnvironment, Pipeline Safety Coalition, and the Orphaned Wells Project.
Ingraffea was also asked about another recent experience at a Colorado anti-fracking event during cross-examination:
Q. And, you have appeared before a number of organizations across the country. Do you remember appearing in Colorado for an organization called Fracking Sense?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And, I asked you about that in the deposition and you recently reviewed your testimony. You remember that, correct?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. You recall making the statement to that group that you would be lying if you said that every one of your papers on shale gas was entirely objective. Do you recall saying that?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. And you stand behind that, do you not?
Q. So, not all of your papers are entirely objective but, your oral testimony here in this courtroom, I’m sure you will tell me, is entirely objective; right?
A. Most certainly is.
What Ingraffea actually said at that meeting was,
“I’d be lying if I said that I don’t… that I haven’t entered any of the studies that I have participated in in the last five years that led to my being able to publically speak or publish in peer-review papers… I’d be lying if I told you I went into every one of those with an entirely objective, blank opinion. I didn’t know. I didn’t care. Whatever happened when the numbers were done, I’d be [inaudible]. I’d be lying if I said that. I’m sorry. [cross talk] It would be untrue.”
But to be fair, being an activist doesn’t automatically nullify a person from an area of expertise if they still have the qualifications and experiences to be distinguished as such. But Ingraffea even admitted that he doesn’t have these qualifications:
Q. Now you’re retired, but a professor emeritus, correct?
A. That’s correct.
Q. Now, I heard you try to compare yourself or contrast yourself with our expert Dr. Hilbert earlier this morning. The ladies and gentlemen will recall that. I think I heard you say that, after acknowledging you’re not a licensed petroleum engineer, that he is not one either; is that correct?
A. That’s correct.
Q. Would it surprise you to know that’s wrong?
A. He’s a licensed petroleum engineer. What I said is he doesn’t have a degree in petroleum engineering, which he does not.
Q. A licensed petroleum engineer?
Q. You are not?
A. No, I’m not.
Q. Right. So, let’s talk about your actual practical real world experience in the oil and gas business, okay? I’m not going to ask you about what you might do as a professor or sitting at a desk behind a computer doing simulations. I’m talking about field experience, so we understand one another, okay?
Q. How many oil or gas wells have you participated in the actual design, construction, drilling or completion?
A. That’s what I said.
Q. None. How many cement jobs have you actually participated in designing or conducting?
A. In an actual well as opposed experimental well, none.
Q. I’m talking a real world here actual well, okay. None. Correct?
Q. There was reference to cement bond logs. Have you ever conducted one or run a cement bond log on an oil or gas well
A. No, I have not.
Q. Have you performed integrity or pressure testing of an oil or gas well?
A. No, I have not.
Q. And, of course, we heard some reference to hydraulic fracturing. You’ve never participated in the hydraulic fracturing of an oil or gas well, have you, sir?
A. No, I have not.
Q. Have you ever observed hydraulic fracturing of an oil or gas well?
A. Not on a pad, no.
Q. By that you mean you looked at it on the screen, a computer screen in your office, is that right?
A. No…some distance away from a pad where fracking was occurring.
Q. What personal experience do you have with plugging or cementing an oil or gas well?
A. Absolutely none.
Ingraffea acknowledged this lack of experience to some degree back in 2013 during an interview with EcoWatch:
“The work with Schlumberger focused on various aspects of hydraulic fracturing. The only contact I ever had with shale gas development was 1983-1984. I spent my first sabbatical at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab working on what was then called the Department of Energy’s Eastern Devonian Shale Project. We were using computer simulation to try to understand how to fracture already fractured shale. [Shale already has natural fractures: see Ingraffea’s comments below.] But it turned out to be a dead end, nobody knew how to do it, it looked like an insoluble problem.”
In other words, his only experience with shale development was a project he worked on for one year over 30 years ago where he sat behind a computer using the technology available in the early 1980s that resulted in his belief that fracturing shale would be an impossible task. The actual technology and perfection of this process didn’t occur until 2004 in the Marcellus Shale, 20 years after Ingraffea had ceased to be a part of the research.
So let’s recap: Dr. Ingraffea has openly admitted his work is biased and advocacy laced, and now has admitted that despite discussing well integrity and fracking every chance he can get, he’s never actually been a part of anything that would give him real world experience to be an authority on those topics. Any experience he has was short-lived and took place decades before the technology was perfected. Isn’t it time reporters stopped referring to him as an “expert”?