Energy In Depth

Fri, 2011-10-21 16:40Brendan DeMelle
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Gas Industry Front Group Called Out By RFK Jr Attempts To Spin Facts Yet Again

The oil and gas industry has a long history of resisting public accountability and protective standards, and generally avoiding tough questions about its practices and attacking its critics. Just yesterday, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. wrote a piece in the Huffington Post titled, “The Fracking Industry's War On The New York Times – And The Truth,” about this evasive behavior in the context of the industry’s current embrace of fracked unconventional gas and the many questions about the safety of fracking.

Kennedy (full disclosure - Bobby is my former boss and a good friend) applauded New York Times' reporter Ian Urbina for his investigative efforts in his latest installment titled, “Rush to Drill for Natural Gas Creates Conflicts With Mortgages,” part of the NY Times extensive and ongoing “Drilling Down” series on the numerous perils associated with the rush to drill for gas.

A short recap on what that story found: People have signed over a million oil and gas leases in the past decade, but the leases sometimes let gas companies use their land in environmentally risky ways. Banks are not paying attention and often don’t know about these leases, so they pass along mortgages to investors that carry undisclosed risks, which is analogous to the way that the sub-prime mortgage disaster unfolded. The conflicts between the leases and the mortgage rules are clear, verified and wide-reaching.

Infamous 'Energy in Depth' Front Group Goes on the Attack

As if on cue, the oil and gas industry demonstrated Kennedy’s point, almost instantaneously attacking Urbina, yet again. 

The fracked gas industry’s chief apologists – Energy in Depth (EID)** – which I previously revealed as a front group launched by some of the largest oil companies on the planet (despite its claims to “mom-n-pop” roots), posted a blog titled, “Lenders’ Bagels?,” desperately attempting to divert attention away from legitimate and serious questions raised by Urbina's New York Times story about the way that oil and gas leases impact mortgages. 

The EID piece is noteworthy for a couple reasons: It entirely ducks the very real conflicts that the New York Times highlighted, and it is riddled with factual inaccuracies.

Thu, 2011-06-23 15:58Carol Linnitt
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Economic Benefits of Unconventional Gas Drilling Overblown by Industry PR

A new poll suggests that Pennsylvanians are supportive of unconventional gas drilling in their state. Not because it is safe, but because they are convinced the economic benefits outweigh the risks to public health, water supplies and the environment. This kind of reasoning indicates that gas industry rhetoric is having an impact: advertise the benefits, downplay the risks, convince people that you know what you’re doing and there’s nothing to worry about.

And this is just what the industry has done. 

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pennsylvanians are a receptive audience to the extensive public relations campaigns waged by gas interests to confuse the public on the contentious issue of unconventional gas drilling. Between Exxon Mobil’s commercials, Chesapeake Energy’s first-person testimonials from “true Pennsylvanians,” and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association’s billboards lining the highway, industry is leaving no public opinion stone unturned.

Wed, 2011-06-15 16:14TJ Scolnick
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President Obama’s Fracking Panel Unmoved By Pennsylvanians’ Water Concerns

On Monday, the Natural Gas Subcommittee, from Energy Department Secretary Stephen Chu’s Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), held its second public meeting.  Around 400 people packed a cramped auditorium at Washington Jefferson College in western Pennsylvania to discuss the effects of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) on water supplies, air quality and other threats from the controversial practice.

The crowd split into two camps, those opposing and those supporting the highly contentious drilling method which has spread across Pennsylvania. Fracking opponents argued that fracking is a dangerous and destructive process that must be banned immediately, while those in favour yelled out “drill, baby, drill.”

Given the circumstances it was not surprising that the pro-frackers won the evening. This was due, in large part, to the work of gas industry front-group Energy in Depth who sent out emails to Pennsylvania and New York residents supportive of fracking, offering them airfare, hotels and meals to attend. Tickets to see the Pittsburgh Pirates play the New York Mets were even offered, although later retracted.

Fri, 2011-05-06 03:05Carol Linnitt
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Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Our Water, Health and Climate - Report

The United States is at the center of a high profile controversy over the threats posed by unconventional gas drilling, particularly surrounding the industry’s hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling techniques. Amidst the dirty energy industry’s rush to drill the last of America’s dwindling fossil fuel reserves, a growing number of independent scientists, politicians, environmental organizations and impacted citizens are urging the nation’s lawmakers to adopt a more cautious and informed approach to the fracked gas boom.

The oil and gas industry, however, is fighting back against calls for caution, suggesting that it has everything under control – much like it did prior to BP’s offshore drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a new report released today, “Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens Water, Health, and Climate,” DeSmogBlog details the concerns that scientists, cancer specialists, ecologists, investigative journalists and others have raised about the unconventional gas boom. Featuring original interviews and unpublicized reports, “Fracking The Future” delves into many of the key issues in the unconventional gas debate.

DeSmogBlog is calling for a nationwide moratorium on fracking, citing the fact that the potential impacts on water, health, and climate appear greater than previously understood. A moratorium is necessary to protect the public while fracking is studied much more thoroughly in order to determine if the risks of this practice outweigh the benefits. 

Mon, 2011-03-21 13:30Carol Linnitt
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Gas Industry Working Overtime to Smother Revived FRAC Act Efforts To Rein In Hydraulic Fracturing

Last week, US Senators Robert Casey (D-PA) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) reintroduced legislation to the Senate that would close the oversight gap that the gas industry has taken full advantage of since 2005. The “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act,” commonly known as the FRAC Act, would close the Halliburton Loophole in Dick Cheney’s infamous 2005 Energy Policy Act, which exempted hydraulic fracturing from the auspices of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

Hydraulic fracturing is used in 90% of all unconventional natural gas wells in the U.S. and involves the injection of millions of gallons of water, sand and dangerous chemicals into the ground. The bill would also require that the natural gas industry publicly disclose the chemicals they use to drill for unconventional gas. These chemicals, including potent cancer-causing agents, are protected as industry trade secrets.

The FRAC Act was originally introduced as a set of twin bills to the House and Senate in 2009 but died in the last session of Congress. According to new supporter Senator Frank Lautenberg, the FRAC Act will give the EPA the necessary backing to, at the very least, properly investigate and assess the risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.

The industry’s aggressive lobbying campaign against the FRAC Act is part of a larger agenda to limit federal oversight of gas drilling. The legal void created by the Energy Policy Act in 2005 essentially crippled the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to properly monitor the boom in gas fracking activity, especially the potentially serious threat to drinking water supplies. A long history of industry pressure on EPA scientists is also present on this issue, leading to the narrowing of scope in the EPA’s investigations and the elimination of critical findings when it comes to certain fracking threats.

Fri, 2011-02-25 11:55Brendan DeMelle
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Natural Gas Industry Rhetoric Versus Reality

As the recent natural gas industry attacks on the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland demonstrate, the gas industry is mounting a powerful PR assault against journalists, academics and anyone else who speaks out against the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and other threats to public health and the environment from shale gas development. DeSmogBlog has analyzed some of the common talking points the industry and gas proponents use to try to convince the public and lawmakers that fracking is safe despite real concerns raised by residents living near gas drilling sites, whose experiences reveal a much more controversial situation.

DeSmogBlog extensively reviewed government, academic, industry and public health reports and interviewed the leading hydraulic fracturing experts who challenge the industry claims that hydraulic fracturing does not contaminate drinking water, that the industrial fracking fluids pose no human health risk, that states adequately regulate the industry and that natural gas has a lighter carbon footprint than other fossil fuels like oil and coal.

Below are ten of the most commonly repeated claims by the industry about the ‘safety’ of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional natural gas development, along with extensive evidence showing their claims are pure rhetoric, and not reality.

Thu, 2011-02-17 03:35Brendan DeMelle
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‘Energy In Depth’ Was Created By Major Oil and Gas Companies According to Industry Memo

Update 11:35am PST: IPAA link is broken again, so use this link to view the memo.

Update 9:48am PST: It looks like the IPAA link works again. Here is the original link. In case similar access issues arise, I will continue to host the document at DeSmogBlog.

*Update 9:03am PST: It appears IPAA may have removed the memo from its website today in the wake of this report, so I have attached it to this post as a PDF and updated the links in the post so the memo is available for the world to see.

DeSmogBlog has uncovered an industry memo revealing that ‘Energy In Depth’ is hardly comprised of the mom-and-pop “small, independent oil and natural gas producers” it claims to represent.  In fact, the industry memo we found, entitled “Hydraulic Fracturing Under Attack,” shows that Energy In Depth “would not be possible without the early financial commitments” of major oil and gas interests including BP, Halliburton, Chevron, Shell, XTO Energy (now owned by ExxonMobil), and several other huge oil and gas companies that provided significant funding early on and presumably still fund the group’s efforts.

According to the 2009 memo, Energy In Depth was orchestrated as a “major initiative to respond to…attacks” and to devise and circulate “coordinated messages” using “new communications tools that are becoming the pathway of choice in national political campaigns.”

Energy In Depth (EID) is featured in the news a lot these days, chiefly for attacking the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, but also for its extensive efforts to malign the excellent reporting done by ProPublica, the Associated Press and other outlets. EID seems to attack everyone who attempts to investigate the significant problems posed by hydraulic fracturing and other natural gas industry practices that have been shown to threaten public health and water quality across America.

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