hydraulic fracturing

Natural Gas Industry Rhetoric Versus Reality

Read time: 18 mins

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.

‘Energy In Depth’ Was Created By Major Oil and Gas Companies According to Industry Memo

Read time: 5 mins

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.**See updates below.

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.

New York Plans To Green Light Fracking In June

Read time: 2 mins

Coinciding with the end of its 7-month moratorium on “fracking” for natural gas in shale rock formations, New York announced on Tuesday that it expects to have draft rules ready for June in order to proceed with the destructive drilling technique that could threaten the state’s water supplies.

Following the city of Pittsburgh’s lead, on Tuesday, though mainly symbolic, councilors from the city of Buffalo, voted unanimously (9-0) to ban hydraulic fracturing as well as to ban “storing, transferring, treating or disposing fracking waste within the city,” due to the risks it poses to underground water supplies.

Industry Groups Fight Dirty Against Oscar-Nominated Hydraulic Fracturing Documentary "Gasland"

Read time: 4 mins

In the United States and beyond, governments are praising the “clean, plentiful fuel” that is natural gas, and tout it as a viable alternative to oil and coal.  According to Abrahm Lustgarten at ProPublica, its advocates are calling natural gas a step toward a greener energy future due to the fact, they assert, that natural gas produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal. 

Josh Fox’s critically-acclaimed documentary Gasland tells quite a different story about the natural gas industry and its extraction process, called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.  As he journeys across the United States, he discovers the devastating environmental and health impacts of humans and animals in close proximity to gas wells, and realizes that the so-called “Saudi Arabia of natural gas” is causing more pain than it is worth.

After the release of Fox’s documentary, an oil and gas lobby group calling itself “Energy In-Depth” launched a public relations offensive against the film (apparently they didn’t like the footage of people lighting their tap water on fire).  As it turns out, the website of the lobby group was registered to a Washington, DC public relations firm called FD Americas Public Affairs (formerly FD Dittus Communications) whose clients included oil and gas lobby groups including the American Energy Alliance, run by former Republican staffers Eric Creighton, Kevin Kennedy and Laura Henderson.

Today, when Fox’s documentary was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature, a major energy trade association weighed in on Gasland’s nomination.  The industry group, the America’s Natural Gas Alliance argues on its website that “for our nation’s economy” we must make greater use of the “Saudi Arabia of Natural Gas” for the sake of the environment and economy.

Encana: Creepy, manipulative PR with icing on top

Read time: 1 min

Gas fraccing giant Encana has scripted a bunch of pre-schoolers to pretend to understand or care about shale gas and hydraulic fracturing. This creepy video shows the depths the oil industry will “drill” to in order to put a happy face on their efforts to spread pollution, above and below ground.

Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling Over Fracking Threat

Read time: 3 mins

The Pittsburgh City Council today unanimously adoped a first-in-the-nation ordinance banning corporations from drilling for natural gas within city limits, a direct response to the threats to drinking water and public health posed by hydraulic fracturing methods used widely by drilling companies to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris said her biggest concern about natural gas fracking involves the threat to people’s health posed by water contaminated by Marcellus drilling. She noted that the gas industry’s claims about creating the thousands of jobs isn’t worth the risk.

“They’re bringing jobs all right,” Harris told CBS News. “There’s going to be a lot of jobs for funeral homes and hospitals. That’s where the jobs are. Is it worth it?”

Beyond its innovative approach to fighting the fracking threat, the ordinance - drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) - seeks to limit the claim of “personhood” by corporations and to elevate the rights of property owners and other living, breathing citizens above the interests of corporations.

According to Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, who introduced the measure, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights.  It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”

Fracked tap water in Texas is 99% PR spin

Read time: 3 mins

When you have lived in the same place for 20 years and all of sudden your hair turns orange after you wash it, you might be more than a little concerned.

But, of course, don’t blame the natural gas company that is pumping thousands of gallons of toxic sludge into the ground just up the street. That can’t possibly have anything to do with your hair turning orange or the chemically smelling sediment floating around in your water glass.

After all, the natural gas industry, in a process called hydraulic fracturing (also called “fracking”), says that 99-percent of the sludge they use is just water and sand.

The 1 percent that isn’t water and sand is chemicals like formamide, a “reproductive toxicant” that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says targets organs like the “eyes, skin, respiratory system, central nervous system, [and] reproductive system.”

Also in the 1 percent is something called Glutaraldehyde, a “developmental toxicant, immunotoxicant, reproductive toxicant, respiratory toxicant, skin or sense organ toxicant.”

Now when you consider that the average fracking operation uses more than a million gallons of fluid, that means this teeny tiny 1 percent of toxins is a whopping 10,000 gallons.

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