Appalachian Basin

Artists Against Fracking? No, Artists Looking for Relevance Part I

The newly developed “Artists Against Fracking” campaign has left me utterly perplexed. Here you have individuals who have the potential to do a lot of good but rather are jumping on a bandwagon filled with misinformation. They believe by maligning a proven technology they are clearing the way for expanded use of renewable energy sources.  Ignoring, or simply being unaware, that the technology they are seeking to ban is helping the U.S. lead the world in carbon emissions reductions and is integral in providing baseload electricity for solar and wind energy systems.

Personally, I view this as a very sad development. I wrote my college entrance essay to Lock Haven University’s Honors Program on John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” I balled during the series finale of Dawson’s Creek when Michelle Williams died and left her little girl without a mom. I’ve even bought Lady Gaga’s MAC lipstick to help with AIDS research.

The group should really be called “Artists Looking for Relevancy,” with the way they are regurgitating outdated and tired information as if they’re just memorizing another script or song. For part one of our series on this group, we’ll look at the recent radio campaign by Michelle Williams.

Michelle Williams: New York’s Face of “Concerned” Mothers

IMDB picture of Michelle Williams

Michelle Williams was an icon for my generation. As we grew up, so did she on Dawson’s Creek, transforming from a wild child  to a mature single mother dying from terminal illness concerned for her daughter’s future. Today, she is still that concerned single mother, albeit sadly misinformed and is the face of concerned mothers against hydraulic fracturing and the Catskill Mountainkeeper.

You can hear her radio ad below.


So let’s break down what she’s said in this advertisement.

“You know that old saying when a deal seems to good to be true, it probably is.”

The only deal that’s too good to be true, is the first lie, of many, told by  Josh Fox  –the infamous $100,000 deal he turned down. We’ve covered this bit of information in detail before, but here’s the gist:

The problem, for Fox, is that there was no Hess offer made in 2008, being they weren’t even in the Marcellus at that point.  Moreover, the assumption of well fees that were not realizable, combined with his stretching of the $90,000 to $100,000, means the whole thing is a sham.  Fox may have received an offer in 2008 for something on the order of $50,000 but it was more likely far less than that — in part due to his small property size, and in part due to his lack of affiliation with any of landowner group negotiating for higher rates.

“Gas companies have been leasing hundreds of thousands of acres to drill and frack across New York state.”

Actually, hydraulic fracturing in New York has been on hold for nearly four years. During that time, leases have expired or been force majeured, new leasing has not been occurring. Landowners have been working with coalitions for the last four years to develop solid contracts protecting their land and ensuring fair deals, all the while awaiting the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to pass new regulations, the rdSGEIS, which will be the strictest in the country. Here’s a video explaining the setbacks portion of the new regulations.

“Gas drilling and fracking have been proven to contaminate our precious groundwater and pollute our air.”

Actually, and I know we sound like a broken record here, but dozens of state regulators and  EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, have said there have been no cases of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater.

Surface spills and methane migration can occur, and when this happens companies are held responsible. In Pennsylvania, and soon New York, for example there is a radius of presumed liability where if migration occurs, the company is held responsible regardless of fault.

Dimock is a good example of this.  The company did not conduct baseline water testing for methane, therefore did not acknowledge fault. Due to the lack of baseline testing, the Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) determined Cabot was at fault under the presumed liability statute. It didn’t matter, in the end, what caused the methane to migrate; Cabot still had to fix the problem. Dimock, unfortunately, became a poster child for the anti-natural gas movement, as a few litigants attempted to argue that hydraulic fracturing caused chemicals to enter their water supply. This is simply not the case and has been refuted by DEP and EPA .  Now, after nearly four years of study and research by regulatory officials at all levels of government, Cabot may now resume operations in a 9-square mile area previously under a moratorium due to the incident. Here’s a video from one of the impacted residents describing the situation in the movie Truthland.

As for air pollution, natural gas infrastructure like compressor stations must meet strict regulations laid out in their permits. Most of these facilities fall below their permit limits and with the requirement for companies to use the best available technology, this will only continue to improve.

Of course,  misusing FLIR cameras, and relying on heavily debunked studies, has anti-natural gas activists claiming methane is released in great quantities at nearly every stage of shale development.  That, of course, is not true.  The Howarth study has been debunked from groups ranging from the U.S. Department of Energy to Worldwatch Institute and our team extensively debunked FLIR fakery recently.

Finally, and most importantly, its worth noting natural gas utilization is actually cleaning our air.  It’s increased use has helped the United States achieve its lowest CO2 emissions levels in 20 years and we are now leading the world in carbon reductions.
For this reason the American Lung Association supported the Pickens Plan as far back as 2008 and also has this to say about increased natural gas use throughout the U.S.:

The American Lung Association supports the increased use of natural gas as a transitional fuel for the production of electricity, as a cleaner alternative to biomass, coal and other fossil fuels.

“Did you know that six percent of gas well casings crack and fail immediately upon drilling, and that 50 percent fail over a 30 year period? That means huge numbers of gas wells will fail and contaminate our water in just a single generation.”

Ah yes, from Fox’s latest bit of scare ware, The Sky is Pink, citing Tony Ingraffea. EID’s Chris Tucker took an extensive look at this claim, as well, which I strongly recommend reading in its entirety, but here’s some of it to get you started.

According to the [Groundwater Protection Council’s August 2011] report, available here, more than 34,000 wells were drilled and completed in Ohio over a 25-year period from 1983 to 2007. In total, 184 incidents were recorded over that span in which oilfield activities – all categories – were found to have contributed to an adverse impact to groundwater. That’s one incident for every 184 wells drilled.

Break the numbers down further, though, and you find that of those 184 incidents, only 12 were related to failures of or gradual erosions to casing or cement. That’s one recorded incident for every 2,833 wells drilled, representing a failure rate of 0.03 percent. And according to the report, greater than 80 percent of all incidents happened in the 80s and 90s – with very few problems registered as modern technology and updated regulations came online over the past decade. Of note: not a single event relating to the fracturing process was found to have affected groundwater.

So that’s the story in Ohio, how about Texas? According to GWPC and the Texas Railroad Commission, more than 187,000 wells were drilled and completed in the Lone Star State from 1993 to 2008, including 16,000 horizontal wells. Two-hundred and eleven cases of groundwater disturbance tied to oilfield activities were recorded in that span, or one incident for every 889 wells drilled.

Just as in Ohio, none of those were related in any way to hydraulic fracturing. And very few were generally related to the integrity of the well either – a total of 21, according to the report. That boils down to an error rate of 0.01 percent – a far cry from the estimates put forth by Josh and his gang.

“It’s not a good deal, and with the gas companies refusing to share the real consequences, it’s not a true deal either.”

From walking down the street to getting in a car literally everything has risks, and natural gas development is no exception. Contrary to the above statement, landowners, especially in New York, have spent countless hours researching, visiting well sites, and talking with attorneys, industry, landowners with current development and experts to understand these risks. And, like the recent paper put forth by Yale economics graduates titled, “The Arithmetic of Shale Gas,” many have found the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Much of what’s been learned comes from observation and open dialogue with the natural gas industry, a far cry from companies “refusing to share the real consequences.” Companies are sharing with the general public, as well. Through the Groundwater Protection Council‘s website,, companies have been voluntarily reporting the additives used in the hydraulic fracturing solution, the majority of which is sand and water. Now states, such as Pennsylvania, require all of them to do so. There are 336 participating companies disclosing, as of last week, with 25,394 total disclosures of fracturing fluids utilized in well completion activities. And that number continues to grow.

But what is the deal that’s on the table?  Well, nothing less than a potential revival for upstate New York.  Just check out these sources:

The Manhattan Institute Study

  • An end to the moratorium would spur over $11.4 billion in economic output.
  • Some 15,000 to 18,000 jobs could be created in the Southern Tier and Western New York, regions which lost a combined 48,000 payroll jobs between 2000 and 2010.*
  • Another 75,000 to 90,000 jobs could be created if the area of exploration and drilling were expanded to include the Utica shale and southeastern New York, including the New York City watershed. (This assumes a regulatory regime that protects the water supply but permits natural gas development to continue.)
  • The typical Marcellus shale gas well generates about $4 million in economic benefits.
  • The economic damage resulting from the environmental impacts of a typical shale gas well comes to $14,000.


  • “When well construction reaches its maximum levels (Year 10 through Year 30), total annual construction earnings are projected to range from $298.4 million under the low development scenario to nearly $1.2 billion under the average development scenario. Employee earnings from operational employment are expected to range from $121.2 million under the low development scenario to $484.8 million under the average development scenario in Year 30, the year that the maximum number of operational workers are assumed to be employed.” (page 6-216)
  • “Indirect employee earnings are anticipated to range from $202.3 million under the low development scenario to $809.2 million under the average development scenario in Year 30. The total direct and indirect impacts on employee earnings are projected to range from $621.9 million to $2.5 billion per year at peak production and construction levels in Year 30.” Executive Summary, (p. 17)

Broome County Study

  • Our model predicts as much as $4.1 billion in new economic activity per year over a 10-year period supporting over 4,000 jobs and $314 million in salaries and wages. State and local tax receipts could be boosted by $52 million per year, with slightly less than half accruing to Broome County taxing jurisdictions.
  • This new economic activity will increase county labor income by $157 million and support almost 2,200 jobs each year (see Table 6). Due largely to gas production royalty payments, annual county property income in the form of rents, royalties, dividends, and corporate profits will increase by $119 million. All of this activity and income will generate about $26 million in state and local tax revenues, with $12.6 million of this amount going to Broome County taxing jurisdictions in an average year.

Locally thanks to the Ad Valorem Tax

“In New York State we’ve been good stewards of the land. Our water resources are in great shape and we need them to stay that way forever. As a mother I want to pass on a beautiful and healthy New York to my daughter and the next generation.”

Michelle, I think you’ll be surprised to learn the many landowners in support of natural gas development want the very same things you do.  Please understand that by considering some views other than the one handed to you.  Unlike you, who have had a successful acting career and can pass on financial security to your daughter, many of them are struggling to maintain the land they’ve taken care of for generations. They risk losing that land you hold so dear. They too want to pass on their land to future generations, but many without a reliable plan for economic development like natural gas can provide, those future generations will leave New York, as they have been, to find opportunities elsewhere.

You’d probably be even more surprised to learn the nearly 70 percent local population working for these companies wants to conserve the land they love too. When it comes down to it, we all have the same goals. Now, with the passing of the rdSGEIS on the horizon, we need to stop the fear mongering and work together with the DEC to ensure this great potential occurs in a safe, responsible manner.


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