Berkshire Only Hears Misinformation About Natural Gas
A recent meeting in Berkshire, N.Y., brought together Craig Stevens and two other “experts” to rail against hydraulic fracturing and natural gas. It was anything but impressive.
There was a meeting in Berkshire, N.Y., recently, put together by a group of natural gas opponents. They invited three supposed “experts” to speak, including Craig Stevens, otherwise known as the founder and President of Energy In Denial, a would be business generator of business for trial lawyer Charlie Speer, who’s made his money suing hog farmers and now wants to shift to suing natural gas companies.
The meeting was interesting, but singularly unimpressive in terms of its intended purpose. The Town of Berkshire is located in Tioga County, and nearby are a few other towns that have passed moratoria against natural gas, including the Town of Caroline. Ironically enough, one of the “experts” speaking to Berkshire folks was Don Barber, who is also the Town of Caroline Supervisor. He has never worked in the natural gas industry or lived near it.
From the beginning, the group sponsoring the meeting admitted they were only inviting individuals opposed to natural gas development to present, telling folks supportive of development that they would need to bring in their own speakers. The bias, as you can imagine, was prevalent throughout the evening.
They also told the audience they had done a survey where they asked “70 something people” what they thought about natural gas. They said they asked respondents if they wanted development, didn’t want it, or didn’t have enough information to make a decision. The majority supposedly answered that they didn’t have enough information to make a decision. Seizing an opportunity, the group decided to hold an “educational” event designed to gin up opposition.
This was anything but a scientific survey, naturally, and it turns out, according to the 2010 Census, there are about 1,412 residents in Berkshire. The number of people surveyed totals less than six percent of the total population of the town. That doesn’t sound statistically relevant to us, even if were a proper survey. Interestingly, one person opposed to natural gas development actually thought opposition was a small minority!
Putting aside this little survey, there was one part of the event that was actually educational, although it was presented as if it were a revelation and not just common sense. The presenter was Todd Miller, who used to work for the U.S. Geological Survey and has spent much of his time mapping aquifers and dealing with water. His presentation didn’t really drive home their intended point; in fact, it was more on the fence than either of the other two presentations. The majority of his presentation didn’t even touch on natural gas. Rather, it talked about the water in New York. His biggest warning was to get your water tested prior to natural gas development. Well, heck, we agree with that, and our Department of Environmental Conservation has already provided for it.
Up to bat next was the one and only Craig Stevens. He gave the same presentation he has given all over Pennsylvania and New York while claiming to be fifth or six generation local wherever he goes (he lived most of his life in California). He claimed to be a very conservative person as he blurted out everything he could against natural gas development, as if that somehow made him more credible. He still hasn’t added anything new to his argument and we have demonstrated his ideology several times, including here.
The final presenter of the evening was Don Barber. We went to several meetings in Caroline last year and heard dozens of landowners plead with him not to impose a ban or moratorium until the Department of Environmental Conservation came out with the SGEIS. Completely ignoring it, he went ahead and got his town board to pass the moratorium.
The interesting part came with the question and answer session, which heated up quickly. Natural gas opponents were quite angry that supporters showed up at their meeting (they don’t like to have to actually defend their arguments, and you can’t really blame them). Nonetheless, the meeting was public, and we know that our friends on the other side seem to always show up to scream their point of view. Fortunately, supporters of natural gas development will not let their voices go unheard, they shouldn’t — and they didn’t, not this time, anyway.
One woman, a natural gas opponent, was so angry a supporter was speaking at their meeting that she resorted to an obscene gesture to express her displeasure. Immature? Well, you be the judge. I didn’t get it on camera, so I waited until the end and asked the individual about it. You can see what she had to say below. This truly is an encapsulation of opponents of responsible shale development. If you find it rude and inconsiderate, you aren’t the only one!
The meeting ended extremely heated. When everyone realized I was with Energy In Depth, the opponents in the room became even more frustrated and threw what I can only generously describe as an arm-flailing hissy fit. As I left Berkshire, I had to shake my head. People demand information, and all too often they are spoon fed misinformation. But when those supplying the misinformation are confronted with individuals who offer a different opinion, opponents resort to the functional equivalent of flipping over the Monopoly board — along with personal insults. That’s not debate – it’s angry proselytization, and the public deserves better.