Appalachian Basin

Burden of Proof (Or “Where’s The Beef?)

In this second debunking of PennEnviroment’s video series, we examine the issues with “water contamination” and the filmmaker’s use of scare tactics, primarily big scientific words and a random jar of muddy water, to mislead the viewer.  Instead of using scientific rhetoric to counter claims set forth in this film, all I will do ismake some common sense observations that speak for themselves. See how many you can find the first time you watch it!


Now that you seen the short film, let’s focus on just three obvious problems with it:

Common Sense Observation #1

One of the homeowners states at the 39 second mark that  “this water came from my faucet. We would turn on the water and it would just run brown just like this for hours.”

Where is the proof?  Whether we are talking science, law or any other aspect of life; he who makes a claim, has the obligation to prove it.  Therefore, if this film maker had the ability to film someone holding a jar of discolored water outside of his home asserting that natural gas drilling caused this, he likewise had the ability and the obligation to film the water coming out of the faucet in that same house.  Otherwise, how does the viewer know what’s real and what isn’t?  Anyone can make accusations, but there is a burden of proof that must be met if that accusation is to be taken seriously.  Anything else is little more than sophistry.

Common Sense Observation #2:

At the 47 second mark the homeowner is filmed making another unproven claim (are you starting to see a trend here?); “When we had it tested from the DEP it was high in level of Manganese, Iron, Toluene and Uranium and the DEP told us this was safe to drink.”

No actual results from the water testing are offered and there is only the claim of a DEP brushoff with absolutely nothing in writing to back it up.  Does this sound very familiar?  You may recall, in our first installment, “Farming,” a very nice young family asserted they had their water tested for baseline purposes, but, there too, no one produced the results for the viewer to see.  How are such assertions to be taken seriously?  This especially so when the person offering the testimony is making the rather incredible claim that DEP told him it was safe to drink the brown water he displayed.  Is this believable?

Common Sense Observation #3

Throughout the film random shots of gas wells are shown. However, in only one instance was a well actually shown in the same scene as a person.  This raises the obvious question of where are these gas wells located.  How does the viewer know if these wells are even remotely close to either of the homeowner’s properties?  How does the viewer know the wells are even in the same town or state?  Did the film maker strategically place the homeowner in front of that equipment to a cinematic touch to his movie, or is the well in front of this homeowner’s property?  We’ll never know.  Moreover, one of those homeowners obtained his water from the river and we have no way of knowing what else may have caused the problems alleged.  One strong Spring rain can create some pretty brown water, but, again, we’ll never know.

All in all, one has to wonder what PennEnvironment thinks about the intelligence of its viewers.  Do it really expect anyone to take its baseless accusations seriously when it offers so little in the way of proof?  Does it believe this type of shallow demagoguery will sell?  Apparently, it does and that’s sad.  If we cannot have an intelligent discussion about natural gas (like this one), when our nation has such a compelling need for energy independence and our region so desperately needs the economic development natural gas brings, where are we headed?  We can do better, much better!

Please contact me with your thoughts at or, better yet, leave a comment.  I look forward to meeting so many of you.  Nate and I are on the road daily throughout the region.




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