Enviros’ Playbook on Top NY Geologist: Smear Him

Activists in NY channel Schopenhauer in attacking state scientist for telling the truth on the Marcellus Shale

  • FLASHBACK: NY State geologist shoots straight on the Marcellus: “‘The worst spin on the worst incidents are treated as if it’s going to be the norm here,’ said Taury Smith, the state geologist, a self-described liberal Democrat … ‘This could really help us fight climate change; this is a huge gift, this shale.’ He said he has been examining the science of hydrofracturing the shale for three years and has found no cases in which the process has led to groundwater contamination…” (James M. Odato, Albany Times Union, Mar. 14, 2011)
  • Activists’ Response? Smear the Scientist: “[Smith] is being castigated by representatives of environmental groups and is under close scrutiny by his employer, the State Education Department. He has become a target of attacks from activists opposed to the state pushing ahead with plans to allow natural gas to be extracted from deep shale recesses using a process called hydraulic fracturing.” (James M. Odato, Albany Times Union, Mar. 28, 2011)
  • … Stealing Page from Schopenhauer’s “Art of Controversy” Essay: “A last trick is to become personal, insulting, rude, as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand, and that you are going to come off worst. It consists in passing from the subject of dispute, as from a lost game, to the disputant himself, and in some way attacking his person. … [I]n becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack to his person, by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. It is an appeal from the virtues of the intellect to the virtues of the body, or to mere animalism.” (Arthur Schopenhauer, “Art of Controversy,” published in 1896)
Anti-Shale Activists Want State Scientist Gone … … Even Though Scientist’s Statements Are Supported by the Facts, and Fmr. DEC Commissioner Grannis
From today’s Albany Times Union: “Voices from across New York reacted [against the scientist], including representatives of Environmental Advocates and related groups opposing the horizontal drilling.” (James M. Odato, Albany Times Union, Mar. 28, 2011) Tellingly, Environmental Advocates chose not to criticize former DEC commissioner Pete Grannis, who was quoted alongside Smith in the original columnearlier this month expressing a favorable opinion toward Marcellus development.From that piece:“Former DEC Commissioner Alexander ‘Pete’ Grannis … said he agrees with Smith that the dangers of fracking are overblown. He thinks the DEC is on course to set solid regulations.” (Odato,Mar. 14, 2011)Could it be because Grannis actually worked for Environmental Advocates after leaving DEC?!

  • It is a thrill to have someone of Pete Grannis’ stature advising Environmental Advocates of New York and the state’s environmental community.” (Rob Moore, EANY exec. director, quoted in EANY press release, issued Dec. 13, 2010)
“‘[Suggesting that hydraulic fracturing is safe] is an irresponsible statement; people are getting sick and dying,’ asserted David Braun, a New York City activist with United For Action. Braun said Smith is clearly in the pocket of the gas industry and has spread that view in multiple email letters.” (Odato column, Mar. 28, 2011) “United for Action” claims that people are getting sick – and dying (!?!) – even in the face of clear evidence that fracturing materials have not, and do not, communicate/d with potable groundwater,according to the state of Pennsylvania:

  • “It’s our experience in Pennsylvania that we have not had one case in which the fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet underground have returned to contaminate ground water.” (Fmr. DEP secretary John Hanger, as quoted by Reuters, Oct. 4, 2010)
  • “Just a note about fracking: First of all, it’s standard operating procedure in Pennsylvania. And it’s important to point out that we’ve never seen an impact to fresh groundwater directly from fracking.” (DEP’s Scott Perry, May 27, 2010)
  • “If there was fracturing of the producing formations that was having a direct communication with groundwater, the first thing you would notice is the salt content in the drinking water. It’s never happened. After a million times across the country, no one’s ever documented drinking water wells that have actually been shown to be impacted by fracking.” (Ibid)
  • “How many wells has fracturing damaged? I assume you’re referring to ‘how many drinking water wells.’? And in our experience, it’s been zero.” (Ibid)
  • “I think some of the criticism has been useful, and I think some of it is uninformed, and some of itdeliberately uniformed. There are some folks who want to shut down the [shale] industry and are willing to say anything to accomplish that goal.” (Hanger, as quoted by ProPublica, Feb. 10, 2010)
“Stephanie Low, a Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter ‘National Hydrofracking Team’ member, has spread the word of her suspicions of Smith. … ‘Perhaps he doesn’t read the (New York) Times.’ [Low] works as a manager of a classical musician.” (Odato column, Mar. 28, 2011) Perhaps Ms. Low doesn’t read fmr. PA DEP secretary John Hanger’s increasingly popular blog:

  • “Reporting the facts and that Pennsylvania led the nation in hiring gas oversight staff would bedevastating to the fictional narrative of lax regulation and lax oversight. It was a big problem for this [New York Times] reporter. You can see the tricks and manipulations [the reporter] used. In my opinion, this article demonstrates that indeed he is a skilled practitioner of the dark tools of journalism that are used to mislead the reader.” (Hanger blog, Mar. 5, 2011)
  • “The article excludes information completely or from the main story, used misleading words to conceal important points, and consistently shaped information to advance [a certain] narrative.” (Hanger blog, Feb. 28, 2011)

Perhaps Ms. Low doesn’t read MIT’s blog either:

  • “[E]ven if the waste were not treated at all, it would be diluted by a factor of about 3,000 if it were to have been put straight into the pipes to homes. But it was not put in the pipes straight, but put in rivers. So, it was heavily diluted right off the bat and most of it went to the sea. And it was treated before being dumped in. And the water removed for drinking presumably got further treatment. You get the point.” (Charlie Petit, MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Tracker blog, March 2, 2011)

Perhaps Ms. Low hasn’t seen PA DEP’s in-stream water data yet, which fundamentally undermines The Times’ account:

  • “The Department of Environmental Protection today announced results of in-stream water quality monitoring for radioactive material in seven of the commonwealth’s rivers. All samples showed levels at or below the normal naturally occurring background levels of radioactivity.” (DEP press release, following series in The New York Times, Mar. 7, 2011)
  • “‘We deal in facts based on sound science,’ said DEP acting Secretary Michael Krancer. ‘Here are the facts: all samples were at or below background levels of radioactivity; and all samples showed levels below the federal drinking water standard for Radium 226 and 228.'” (Ibid)
  • “These [DEP] results also are another blow to credibility of the New York Times February 27th story that was deliberately false.” (Hanger blog,Mar. 7, 2011)
“The Education Department will not allow Smith to talk to reporters now. Besides muzzling him, the department, which oversees his New York State Museum geology unit, won’t permit him to take calls.” (Odato column, Mar. 28, 2011) What part of NYSED’s mission statement does “muzzling its scientists” fall under?From NYSED’s website: “Our mission is to raise the knowledge, skill, and opportunity of all the people in New York. Our vision is to provide leadership for a system that yields the best educated people in the world.” (NYSED webpage, accessed Mar. 28, 2011)
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