It’s Not a Lie If You Believe It

The title of this post is the punch line from an episode of a popular comedy sitcom from the 90s. In the episode, one of the characters was giving advice on how to pass a lie detector test when you knew what you were saying was a lie.

I was reminded of this episode last week when I attended a seminar on hydraulic fracturing in Ottawa County. The seminar itself was well organized and the people running it were fair and professional in allotting time to each of the seven panelists, which wasn’t much for a two-hour schedule.

The moderator began by asking the 200 people in attendance to please show respect to all the panelists, even if their views were different than yours. He must have seen the video from the last meeting held in this area, in which anti-fracking activists were – to put it nicely – less than civil.

All went well until an activist began holding up signs towards the end of the oil and gas representative’s turn, which implied the speaker was lying. The moderator, to his credit, called out the offending activist and apologized to the panelists and audience for her behavior.

LuAnne Kozma, head of Ban Michigan Fracking, then got her chance to speak. In Texas, her talk would be described as “all hat and no cattle” – long on accusations, innuendo, and corruption by the DEQ; but short on evidence or proof. The DEQ representative, Adam Wygant, was patient and showed great restraint, but finally he had enough and insisted that he be given the opportunity to defend his department and its record.

He then proceeded to address each “incident” that LuAnne had referenced, all without any notes (which should tell you the extent to which opponents’ claims are recycled). Quite impressive to most people, but only eliciting smirks and rolled eyes from the activists, including LuAnne.

This seems to be a common method for the anti-fracking crowd here in Michigan. I have attended about a dozen petition signings, informational meetings, seminars, and other events in the last six months. This issue of the DEQ being in the “back pocket” of the industry always makes its way to the front. It usually goes like this:

“Hey, what’s the petition for?”

“We are going to ban fracking in Michigan.”

“Why do you want to do that?”

“Because it ruins the well water, silly.”

“How many water wells has it ruined?”

“Many, many wells.”

“Do you know where exactly?”

“Oh, up north somewhere.”

“But where exactly? What homeowners or towns?”

“Well, the papers won’t report it.”

“I thought the DEQ was in charge of watching our water?”

“Oh, they are but they don’t do anything.”

“Why not?”

“Well, they are in the pocket of the oil and gas companies.”

“Really? Did you tell the Governor?”

“Uh, no.”

“Why not? That seems like it would be a big deal.”

“He won’t do anything.”

“You mean to tell me that the Governor would ignore evidence that a major state department was compromised?”

“So you are against clean water and want to see our great state destroyed by greedy oil and gas companies?”

“I didn’t say that. I asked why you don’t report your discovery to the Governor or the state police?”

“Why do you hate the environment?”

The anti-fracking groups make a lot of claims here in Michigan. But when they’re asked to prove it, they attack the questioner and try to change the subject. That should tell you a little something about their efforts – which they themselves have admitted is less than sincere.

Armed with a basket full of baseless accusations, I thought I would do a little research into the anti-fracking activists’ claims. Specifically, I took a look at the funding for Michigan DEQ.

The relationship pretty much begins and ends with the fact that the oil and gas industry has to fund its own oversight. This is apparently what the activists believe means “bought and paid for.” Would the activists rather they themselves pay for oversight of the oil and gas industry?

The only thing worse than having the oil and gas industry pay for its own regulatory enforcement would be if the industry didn’t have to pay for it.

Would the activists like to see our taxes raised to pay for the employees of the DEQ so they could claim that the industry is to blame for higher taxes?  That would be wanting it both ways, something with which the anti-industry people are clearly comfortable.

Closer to the truth is that the activist crowd does not want to engage in a rational discussion about the benefits to our state and country from safe, responsible oil and gas development.

Instead, they would prefer to make accusations about everything associated with the industry in the hope that something sticks. It’s much easier that way – and hey, it’s not a lie if you believe it, right?

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