Appalachian Basin

More “It’s a Fact, That It’s a Possibility” Arguments from the Anti Natural Gas Culture

The recent viewpoint piece that appeared in some upstate papers under the signatures of Sandra Steingraber and Michelle Bamberger about natural gas threatening the burgeoning opportunities connected with yogurt is so hysterical it’s hard to know where to begin.  The latter, of course, is one-half of the husband-wife team of “scientists” from Cornell who tried to turn a couple of anecdotes into a study about the impacts of natural gas development on animals and, by implication, human health.  So much for her objectivity.  She’s just another activist from Ithaca working to derail natural gas development by any means possible.

The column conveniently doesn’t mention that the state is proposing to increase the limit on the number of cows a farmer can own before enrolling as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO).  The regulation currently requires a farmer to hire a certified planner and implement a plan to control runoff from the animals’ waste.  Currently, the threshold at which such a plan is required  is 200 animals.  The Cuomo administration would raise it to 300, which has brought out the animosity (pun intended) of Steingraber‘s and Bamberger‘s friends in the natural gas opposition.

A coalition of environmental groups — including the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and Riverkeeper — are opposed to Cuomo’s plan to ease environmental restrictions on dairy farmers.  Several of the people opposed to Cuomo’s plan were protesting at the very “yogurt summit” mentioned in this viewpoint.

Wait a minute – are the same people who wax so eloquent about supporting dairy farming when the subject is fracking opposed to dairy farming when the subject is easing state regulation on those farmers so that they can actually afford to operate?  Sounds like it.

Although the authors mention, in passing, the possibility that the decrease in dairy farms and milk production is due to dairy farmers, quite sensibly, selling and moving to greener pastures in other states (and who could blame New York landowners, who are regulated and taxed to death, if they did so), it’s quite plain the visual image the reader is supposed to get is one of cows keeling over in fields next to well pads.  Sorry, but that’s just not happening.

Even Steingraber’s co-author admits her own study doesn’t indicate as much.  She says plainly in her previous work that her study “is not a study of the health impacts of specific chemical exposures related to gas drilling.”  However, that is precisely the false notion these two authors are trying to drive home in their opinion article.  Scare the reader and, above all costs, obscure facts to hide the truth – that’s who we’re dealing with.

That’s not at all what is happening, of course.  The reality looks more like the below

And, as for “are fracking chemicals entering cows’ milk?”  Well, one innocuous chemical used in frac fluid, guar gum, is also used in…wait for it…yogurt manufacturing.

And, before we get all teary-eyed over the mom-and-pop operation that is Chobani…um, not so much, although they may have been at the outset.  They used to be called Agro-Farma, a–gasp!–corporation, you know one of those entities that fracktivists love to hate.  I can see why they changed their name to Chobani–it sounds so much more small business, doesn’t it?  I certainly don’t begrudge them their success – I’ll bet they even built it themselves  – but I do get annoyed by the hypocrisy of fractivists.



There’s much more that could be said about a piece that’s a litany of “it’s a fact that it’s a possibility” statements, but I have to go throw a dollop of yogurt into the pot on my fossil-fuel powered camp stove…

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