Appalachian Basin

NY Anti-Fracking Peer Reviewer Calls Women Energy Workers ‘Prostitutes’

The controversial figure at the heart of New York’s ban on hydraulic fracturing says energy development only creates jobs for women as “hotel maids and prostitutes.”

Sandra Steingraber – the peer reviewer of a key research paper used to justify New York’s ban on hydraulic fracturing (who claimed she was “absolutely objective” despite her leading role with the group New Yorkers Against Fracking) – made these remarks during a lecture at the University of Pittsburgh called “Fracking is a Feminist Issue: Women Confronting Fossil Fuels and Petrochemicals in an Age of Climate Emergency.”

Here’s the video/audio of her presentation:

As Steingraber put it (emphasis added):

“Fracking as an industry serves men. 95 percent of the people employed in the gas fields are men. When we talk about jobs, we’re talking about jobs for men, and we need to say that. And the jobs for women are hotel maids and prostitutes. So when we talk about fracking coming into a community what we see is that women take a big hit, especially single women who have children who depend on rent to own housing.” (48:10)

These comments are particularly revealing considering Steingraber’s key role in the ban on fracking in New York.  In fact, the report that she peer reviewed (which was written by two anti-fracking groups, Global Community Monitor and the Center for Environmental Health) was held up by New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to support the ban on fracking.  Meanwhile, Steingraber and the authors of the report did not disclose their bias, violating at least four different codes of conduct for scientific research.  Steingraber even told Fox news there was no problem peer-reviewing a paper about shale gas development when you’re also an outspoken opponent of shale gas development. According to the Jan. 19 news story, Steingraber said:

“I think we are all proud of our ability to be conservative and analytical and absolutely objective about the data. I look at the data and call it as I see it.”

Two days later, Steingraber gave a speech to the anti-fracking victory party at the Hilton Hotel in Albany, where she essentially took credit for achieving the ban on fracking.  In a piece entitled, “How We Banned Fracking in New York” she exclaimed,

“We are the maker of this story that has been shaped by our unceasing, unrelenting efforts—all of which mattered and made a difference […] Against fracking infrastructure, we will prevail. I am playing to win.”

If that’s not enough, Steingraber is also the author of number of anti-fracking poems that she’s recited at New Yorkers Against Fracking events – and which earned her a key spot in EID’s top ten most ridiculous stunts pulled by ban fracking activists.

What’s also interesting is that this isn’t the only absolutely outrageous statement that’s been made lately by anti-fracking activists.  Recently, Texas anti-fracking activist Sharon Wilson compared shale development to “rape,” which was seconded by her employer, the national environmental group Earthworks. Activists across the country have similarly compared fracking to sexual assault.  And as EID has long documented, ban-fracking activists have often blamed fracking for everything from STDs to drug abuse to bar fights.

Of course, Steingraber’s comments are anything but true. Just last week, Ohio held the Second Annual Women in Energy Summit, which brought out nearly 150 women to learn about career opportunities in the oil and gas industry, including jobs in manufacturing and skilled trades like welding. According to a 2014 report from the American Petroleum Institute:

  • In 2010, women accounted for 226,000 oil, gas and petrochemical industry jobs (19%); women are employed across all job categories, including professional and managerial, office and support, and blue collar.
  • Opportunities will exist for female petroleum engineers, managers, and other professionals, with the number of job opportunities projected for women in these areas growing by almost 70,000 from 2010–2030.
  • Much of the job growth is projected to occur in blue collar professions. There is significant potential for female blue collar employment if interest and training were directed toward women to increase female participation in those areas.”

EID took this opportunity to reach out to the hard working women that are employed by the oil and gas industry for their response to these remarks from Dr. Steingraber. Here’s what they had to say:

Dr. Steingraber’s comments are as inaccurate as they are offensive to professional women working in the oil and gas industry. I’d be happy to introduce her to my female colleagues who are engineers, botanists, lawyers, and even land-use planners like me. The company I work for is an engineering consulting firm, an industry that has traditionally struggled to attract women into STEM-related education for its workforce.  I’m proud of our women engineers, surveyors, and scientists – who comprise a quarter of our workforce.  They are working hard in the field and the office on the safe, responsible, and compliant development of oil and natural gas.  Her rhetoric serves only to incite and does nothing to inform.” –Joy M. Ruff, AICP University of Pittsburgh, BA Political Science California University of Pennsylvania, MA Communication Studies American Institute of Certified Planners

“It’s unfortunate that Mrs. Steingraber made such uninformed and quite frankly degrading comments about women who work in the oil and natural gas industry. We should be encouraging young girls to pursue their dreams of working in the energy industry as a welders, rig hands, geologists, nuclear engineers, and environmental scientists regardless of their gender. And, there are already women doing those jobs as witnessed during the Women’s Energy Network Biennial Conference last week which had 300 women in attendance.” –Brittany Thomas, Coordinator, External Affairs for Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation

“Women and men across the region continue to see the benefits of oil and gas production. Whether it is working directly in the industry, in an occupation that supports the industry, being a landowner, or a consumer who is seeing lower natural gas prices in their home. The notion that “Fracking is an industry that serves men,” is simply misguided and false. Women hold numerous roles across the industry and women that choose to stay home and raise their children, now have the opportunities for their children to stay home after graduation.” –Stephanie Paluda, Women’s Energy Network, Appalachian Chapter

The oil and gas industry has been providing well-paying jobs to both women and men since the first successful Marcellus Shale well was developed over a decade ago. Outrageous statements like these just go to show how desperate anti-fracking activists, who don’t have the science on their side, have become.


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