Appalachian Basin

Of Journalism, Irresponsible Editing and Opinions Masquerading as News

Istanbul, Turkey based freelance journalist Dimiter Kenarov has strong opinions on the impacts Marcellus Shale development is having on Pennsylvania’s working lands.  However, a quick review shows that Mr. Kenarov’s thoughts are directly at odds with the facts as they actually exist.

The Beaver County Times recently published an article calling Marcellus Shale development a “dark shadow…creeping across the landscape.” The piece was filed by Istanbul, Turkey based freelance journalist Dimiter Kenarov who has a history of manufacturing ominous headlines about Marcellus Shale development’s impacts on farming lands. Of course, the full story – the one Kenarov conveniently forgot to tell – paints a much less alarming picture about natural gas development.  In fact, even a quick review shows Kenarov’s narrative doesn’t quite comport with the facts as they actually exist, especially in Pennsylvania.

Farming and cowsMarcellus Shale development has been a net positive experience for Pennsylvania’s farmers. Just this week the Associated Press noted that royalty payments are “transforming lives and livelihoods” as those payments provided $1.2 billion to Pennsylvania landowners last year. This adds to a USA TODAY report which showed oil and natural gas development is rapidly increasing personal income in small towns – reversing a decade’s long trend and shifting significant wealth toward rural areas of the country that certainly can use the boost.

Speaking with farmers quickly provides concrete examples of what this all means for everyday Pennsylvanians’ who have supported our state’s agricultural industry for decades.  Take for example the story of Susquehanna County farmer Walter Brooks who stated last year, “The whole northeast was suffering because there wasn’t many jobs available. The gas companies came in made a lot of jobs for the people that were unemployed, saved a lot of farms around the community mine included. I owed a lot of money to the banks and the royalties helped me pay off the notes.”

Walter is not alone. Bradford County farmer Amy Lackey has a similar story to share.  Natural gas development helped her family significantly expand their dairy farming operations. In an interview last year Lackey noted,  “2009 was an extremely difficult year nationally for the dairy industry…the natural gas industry came to town and we had a great opportunity to expand our business as a result of the gas industry coming in and leasing land from a lot of the farmers in the community.” For Lackey, that expansion involved building a new barn and adding 150 cows to her family’s dairy herd.

Shawn Georgetti, a farmer from Avella, PA, in very succinct terms also described what income provided by the natural gas industry has done for his family:

“We used to have to put stuff on credit cards. It was basically living from paycheck to paycheck,’ said Shawn Georgetti, who runs a family dairy farm in Avella, about 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh….Before Range Resources drilled a well on the family property in 2012, Georgetti said, he was stuck using 30-year-old equipment, with no way to upgrade without going seriously into debt.

“‘You don’t have that problem anymore. It’s a lot more fun to farm,’ Georgetti said, since he has been able to buy newer equipment that’s bigger, faster and more fuel-efficient. The drilling hasn’t caused any problems for the farm, he said.”

These benefits were also noticed by members of Ohio’s Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau in a recent visit to Pennsylvania’s working land. Shortly after their visit the group’s president stated, “we saw farmers making improvements and updates to their properties,” and that most farmers they visited with had “positive [feelings] about the process.”

The fact that shale development is conducted safely each day is not a singular opinion, but rather is reflective of the opinions of state and federal regulators across the country. This includes USDA head Tom Vilsack who stated, “we should be doing everything we can to produce oil and gas.”  It goes without saying the head of the USDA likely wouldn’t make such comments if he believed the process of fracing was unsafe for our nation’s family farms.

Of course, Mr. Kenarov’s research either never uncovered these facts or ignored them in attempting to craft a narrative that countered actual experience.  Perhaps before penning his next inflammatory piece Kenarov should visit Pennsylvania to see the progress development has brought to our communities, or at the very least make a half-hearted attempt to examine the issue objectively. After all, the thousands of hard-working individuals toiling each day to provide American’s affordable energy and a sustainable food supply deserve as much. Regardless, moving forward we hope the Beaver County Times is more judicious in using the kind of attention to detail the public expects in vetting articles that attempt to malign an industry that is providing over 200,000 jobs and billions in economic activity across the Keystone State.


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