Appalachian Basin

RDA Member in Hot Water for Straying from Anti-Marcellus Orthodoxy

Everyone’s heard of “Christmas in July” sales and celebrations, but has anyone ever heard of April 1st falling on a Thursday in September?

Earlier today, a newsletter sent around by the Responsible Drilling Alliance (a particularly strange name for a group that denies “responsible drilling” even exists) landed in our inbox, and as usual, we girded for the worst.

But a strange thing happened when we opened up the email and actually had a look at what was inside: The newsletter laid out a largely positive account of a recent wellsite tour attended by several RDA members, with lots of talk about “encouraging signs” of all the things producers are doing to ensure safe and responsible operations on site – like using air (not mud) during the initial drilling stages as the well goes through and advances beyond the water table, and utilizing lime and sawdust to dry-out the cuttings that come back. The RDA email mentions that noise levels on location were “not bad,” and even cites the fact that most of the workers they came across on the tour were native to Pennsylvania.

Must be April Fools, we thought – since RDA is well-known across the state for its aggressive, and largely ideological opposition to anything involving a drill bit. But alas, the date on our calendar is Sept. 29, not April 1 – and the newsletter, it appears, is genuine.  We link to it here in the hope that it stays up long enough for you to read it.  But judging by the reaction it got over on RDA’s Facebook page this morning, you better click on it fast – ‘cuz it might not be up there for long.  Just in case, we saved a screenshot you can find at the end of this story.

Of course, the newsletter itself is newsworthy enough – and something that we here at EID-Marcellus applaud the folks at RDA for pulling together. We also applaud them for taking the time to go out and see what’s happening for themselves. Unfortunately, even as press coverage of shale development and the use of fracturing technology intensifies, very few of the folks who write, blog and lecture on the subject these days have actually seen in person the thing about which they’re all so suddenly concerned. As is usually the case, when they actually get a chance to go on a rig and witness the meticulous (bordering on fastidious) steps that producers take to ensure working conditions are safe and environmental issues are properly managed, their views on the subject inevitably change. But unfortunately, not enough of them have taken the time to go out there and do that.

One person whom we’re pretty sure has never seen a rig or fracturing operation (and would probably never want to, lest he come down with a serious case of cognitive dissonance) is Dr. Bob Myers, an English professor at Lock Haven University (my alma mater). Readers of this site by now know Dr. Myers well – he of the “the [natural gas] industry represents the biggest environmental threat to Pennsylvania in my lifetime” fame (guess he wasn’t around during the coal days). Turns out, Myers wasn’t too pleased this morning to read the RDA newsletter, responding back in a tirade over Facebook that the wellsite visit was nothing more than “pro-industry propaganda,” and that he is “very uncomfortable with the valorizing of the rig workers.”

What’s his beef with the rig workers, you ask? Sure, they may not have advanced degrees in English like Myers, but aren’t they just trying to make a living same way as he is? Apparently not, according to Dr. Myers. “Some might not like or accept this analogy,” Myers wrote on Facebook today, “but the Nazis who guarded the concentration camps had a dirty, dangerous job [too].”

Yes, you read that right: Dr. Myers is comparing men and women who work 12 hours a day to produce natural gas for our country and a make a life for themselves and their families to “Nazis who guarded the concentration camps.” Added Myers: “While we probably will never drive them back to Texas, I am not willing to help their PR efforts to present fracking as a safe, responsible, and patriotic solution to our energy needs.” And yes, this is a man who’s own livelihood is supported in large part by your tax dollars.

As if those comments weren’t troubling enough, it appears that Dr. Myers’ tirade may have actually worked as intended. In a response back, RDA member Ralph Kisberg (the author of the newsletter) offered a heartfelt apology to Myers for being too honest in describing his experiences on the tour. “Sorry if I offended you Bob,” Kisberg wrote. “Our normal newsletter editor is still without phone and internet service after the flood. I am filling in and was late in doing anything this week and pressed for time so threw it together late Tuesday night and finished it quickly yesterday morning. I should have run it buy someone else to edit.”

You have to feel for Kisberg, who knew immediately that he was in hot water: “Hope you can forgive me,” he added in a follow-up. “I have a feeling you are not the only one who will be upset with this one. Our board members copied here probably haven’t gotten around to reading the newsletter either until now.”

We hope the folks over at RDA don’t come down on Mr. Kisberg too hard. After all, he was just telling the truth. Unfortunately, for opponents of the Marcellus Shale, the truth about the responsible development of natural gas appears to be one they’re not quite ready to accept. Or tolerate.

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