Marcellus Shale

There Ought To Be A Natural Gas Law – Part III

This is the third in our There Ought To Be A Law series of posts.  We documented, in the first piece, the fact Tony Ingraffea, Mayor Matt Ryan and Josh Fox all used natural gas to heat their homes or offices.  The second post addressed the use of natural gas by three generations of the Roy Park family – the same folks who underwrite virtually every bit of anti-natural gas “research,” advocacy, comment and litigation regarding shale gas.

The hypocrisy of these folks is stunning, but what is not surprising is the sensitivity of their allies to these simple facts being brought out in the open.  There was a lot of hyper-ventilating going on in the responses I received to the second post, in particular.  We received a number of comments about how unfair it was to note the irony in a bunch of trust funders telling the rest of us how to live and make our living.  It appears we struck a nerve, so here we go again.  There are several other examples of “do as we say, not as we do.”  Consider these folks:

Sandra Steingraber

Sandra Steingraber is perhaps the most emotional of all anti-natural gas opponents on the battlefield over the last few years. Every time we’ve sent one of our field directors to one of her presentations they’ve come back with “OMG” reactions.  She’s certainly entitled, as a cancer survivor, to be as emotional as she desires, but  she spends most of her time promoting herself as the modern day Rachel Carson, although it seems her aspirations are a bit more along the lines of Joan of Arc.  She says “Silent Spring was the reason I left the laboratory and became a science writer.  Silent Spring was my father’s armistice.  It was my call to arms.”  Here are a few other things she says about herself on her website (emphasis added):

Ecologist, author, and cancer survivor, Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. is an internationally recognized authority on the environment links to cancer and human health.

Steingraber’s highly acclaimed book, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment presents cancer as a human rights issue…

Continuing the investigation begun in Living Downstream, Steingraber’s book, Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood, explores the intimate ecology of motherhood. Both a memoir of her own pregnancy and an investigation of fetal toxicology, Having Faith reveals the extent to which environmental hazards now threaten each stage of infant development.  In the eyes of an ecologist, the mother’s body is the first environment for life…

Called “a poet with a knife” by Sojourner magazine, Steingraber has received many honors for her work as a science writer.  She was named a Ms. Magazine Woman of the Year and later received the Jenifer Altman Foundation’s first annual Altman Award for “the inspiring and poetic use of science to elucidate the causes of cancer.”  The Sierra Club has heralded Steingraber as “the new Rachel Carson,” and Carson’s own alma mater, Chatham College, selected Steingraber to receive its biennial Rachel Carson Leadership Award…

An enthusiastic and sought-after public speaker, Steingraber has keynoted conferences on human health and the environment throughout the United States and Canada and has been invited to lecture at many universities, medical schools, and hospitals—including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, and the Woods Hole Research Center.  She is recognized for her ability to serve as a two-way translator between scientists and activists…

A columnist for Orion magazine, Sandra Steingraber is currently a scholar in residence in Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. She is married to the artist Jeff de Castro, and they live in a 1000-square-foot house with a push mower, a clothesline, a vegetable garden, and two beloved children.

Sandra Steingraber

Sandra Steingraber’s Cover Shot for One Her Books

Ms. Steingraber is, of course, a severe critic of natural gas development, along with any other industrial development, comparing it, in this fawning piece by an anarchist blogger, to the Holocaust and saying no regulation could make shale gas development acceptable. “That’s really a form of fatalism that’s treacherous. There’s no science that shows regulations are actually protective. If we go the regulatory route, we are laying time bombs underneath New York,” she says.  Yet, what fuel do Steingraber and de Castro use to heat their home?

Well, though hardly a surprise, it’s natural gas.  Their home (1,218 square feet, not the 1,000 she claims, but still of modest size) is located in Trumansburg, Tompkins County, New York and is heated with natural gas from New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) according to county real property tax records.  It seems that when Ms. Steingraber rides out of town with knife in hand to do poetry against natural gas, she does so in the comfort of knowing she has a natural gas heated home to which to return when the mission is completed (unless, of course, she switched to wood).  Would it be too much to ask that she stop accusing the rest of us of bombing the ground beneath her home to get the stuff she heats it with?

Robert Oswald & Michelle Bamberger

Michelle Bamberger's Husband

Robert E. Oswald

This husband and wife team is on the road suggesting hydraulic fracturing is the cause of health problems in animals and humans, based on a study they published earlier this year entitled “Impacts of Gas Drilling on Human and Animal Health.”  He is a Cornell professor of molecular medicine and she is a private practice veterinarian.  According to some sophist comments he made on New York State’s Supplemental Generic Environmental Statement (SGEIS) and her Vet Behavior Consults business website, they reside on Hinging Post Road in the Town of Ulysses (outside of Ithaca, New York, where most anti’s seem to reside).

Their study starts off, interestingly enough, with a self-serving quote from Steingraber’s book (the one pictured above) suggesting the authors are smarter than the average bear.  It then proceeds to quickly reveal the bias of the authors with this less than objective opening paragraph (emphasis added):

Communities living near hydrocarbon gas drilling operations have become de facto laboratories for the study of environmental toxicology.  The close proximity of these operations to small communities has created a variety of potential hazards to humans, companion animals, livestock and wildlife.  These hazards have become amplified over the last 20 years, due in part to the large-scale development of shale gas drilling (horizontal drilling with high-volume hydraulic fracturing), encouraged by the support of increased drilling and exploration by U.S. government agencies. Yet this large-scale industrialization of populated areas is moving forward without benefit of carefully controlled studies of its impact on public health. As part of an effort to obtain public health data, we believe that particular attention must be paid to companion animals, livestock, and wildlife, as they may serve as sentinels for human exposures, with shorter lifetimes and more opportunity for data collection from necropsies.

If this is a peer-reviewed study as is claimed, then peer review is meaningless.  Nothing scientific could possibly come from research that begins with that kind of bias.  A few paragraphs later, the pair tells everyone there is, in fact, no science involved:

This study is not an epidemiologic analysis of the health effects of gas drilling, which could proceed to some extent without knowledge of the details of the complex mixtures of toxicants involved. It is also not a study of the health impacts of specific chemical exposures related to gas drilling, since the necessary information cannot be obtained due to the lack of testing, lack of full disclosure of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) names and Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) numbers of the chemicals used, and the industry’s use of nondisclosure agreements. Nevertheless, the value of this study is twofold. First, clear health risks are present in gas drilling operations. These cannot be eliminated but can be decreased by commonsense reforms.  Second, our study illustrates not only several possible links between gas drilling and negative health effects, but also the difficulties associated with conducting careful studies of such a link. Again, simple commonsense policy reforms could facilitate the collection of data that would lead to a careful assessment of the health consequences of gas drilling on both humans and animals.

The authors obviously do not view the lack of scientific analysis as any impediment to offering a scientific opinion and the remainder of the report is largely a collection of anecdotal information from interviews involving a mere 27 cases, many connected with litigation where there is a powerful incentive to distort impacts for financial reward.  Moreover, the authors, after wrongly suggesting the industry hides its data, fail to disclose essential details regarding their own.

Our EID team of researchers learned Dr. Ian Rae, a professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia and a Co-chair of the Chemicals Technical Options Committee for the United Nations Environment Programme, has called the article “an advocacy piece.”  Rae notes “The data in Table 2 are incomplete in that no dates or places are provided, and no references to other commentary on the events it reports, so it’s hard to assess the weight of the evidence.  He also says “Contributions to the journal are said to be refereed, but the refereeing process evidently was not very stringent. For example, better refereeing would have forced the authors to provide the details I identified above as missing from their compilation. As well, it might also have curtailed some of the less-well supported statements and asked for more recent references to the scientific basis for expressions of concern that material dated to the 1960s and 1970s.”

So, it’s pretty clear Oswald and Bamberger, who acknowledge their work is “imperfect study,” are on an advocacy mission, the goal of which is to stop natural gas development in their neck of the woods.  They join the Park family, Tony Ingraffea, and Sandra Steingraber in that regard and if there this still any doubt in the reader’s mind about the nature of that mission, check out this solicitation of wide-ranging articles for a special journal “dedicated to the effects of unconventional oil and gas drilling” and this tirade against gas ranges.  They are also members of Physicians for Social Responsibility, an anti-nuclear, anti-everything group that is essentially a shell group funded by, you guessed it, the Park Foundation.

Oswald and Bamberger share something else with Ingraffea and Steingraber – they use natural gas to heat their 3,453 square feet home, according to real property tax records.  But, that’s what you expected, right?  The pattern is a fairly repetitive one.  The louder someone from Ithaca castigates natural gas development, the more likely it is they are a user of the very product they condemn.

There ought to be a law …






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