Wealthy Liberals Target New Drilling Techniques That Heighten Natural Gas Production and Boost Jobs

Wealthy liberals are spreading false and misleading information about new drilling techniques that have opened up natural gas resources in Pennsylvania, according to a report from the Commonwealth Foundation.

A geologic formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which cuts across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Viriginia, was beyond reach not too long ago. Fortunately, this has changed as a result of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Almost 489 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is sufficient to cover all of America’s natural gas needs over a 20 year period is now recoverable, the foundation reports.



Unfortunately, anti-drilling activists have stepped in to obstruct further development of the natural gas industry, which is responsible for creating tens of thousands of new jobs, according to the report. Herb and Marion Sandler, who founded the S&L known as World Savings Bank, are identified as the primary culprits here. In 2007, they launched an investigative reporting outfit called ProPublica, which proceeded to inveigh against the natural gas industry.

“Much attention has been paid to the efforts of gas companies to influence the political debate through campaign contributions and lobbying efforts,” the report says. “But anti-drilling activists—while claiming gas companies use their vast financial resources to weaken regulatory structures and silence poorly funded environmental groups— influence politicians through their own lobbying efforts and by spreading myths about drilling. Among the myths alleged about “Big Gas” is that drillers are flocking to Pennsylvania’s rich Marcellus Shale reserves, engaging in dangerous and highly polluting drilling activities, and shirking responsibility for damages while successfully avoiding paying taxes.”

After scrutinizing several of the natural gas articles produced by ProPublica, the Independent Institute uncovered several "errors and exaggerations" that cast the industry in very bad light. There is, for example, a 2002 study from the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission that could not find any evidence of groundwater contamination resulting from hydraulic fracturing contrary to what was reported in ProPublica. The commission surveyed agencies in 28 states. This effort spanned the entire history of hydraulic fracturing in those states.



Another key player here is the Heinz Foundation, which has expanded the number grants devoted to studying the natural gas industry. Heinz is headed up by Teresa Heinz, wife of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) The idea here is to "put the industry on notice," the Commonwealth Foundation surmises in its report. The Center for Healthy Environments and Communities (CHEC) at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) has launched a projected called Fractracker.org that was made possible with an endowment from the Heinz Foundation. The site includes an anti-drilling blog.

The slanted reporting and misinformation could come with a serious price tag for Pennsylvania, if state officials are persuaded to impose restraints on natural gas development. Penn State economists have concluded that the Marcellus development has already resulted in thousands of new jobs for the state. Moreover, the investments in natural gas drilling have translated over to improved infrastructure for the state. In 2010, natural gas companies poured about $200 million into rebuilding and improving local roads, the Commonwealth Foundation reported.

The new drilling techniques have helped to take the edge off the recession in Pennsylvania and in other states. Average Americans who do not have the support of wealthy liberals or well-endowed foundations should let their elected officials know that their livelihood depends upon increased energy production.

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