A Pocono Record news item on July 29 carried the headline, "Experts: Bad PR has hurt fracking industry." The headline missed the real news in the story, which was that a former Shell president, John Hofmeister, admitted that, "everybody knows that some wells go bad."
This is a huge admission on the part of the gas industry. Fracking activists have known this for years, but for reasons explained below, the gas industry has done everything it can to hide this from the public.
The more appropriate headline would have been "After years of denial, gas industry president admits fracking has contaminated wells." Headlines are important. They should convey the essence of that article. The headline in the Record not only missed the critical news, but barely even drew one into the article.Six years ago, I was totally pro gas. I spent more than $300,000 converting my manufacturing plant to gas. The ads about clean-burning gas were so convincing, there was no room for me to be a skeptic. It was not until an old friend who was working on a fracking documentary asked me to join him that I began to research the issue. We filmed story after story of people harmed by fracking. There are virtually thousands of those stories out there. We captured a handful in "Groundswell Rising "(see www.Groundswellrising.com).
It was profoundly discouraging when, about a year and a half ago, I went to East Stroudsburg University and listened to our state secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection state that he was not aware of one example of well contamination. How could he be claiming that when the evidence was to the contrary? His focus was totally on jobs, and not the environment. It appears if we were going to learn the truth about fracking it was not coming out of the DEP.
How did the gas companies suppress this contamination issue? Once the wells were contaminated, gas companies bought owners' silence by "giving" them water, etc., and requiring a nondisclosure agreement.
The failure of the gas companies to admit contamination was a source of great anger for those who knew differently. People bought into the lies.
The gas companies have hired the same advertising firm that successfully conducted the cigarette disinformation campaign for years. This disinformation campaign too will ultimately fail, and the openness and call for transparency by the Shell president will help to create a more honest dialogue.
The misinformation from the gas companies is staggering. Another example is the earthquakes seismologists now link to the disposal of fracking liquid deep into the ground. Was there any notice from the gas companies that these earthquakes would happen? Yet company officials continue to maintain that they know what they are doing, and can make long-range predictions regarding the effects of fracking. How can this be true when they could not even predict earthquakes?
The water, air contamination, etc., caused by fracking is bigger than anything we have seen. However, contamination to our democracy is profound. Through Common Cause, we have been working on lessening the harmful effect of money in politics for over 40 years. Pennsylvania's government has been purchased by the fracking industry. We saw it that day at ESU and many times since.
Nevertheless, we must congratulate former Shell President John Hofmeister for making the admission and calling for transparency. Transparency will be challenging for the gas companies, because it is a new flawed, technology.
No, it is not a 40-year-old technology as the gas companies would have us believe. It is only in the past 10 years that high-pressure horizontal hydrofracking has been developed. The use of toxic chemicals to lubricate gas is new, the use of millions of gallons of water is new, and other aspects are new technology. Calling high pressure hydrofracking an old technology is kind of like calling a horse and buggy an automobile. It is statements like "this is a 40-year-old technology" that destroy the gas industry's credibility.
I, too, am disappointed with our leaders in not calling for major conservation efforts. Why do we use twice as much energy per capita as do the Europeans? Is conservation our bridge fuel? How much gas would we need if we began to conserve energy like the Europeans? This seems like a stretch to imagine, but if we can get it into our consciousness, perhaps we can achieve it. Our leaders are doing nothing to raise our conservation consciousness .
My request to the Record is to pay close attention to your headlines. Fracking is a huge issue that will affect generations to come. This is truly a David and Goliath struggle. How you present the news is critical to the outcome. Headlines matter.
Mark Lichty is the retired former owner of Bustin Industrial Products in East Stroudsburg and executive producer of the anti-fracking film, "Groundswell Rising."