The gas industry sends me emails

It may surprise you, but even as a township supervisor I receive a fair number of emails. And not just when citizens are mad. There are folks who’d like to comment on things like backyard chickens (being renamed) or stormwater ordinances. Maybe they are concerned about a land development plan’s scope, road safety, or what could happen to our neighborhood schools. We receive invitations to Arbor Day events, public prayers, and dedications to local citizen leaders or organization.

These emails bring a smile to my face. They are our community being community.

But I also receive a set of emails that should concern citizens. The natural gas industry sends me news bulletins vis a vis Energy Tomorrow, an energy “news” outlet dedicated to keeping the United States addicted to fossil fuels. Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute has sent me a couple of messages, “updates” I’ll call them. Yes, those quotation marks are scare quotes because the messages are scary as they are from the ultimate booster of an industry that’s vexed my state and an individual who wishes we could ignore the environmental and social realities of today and tomorrow. He is an early 20th century leader in the 21st century.

Gerard selectively cites and spins. He grabs from studies on water and carbon emissions to declare that hydraulic fracturing and the gas boom have been economic, social, and environmental boons. And yet he says nothing about the damage of “the boom” to families, to land, or to our democracy. How misleading is he?

He boldly declares fracking a win for climate change. While saying that carbon dioxide emissions have come down he overlooks fugitive methane emissions. These emissions are molecule per molecule over 70 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the near term and over 20 times as potent on the long term. That means that if we have more than a few percent leaking from wells, compressor stations, pipelines, or CNG vehicles connected to the billions upon billions of cubic feet of fracked gas, we are forcing climate change more than if we stick with oil and coal. That’s one.e of the reasons our own Governor Tom Wolfe, President Obama, and Prime Minister Trudeau are looking to regulate methane emissions from natural gas infrastruct

Here’s a little reality check. According to an analysis by Carbon Brief, if we are to have a 2 out of 3 chance of meeting the ambitious goals from the Paris Agreement we need to rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We would have to emit less than 250 gigatons of carbon dioxide and its equivalent in methane and other gases. That’s about eight years at current emissions levels. Gerard is trying to say that natural gas is a bridge fuel to clean and zero carbon renewable energy. That bridge is pretty rickety in the light of climate science. Even if we reduce it to at 1 in 3 chance we are looking at about 20 years.

Do you think that Gerard mentioned the total debacle at Porter Ranch, California, a methane leak that displaced a community, made it sick, and was like putting 440,000 cars cars on the road. Why not just build a new coal fired power plant?

In Energy in Depth’s world there seems to be no risk to anyone. The Mariner East and odiously named Constitution pipelines are shiny costs of doing business and the way to a brighter future. To the families who owned that land, these are wounds to their land and to their families. On water, he spins an already dizzying spun EPA study that found no widespread systemic impacts on water, but was itself called into question. But not a word about the plain fact that Dimock, Pennsylvania’s water has been found–conclusively–to have been contaminated. Not a mention that, as State Impact PA reports, on “March 10, 2016 a federal jury found Cabot Oil and Gas negligent for polluting their water wells and awarded the two families a total of $4.24 million.” And on human and animal health there’s not a word about livestock and pet mortality, birth defects, or sickness.


And finally, there’s zero—absolutely nothing—about the corrosive power of this industry on our democracy. At every turn in Pennsylvania, they have run over community voices. They’ve fought against zoning restrictions that would prohibit fracking and other natural gas infrastructure. Range Resources representatives have talked of using PSYOPs techniques. It’s clear that the Marcellus Shale Coalition has carried out public relations and lobbying campaigns at every level of society and government to manufacture consent so that the rules would be rigged for the carbon combustion complex and against community control. I believe their actions are pernicious. They’re so thin-skinned they’ve even resorted to gag orders on families that settle with them, families like the Hallowiches from Washington County. Their children can’t talk about fracking. These are no ways for a democracy to function.

I love my community and I love the messages people send me. But just know that even at our little local level, industries are spinning information to manufacture consent. Hopefully we can be vigilant about what’s up and what’s down. We should be up. Gas should be down. And because we have a Community and Environmental Bill of Rights and a fracking ban in Ferguson Township, we should expect more trees for Arbor Day and fewer greenhouse gases.


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