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“Frackademia” By Law: Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 Exposed

3:41 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

With the school year starting for many this week, it’s another year of academia for professors across the United States — and another year of “frackademia” for an increasingly large swath of “frackademics” under federal law.

“Frackademia” is best defined as flawed but seemingly legitimate science and economic studies on the controversial oil and gas horizontal drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), but done with industry funding and/or industry-tied academics (“frackademics”).

While the “frackademia” phenomenon has received much media coverage, a critical piece missing from the discussion is the role played by Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Although merely ten pages out of the massive 551-page bill, Section 999 created the U.S. Department of Energy-run Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA), a “non-profit corporation formed by a consortium of premier U.S. energy research universities, industry and independent research organizations.”

Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, RPSEA receives $1 billion of funding – $100 million per year – between 2007 and 2016. On top of that, Section 999 creates an “Oil and Gas Lease Income” fund “from any Federal royalties, rents, and bonuses derived from Federal onshore and offshore oil and gas leases.” The federal government put $50 million in the latter pot to get the ball rolling.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005′s ”Halliburton Loophole” — which created an enforcement exemption from the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act for fracking, and made the chemicals found within fracking fluid a “trade secret” — is by far the bill’s most notorious legacy for close followers of fracking.

These provisions were helped along by then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Policy Task Force, which entailed countless meetings between Big Oil lobbyists and executives and members of President George W. Bush’s cabinet. Together, these lobbyists and appointees hammered out the details behind closed doors of what became the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a bill receiving a “yes” vote by then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, almost no focus – comparatively speaking – has gone into scrutinizing Section 999, which subsidizes biased pro-industry studies for a decade and in turn, further legitimizes unfettered fracking nationwide.

Speaking at an industry public relations conference in Houston, TX in 2011 - the same conference in which it was revealed the shale gas industry is using psychological warfare tactics on U.S. citizens and recommending the military’s “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” for “dealing with an insurgency” of Americans concerned about fracking – S. Dennis Holbrook of Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York stated that it’s crucial for industry to “seek out academic studies and champion with universities—because that again provides tremendous credibility to the overall process.”

Section 999: In Service to Big Oil

RPSEA’s “FAQ” section makes its raison d’être crystal clear.

“The objective of RPSEA is to leverage research dollars along with the technical expertise and experience of RPSEA Members to conduct industry led research and development work to help commercialize domestic…Unconventional Onshore Hydrocarbon Resources,” RPSEA’s website explains. “RPSEA will focus on innovative technologies to reduce the costs of production, expand and extend the nation’s hydrocarbon resource base…” Read the rest of this entry →

Censored EPA Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Presentation Published

11:32 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

DeSmogBlog has obtained a copy of an Obama Administration Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fracking groundwater contamination PowerPoint presentation describing a then-forthcoming study’s findings in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

The PowerPoint presentation reveals a clear link between hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale gas in Dimock and groundwater contamination, but was censored by the Obama Administration. Instead, the EPA issued an official desk statement in July 2012 - in the thick of election year – saying the water in Dimock was safe for consumption.
IMG_1283
Titled “Isotech-Stable Isotype Analysis: Determinining the Origin of Methane and Its Effets on the Aquifer,” the PowerPoint presentation concludes that in Cabot Oil and Gas’ Dimock Gesford 2 well, “Drilling creates pathways, either temporary or permanent, that allows gas to migrate to the shallow aquifer near [the] surface…In some cases, these gases disrupt groundwater quality.”

Other charts depict Cabot’s Gesford 3 and 9 wells as doing much of the same, allowing methane to migrate up to aquifers to unprecedented levels – not coincidentally – coinciding with the wells being fracked. The PowerPoint’s conclusions are damning.

“Methane is released during the drilling and perhaps during the fracking process and other gas well work,” the presentation states. “Methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking and other gas well work…Methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality.”

Despite the findings, the official EPA desk statement concluded any groundwater contamination in Dimock was “naturally occurring.”

“EPA found hazardous substances, specifically arsenic, barium or manganese, all of which are also naturally occurring substances, in well water at five homes at levels that could present a health concern,” read the EPA desk statement. “EPA has provided the residents with all of their sampling results and has no further plans to conduct additional drinking water sampling in Dimock.”

Two EPA whistleblowers recently approached the American Tradition Institute and revealed politics were at-play in the decision to censor the EPA’s actual findings in Dimock. At the heart of the cover-up was former EPA head Lisa Jackson.

Former EPA Head Lisa Jackson’s Role in Censoring Report

EnergyWire‘s Mike Soraghan explained the studies were dropped – according to one of the unidentified whistleblowers close to the field team in Dimock – “out of fear the inquiries would hurt President Obama’s re-election chances.”

Though the two EPA career employees’ initial findings pointed to water contamination in Dimock – as seen in the PowerPoint presentation – their superiors told them to stop the investigation, in turn motivating them to blow the whistle.

One of the whistleblowers said he came forward due to witnessing “patently unethical and possibly illegal acts conducted by EPA management.”
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Obama EPA Censored Key Pennsylvania Fracking Water Contamination Study

8:05 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A must-read Los Angeles Times story by Neela Banerjee demonstrates that – once again – the Obama administration put the kibosh on a key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) groundwater contamination, this time in Dimock, Pennsylvania.

Though EPA said Dimock’s water wasn’t contaminated by fracking in a 2012 election year desk statement, internal documents obtained by LA Times reporter Neela Banerjee show regional EPA staff members saying the exact opposite among friends.

“In an internal EPA PowerPoint presentation…staff members warned their superiors that several wells had been contaminated with methane and substances such as manganese and arsenic, most likely because of local natural gas production,” writes Banerjee.

“The presentation, based on data collected over 4 1/2 years at 11 wells around Dimock, concluded that ‘methane and other gases released during drilling (including air from the drilling) apparently cause significant damage to the water quality.’ The presentation also concluded that ‘methane is at significantly higher concentrations in the aquifers after gas drilling and perhaps as a result of fracking [hydraulic fracturing] and other gas well work,” Banerjee further explained.

It’s essentially a repeat of Steve Lipsky’s water contamination by Range Resources in late-2010 in Weatherford, Texas. In that case, EPA conducted a taxpayer funded study, determined Range had contaminated his water, sued Range – and then proceeded to drop the suit and censor the study in March 2012.

EPA also recently kicked the can down the road on a high-profile fracking groundwater contamination study in Pavillion, Wyoming, originally set to come out in 2014. That release is now expected in 2016, another election year. Just days after EPA’s decision, a Duke University study again linked fracking to groundwater contamination in the Marcellus Shale.

“We don’t know what’s going on, but certainly the fact that there’s been such a distinct withdrawal from three high-profile cases raises questions about whether the EPA is caving to pressure from industry or antagonistic members of Congress,” Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) told the LA Times.

Ed Rendell and Friends At Work Again?

Located in the heart of the Marcellus Shale basin, Dimock was featured prominently in both Gasland documentaries, as well as in FrackNation, the industry-funded film created to counter Josh Fox’s films, produced and directed by climate change deniers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney.

In the case of FrackNation, McAleer used EPA’s desk statement for propaganda purposes. He portrayed Craig and Julie Sautner – whose water was contaminated by Cabot Oil and Gas – as “crying wolf” for expressing anger that EPA privately told them their water was contaminated, then publicly stated that it wasn’t.

The Sautners aren’t alone in their frustration, however, and they’re in good company.

“What’s surprising is to see this data set and then to see EPA walk away from Dimock,” Robert Jackson, co-author of the June 2013 Duke study that included Dimock water samples, told the LA Times. “The issue here is, why wasn’t EPA interested in following up on this to understand it better?”

Jackson raises the million dollar question: Who from the industry pressured USEPA to censor the actual results of the Dimock study? In Steve Lipsky’s case it was former head of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell.

Rendell – tied to the shale gas industry via Ballard Spahr LLP law firm and venture capital firms Element Partners and Greenhill & Co. - privately lobbied EPA to shut down its study and lawsuit centered on Lipsky’s groundwater contaminated by the Pennsylvania-headquartered Range Resources. His lobbying proved successful, likely in part due to three of his former aides now working as industry lobbyists.

One of those lobbyists is K. Scott Roy, Rendell’s former “top advisor.” Roy not only lobbies for Range Resources, but also sits on the Executive Board of the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Prior to serving in the Rendell administration and becoming a fracking lobbyist, Roy worked in the office of former PA Republican Governor Tom Ridge, who went on to serve as “strategic advisor” to the Marcellus Shale Coalition in 2012.

Did Roy contact his old boss Ed Rendell and request the Obama Administration step away from the Dimock study? That’s a question for a follow-up investigation.

Dereliction of Duty, or Par For The Course?

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“Gasland 2″ Grassroots Premiere in Illinois Highlights Industry PSYOPS and Ongoing Fracking Fights

11:10 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

 

Gasland Promo image

Gasland Part 2 continues documenting energy industry spin and climate change.

Gasland 2 screened yesterday in Normal, IL and DeSmogBlog was there to gain a sneak peak of the documentary set for a July 8 HBO national premiere.

Josh Fox’s documentary played at the Normal Theater, the second-ever screening since the film officially premiered on April 21 at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City

The movie builds on Fox’s Academy Award-nominated Gasland, further making the case of how the shale industry’s hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom is busting up peoples’ livelihoods, contaminating air and water, polluting democracy and serving as a “bridge fuel” only to propel us off the climate disruption cliff. 

A central theme and question of the film is, “Who gets to tell the story?” That is, industry PR pros and bought-off politicians utilizing the “tobacco playbook” and saying “the sky is pink,” or families directly injured by the industry? Fox explains how the industry has gamed the system, ensuring the communities have their voices drowned out. The Gasland films seek to tell some of the victims’ stories. 

Another theme is the bread and butter of following any big industry’s influence: following the money. In depicting the financial clout of Big Oil, Gasland 2 shows that the oil and gas industry has gone to the lengths of deploying warfare tactics – literally – on U.S. citizens to ram through its agenda. 

PSYOPs Use by Gas Industry PR Flacks Featured

Much of the content in Gasland 2 has also been covered on DeSmogBlog over the past few years.

Robert Howarth’s and Anthony Ingraffea’s prominent “Cornell Study” receives some good play in the film. Howarth and Ingraffea demonstrated that from cradle to grave, fracked gas has a more dangerous global warming effect than coal, a death knell to the “natural gas as a bridge fuel” meme. President Obama’s deployment of American Petroleum Institute “jobs” talking points for fracking is in there too.

Former head of the Dept. of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush and Republican Gov. of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, also takes a beating in the film. His appearance on “The Colbert Report” is righteously roasted, the same appearance in which he lied to U.S. citizens and declared he was “not a lobbyist” even though he was registered to lobby at that time for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Tailsman Terry the Fracosaurus,” which demonstrates the industy’s willingness to utilize propaganda on young children, receives a similar round of ridicule in Gasland 2. Fox also explains the oil industry’s use of Big Tobacco’s Playbook through interviews with Naomi Oreskes, author of Merchants of Doubt, a major theme of our coverage of both the shale gas industry and the Tea Party

Steve Lipsky, who was left in the dust by Range Resouces and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is one of the central characters of the film. The major villain of that tale is former PA Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, who helped derail and censor the EPA’s fracking groundwater contamination study motivated by Lipsky’s water contamination in Weatherford, TX.

While the prospective shale gas export boom is covered in some depth in the film, so too is the concept of the government-industry revolving door, particularly as it pertains to Pennsylvania. The Public Accountability Initiative’s study “Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania” is featured in the film, a study we also covered.

Last but certainly not least, Gasland 2 devotes an entire section to the industry’s admitted use of psychological warfare tactics (PSYOPs) on U.S. citizens, as we first revealed in Nov. 2011.

The Houston PR conference referred to in the film is one I attended and covered in some depth. It was a gathering of industry public relations executives talking among friends about how to best manipulate mainstream media journalists, divide and conquer anti-fracking activists, and intimidate local communities to go along with fracking operations that endanger their health and drinking water.

Gasland 2 presents the audio of Range Resouces Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Matt Pitzarella revealing that Range hires PSYOPs Iraq War veterans to use their skills to pressure local communities. The film also features Anadarko Petroleum External Affairs Manager Matt Carmichael advising gas industry PR pros to read the Army “Counterinsurgency Field Manual” and “Rumsfeld’s Rules,” because “we are dealing with an insurgency.”

Both audio clips were obtained by Earthworks’ Sharon Wilson at the conference and provided to media by Earthworks and DeSmogBlog. CNBC first broke the story on Nov. 8, 2011.

Illinois Fracking Fight Wages On

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Ed Rendell Intervened For Fracking Giant Range Resources to Stop Texas EPA Water Contamination Case

7:06 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Ed Rendell

Ed Rendell

A breaking investigation by EnergyWire appears to connect the dots between shadowy lobbying efforts by shale gas fracking company Range Resources, and the Obama EPA’s decision to shut down its high-profile lawsuit against Range for allegedly contaminating groundwater in Weatherford, TX.

At the center of the scandal sits former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, the former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the National Governors’ Association.

Just weeks ago, the Associated Press (AP) broke news that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shut down the high-profile Texas lawsuit and buried an accompanying scientific report obtained during the lawsuit’s discovery phase in March 2012.

That confidential report, contracted out to hydrogeologist Geoffrey Thyne by the Obama EPA, concluded that methane found in the drinking water of a nearby resident could have originated from Range Resources’ nearby shale gas fracking operation.

Range Resources – which admitted at an industry conference that it utilizes psychological warfare (PSYOPs) tacticson U.S. citizens – launched an aggressive defense against the EPA’s allegations that the company might be responsible for contaminating resident Steve Lipsky’s groundwater.

AP explained in its investigation that resident Steve Lipsky, who has a wife and three young children, had “reported his family’s drinking water had begun ‘bubbling’ like champagne” and that his “well…contains so much methane that the…water [is] pouring out of a garden hose [that] can be ignited.”

In response, the Obama EPA ordered Range to halt fracking. Range was non-cooperative every step of the way, refusing to comply with the legal dictates of the discovery phase and not complying with the censored water sample study implicating the company with groundwater contamination.

The new twist exposed by EnergyWire‘s Mike Soraghan is that Ed Rendell, acting “as a spokesman for Range” Resources, “proposed certain terms” to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. Exactly what was said remains unclear, but the EPA ultimately dropped its case against Range.

Over a thousand pages of emails obtained by EnergyWire “offer behind-the-scenes insights in a case that has come to be seen as a major retreat by the agency amid aggressive industry push-back and support for natural gas drilling by President Obama.”

Rendell: Range’s Chosen One or Rogue Lobbyist?

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Obama EPA Shut Down Texas Shale Gas Water Contamination Study

1:54 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

The Associated Press has a breaking investigative story out today revealing that the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) censored a smoking gun scientific report in March 2012 that it had contracted out to a scientist who conducted field data on 32 water samples in Weatherford, TX.

That report, according to the AP, would have explicitly linked methane migration to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Weatherford, a city with 25,000+ citizens located in the heart of the Barnett Shale geologic formation 30 minutes from Dallas.

It was authored by Geoffrey Thyne, a geologist formerly on the faculty of the Colorado School of Mines and University of Wyoming before departing from the latter for a job in the private sector working for Interralogic Inc. in Ft Collins, CO.

This isn’t the first time Thyne’s scientific research has been shoved aside, either. Thyne wrote two landmark studies on groundwater contamination in Garfield County, CO, the first showing that it existed, the second confirming that the contamination was directly linked to fracking in the area.

It’s the second study that got him in trouble.

“Thyne says he was told to cease his research by higher-ups. He didn’t,” The Checks and Balances Project explained. ”And when it came to renew his contract, Thyne was cut loose.”

From Smoking Gun to Censorship: Range Resources Link

The Obama EPA’s Weatherford, TX study was long-in-the-making, with its orgins actually dating back to a case of water contamination in 2010. The victim: Steve Lipsky.

“At first, the Environmental Protection Agency believed the situation was so serious that it issued a rare emergency order in late 2010 that said at least two homeowners were in immediate danger from a well saturated with flammable methane,” the AP wrote.

AP proceeded to explain that Lipsky had “reported his family’s drinking water had begun ‘bubbling’ like champagne” and that his “well…contains so much methane that the…water [is] pouring out of a garden hose [that] can be ignited.”

The driller in this case was a corporation notorious for intimidating local communities and governmental officials at all levels of governance: Range Resources. Range, in this case, set up shop for shale gas production in a “wooded area about a mile from Lipsky’s home,” according to the AP.

As DeSmogBlog revealed in November 2011, Range Resources utilizes psychological warfare techniques as part of its overarching public relations strategy.

Due to the grave health concerns associated with the presence of methane and benzene in drinking water, the Obama EPA “ordered Range…to take steps to clean their water wells and provide affected homeowners with safe water,” wrote the AP.

Range’s response? It “threatened not to cooperate” with the Obama EPA’s study on fracking’s link to water contamination. The non-cooperation lead to the Obama EPA suing Range Resources.

It was during this phase of the struggle where things got interesting. As the AP explained,

Believing the case was headed for a lengthy legal battle, the Obama EPA asked an independent scientist named Geoffrey Thyne to analyze water samples taken from 32 water wells. In the report obtained by the AP, Thyne concluded from chemical testing that the gas in the drinking water could have originated from Range Resources’ nearby drilling operation.

Despite this smoking gun, everything was soon shut down, with the Obama EPA reversing its emergency order, terminating the court battle and censoring Thyne’s report. The AP explained that the Obama EPA has “refused to answer questions about the decision.”

“I just can’t believe that an agency that knows the truth about something like that, or has evidence like this, wouldn’t use it,” Lipsky, who now pays $1,000 a month to have water hauled to his family’s house, told the AP.

“Duke Study” Co-Author Confirms Veracity of Thyne’s Study 

Robert Jackson, a Professor of Global Environmental Change at Duke University and co-author of the “Duke Study” linking fracking to groundwater contamination did an independent peer review of Thyne’s censored findings. He found that it is probable that the methane in Lipsky’s well water likely ended up there thanks to the fracking process.

Range predictably dismissed Thyne and Jackson as “anti-industry.”

Americans Against Fracking: An “Unconscionable” Decision

Americans Against Fracking summed up the situation best in a scathing press release:

It is unconscionable that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is tasked with safeguarding our nation’s vital natural resources, would fold under pressure to the oil and gas industry…It is again abundantly clear that the deep pocketed oil and gas industry will stop at nothing to protect its own interests, even when mounting scientific evidence shows that drilling and fracking pose a direct threat to vital drinking water supplies.

There’s also a tragic human side to this tale.

“This has been total hell,” Lipsky told the AP. “It’s been taking a huge toll on my family and on our life.”

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