Here’s What Marketplace Missed on Natural Gas Development

Taking a hard turn away from business and economics, NPR’s Marketplace – which claims to focus on “raising the economic intelligence of the country” – ran a one-sided attack on natural gas development last night that does more to scare listeners than inform them of science and facts. The story relies on information from environmental activist organizations that are steadfastly opposed to safe, responsible American energy development, instead of seeking a balanced view of the issue.

Here are three things to know:

  1. Consider the Source: Citing “a new set of documents” — that were released 17 months ago – Marketplace relies on a report funded by the Heinz Endowments, Park Foundation, and Tides Foundation, a “who’s who” of groups that bankroll anti-energy development organizations. What’s more, the Tides Foundation provided more than $2.1 million for Marketplace to launch its “Sustainability Desk,” which produced this story.Further, the two sources presented as non-biased experts – Dr. Edward Ketyer and Dusty Horwitt – are environmental activists who support an outright ban on safe, responsible natural gas development. Horwitt has said that bans on fracking – which would be devastating to Pennsylvania’s economy and cost more than 400,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – “make sense.”

    Yet, Marketplace fails to disclose this bias for listeners, instead presenting them as independent voices. And it provides no context for listeners about the motivations of the report’s funders.

  2. Pennsylvania’s Modern, Effective Regulations: Our industry is committed to operating in the safest and most responsible manner. Pennsylvania has some of the most stringent environmental rules in the nation, and natural gas operators have one of the highest environmental compliance rates of any industry in the commonwealth.Independent experts agree, too. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, “there is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has resulted in a direct impact to water supply in Pennsylvania.” And the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Regulations, a nonprofit environmental review organization, has given high marks to Pennsylvania’s oversight of its natural gas industry.

    In fact, the industry voluntarily adheres to enhanced setback requirements and supported the addition of expanded baseline water testing into law. Yet, Marketplace rhetorically asks “where are the regulators?” – a question that completely ignores the law and implies Pennsylvania’s lacks a sound, modern regulatory framework.

  3. FracFocus 2.0: The natural gas industry in Pennsylvania is required to disclose – on a well-by-well basis – the chemical additives used in fracturing fluids. The MSC – whose members produce 95 percent of the gas in Pennsylvania – was an early supporter of greater transparency and disclosure. Every state with significant oil and gas production requires mandatory disclosure through FracFocus, a nationwide, searchable database. Additionally, additives, which are typically found in everyday household products, represent less than 1 percent of the hydraulic fracturing fluid – the other 99+ percent is sand and water.

    Again, Marketplace ignores this publicly accessible, nationwide disclosure database, leading listeners to falsely believe that chemical additives aren’t disclosed.

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