Green-Washing and Gender-Sanitizing Fracking: Rachael Colley and Nicole Jacobs of Energy in Depth

One example of the complicity of some women in the promotion of the extraction industry is the exchange between Nicole Jacobs, Rachael Colley, and myself concerning my piece, ”The Good Ole’ Boy Extraction Club, (YouTube: The Good Ole’ Boy Extraction Club: The Pseudo-Patriotic and Pervasively Patriarchal Culture of Hydraulic Fracturing (Why Breast Cancer is the Canary in the Fracking Coal Mine).

The exchange is interesting because it highlights the extent to which women who might in some ways identify with the goals of the feminist movement–that is, that they can participate as equal players in the institutions and organizations men have constructed–nonetheless act in ways that undermine the lives and aspirations of other women–especially poor and/or minority women. Ms. Jacobs and Ms. Colley both function under the illusion that their positions at Energy in Depth are testimonial to the equality of women in a man’s field–they site equal pay as the measure of this equality. But what neither see is that this is a bribe for a service they provide to the fracking industry that their male counterparts cannot, namely gender-sanitized window-dressing for an industry that contributes to the production of conditions associated with cancers that target women. If anything, Jacobs and Colley should be paid more for their particular effort at shilling. They can’t perpetrate a deception that, say, Joe Massaro and Tom Shepstone just aren’t going to be as good at–the myth that fracking is safe with respect to carcinogen exposure.


Indeed, Mr. Shepstone in and EID post 11.19.12 tries to argue the simply ludicrous claim that we have nothing to worry about with respect to the chemicals protected by proprietary rights laws because they are so benign! He fails, however, to ask why–if so benign–such chemicals, their mixes, quantities, and compound reactions NEED such protection. No doubt, he’d respond that the need derives from competition–if the competitor knew THAT mix, etc., it would give them the fracking-advantage. But this response fails as abysmally as his original argument since it’s the TOXICITY of that mix that leverages the advantage. hence it’s the TOXICITY that must be protected by proprietary rights laws. Moreover, this is precisely what is recognized in Pennsylvania’s ACT 13′s physician gag order clause that permits a doctor to tell her patient that she has been exposed to frack fluids–but not the QUANTITY OR THE MIX because THESE are precisely what is protected as “PROPRIETARY.”

About as straight-forward a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution as we could imagine–and almost surely to be struck down as such. Hence, we can only interpret Mr. Shepstone’s defense as a rearguard maneuver to ally this decision, for as he just as surely knows, if the public actually knew what proprietary rights laws protect, they’d be outrages. They’d see plainly that it is no exaggeration to call this industry genocidal profiteering.

As for my exchange with Ms. Jacobs and Ms. Colley, in the end it just leaves me cold and sad when educated, bright, and capable women so identify their own emancipation with the money-soaked standard of value bequeathed to them by what remains a demonstrably patriarchal culture that they cannot see that there is far more to justice than narrow self-interest.

The exchange in toto:

Nicole Jacobs: “Actually Wendy, we don’t look at Joe as our “knight in shining armor,” although he is a pretty nice guy. Realistically, he’s the person who attended your event, so he wrote the post. Rachael and I are just as capable and would have written one had we attended. He calls Rachael by her first name because they’re friends, not as a sign of disrespect. Had he called her Colley or Miss Colley she might well have taken offense.
I also read your paper and, quite frankly, find your view of women who have become successful in “male dominated positions” demeaning and hypocritical. First, those women who fought for our rights and continue to work to break the glass ceiling didn’t fight so we could sit back smug because we can have those jobs–they did it so we’d take them if we wanted them. I participate in a group of hundreds of women, from this region alone, working in this industry; from general laborers to management and educators and each and every woman is proud of the work they do, me included.
Lastly, professor roles are historically male as well, so by your definition are you not doing the exact thing you claim we are? Your argument collapses on itself for if we are to not take historically male positions because they perpetuate a male dominated society, then what would you have us do? Sit at home like good little women raising babies (not that there is anything wrong with a woman choosing to do so–it is her choice afterall.)?
I am proud of my PASSHE earned degree, proud I am putting it to use, and proud to be a part of the many women of the natural gas industry helping to secure a better future for generations to come in our region. You take issue with not what we do, but who we do it for, and the effort put into your paper to stretch a solid, successful career into something of which to be ashamed, simply because you disagree with us, is inexcusable for a tenured professor.”

My response:

“Nicole Jacobs: “I also read your paper and, quite frankly, find your view of women who have become successful in “male dominated positions” demeaning and hypocritical. First, those women who fought for our rights and continue to work to break the glass ceiling didn’t fight so we could sit back smug because we can have those jobs–they did it so we’d take them if we wanted them. I participate in a group of hundreds of women, from this region alone, working in this industry; from general laborers to management and educators and each and every woman is proud of the work they do, me included.”
Response: No Ms. Jacobs, your view of women is mercenary and self-defeating. By participating for pay in an industry whose environmental and human consequences include breast cancer, and because you cannot fail to know this, YOU are actively undermining the capacity of many women to achieve their own dreams. Indeed, you are clearly willing to sacrifice not only women but life in general to make the money EID pays you. Your motto is clearly “Success! At any cost!” Just because it pays well, Ms. Jacobs, and just because you have allies doesn’t mean it is morally acceptable to do it. You have bought into an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry, and if you think it will ever see you as anything other than “a woman in a man’s field,” you are sadly mistaken. After all, your actions strengthen the stranglehold the men who are pulling ALL of the strings here have over ALL of the rest of us–including you.
Ms. Jacobs: “…professor roles are historically male as well, so by your definition are you not doing the exact thing you claim we are? Your argument collapses on itself for if we are to not take historically male positions because they perpetuate a male dominated society, then what would you have us do?” No, Ms Jacobs, you are wrong again. I AM a professor, and I have made it my career to interrogate the meaning of that from within the professoriate. Google me and see for yourself. I challenge the image of what a professor ought to be and do every day. YOU simply repeat the same male-privileging pro-extraction line of your male colleagues. I reflect an academic profession that is sexist and has much to change–especially in philosophy. I take risks to make out these arguments. You reflect only the party line of an industry that is poisoning the very women you claim to emulate. You risk nothing. Well, there’s your health–but that’s the risk to which your money-making venture exposes all of us.
I don’t disagree with you, Ms. Jacobs. I expose you. I have shown that you are both deeply wrong in your assessment of the facts, and that you–for the sake of making money and getting to pretend you have a secure place with “the boys”–are deluded.”

Nicole Jacobs:

“Well Wendy, I had to stop laughing long enough to be able to respond. What’s funny is it’s not what you say about me that upsets me, it’s what you represent for the educational system and the ever existing debate on whether student tuition is being spent appropriately. It’s evident just from the responses you post to us that you are the type of professor who does not seek to educate students on how to think rationally, as is the purpose of philosophy, but rather the type that condescends, preaches to, and leaves no room for argument. I truly feel sorry for any males in your classroom and any females who do not buy into the notion that anything we do will not be good enough because there will always be a man doing better.
Now onto your actual argument. You dislike what we do because you claim we are selling out and helping spread cancer. You say I am “reflect[ing] only the party line of an industry that is poisoning the very women you claim to emulate.” But isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? Wendy you sound like a parrot spewing Josh Fox nonsense. Even Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which you condescend upon in your paper, says cancer rates are not on the rise in areas of development.
Opponents of fracking say breast cancer rates have spiked exactly where intensive drilling is taking place — and nowhere else in the state. The claim is used in a letter that was sent to New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo by environmental groups and by Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of “Gasland,” a film that criticizes the industry. Fox, who lives in Brooklyn, has a new short film called “The Sky is Pink.”
But researchers haven’t seen a spike in breast cancer rates in the area, said David Lee, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
David Risser, an epidemiologist with the Texas Cancer Registry, said in an email that researchers checked state health data and found no evidence of an increase in the counties where the spike supposedly occurred.
And Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a major cancer advocacy group based in Dallas, said it sees no evidence of a spike, either.
I for one believe those trained in the medical profession and those who make it their daily purpose to find a cure for a disease that has touched each and every one of us far more than a professor of philosophy that seems to still be stuck in the cave studying shadows. Come up with another party line to spew, Wendy. That one’s getting old.
As for not taking risks. I’m not worried when I go on a well site quite frankly, but I take risks every day as a result of proudly giving my opinion and sharing facts on this website. Ask some of your fellow Josh Fox followers about the threats they send us for speaking up. Ask them about those they send the landowners and elected officials who speak up. And yet we continue on because we believe in this industry and what it means for our communities.
I’ll say it again, I am proud of the degree I earned from the very state system you disgrace, my professors are proud of what I have done with my degree since graduation and even ask me to come speak/have their students send me questions, I am proud to have a job in an economy where far too many are so not so fortunate and I am proud of the work I do every day. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t work here. I don’t look to a man to justify my standing, although their criticisms are just as welcome as my female colleagues. When my partner and I decide to have children and decide whether he or I will stay home with them or both of us will continue to work, I’ll be proud of that decision as well. You see, I don’t look at my relationships whether professional or personal to see what male is holding me back, I view my male counterparts as equals and my work ethic and drive has led them to view me the same. I don’t play the victim card because I’m a female, I strive to overcome that historical stigma and prove my worth the same as any male is required to do. Your ideology is flawed at best and whether you respond or not, I am done with this conversation. The circles, the misinformation, the fear you spread may work on students still figuring out who they are in this world, but quite frankly I find them lacking in intellectual stimulation, nonsensical, and not worth my time. I will end with a quote of a rather angry follower of ours: “You know you’ve got them worried when they can’t stop talking about you.””

My response:

“Unable or, more likely, unwilling to comprehend the difference between politics and pedagogy, Ms. Jacobs makes the wildly unsubstantiated claim that because I have taken the time to patiently and thoroughly laid out the abysmal failures of Mr. Massaro’s argument, Ms. Jacob’s and Ms. Colley’s defense of their complicity in fracking, Mr. Shepstone’s lackluster response menu, etc., that I must be a dictatorial professor, and a “disgrace” to my university.
One response: COME AND SEE. Sign up for a class. Or even just show up for a class. Any class. Any time. No need to give me heads up. Happy to have you participate. More than happy to post you the course syllabi. I’ll make it even easier for you:
Spring, 2013:
Introduction to Philosophy: T/R 9:30-10:45, 11-12:15
Philosophy of Ecology: T/R 2-3:15.
Contemporary Moral Problems: W, 5-8.
And if you’d like to see my student evaluations, my peer reviews, my curriculum vitae, my professional publication record, you let me know.
The gauntlet is down, Ms. Jacobs. Don’t bother with excuses to wriggle out. We both know your bosses at EID would be thrilled for you to come.
As for breast cancer and fracking, let’s review:

“Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking): Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, is a process used to increase production in oil and natural gas wells. More recently, fracking has been used in combination with horizontal drilling through shale layers to reach natural gas reserves that were previously not easily accessed. Large quantities of water and other fluids are pumped into the ground at high pressure, which causes rock to break and allows gas to be extracted. Fracking fluids can contain chemicals linked to breast cancer, including known and suspected carcinogens such as benzene and toluene, and endocrine-disrupting compounds such as the phthalate DEHP. Evidence is beginning to emerge that these chemicals may contaminate underground water sources. In addition, waste water containing fracking fluids, bromine salts (which interfere with wastewater treatment), minerals and radioactivity from deep in the earth flows back out of wells and must be stored and disposed of safely. There have been a number of spills of fracking waste water, and underground storage of this waste has been implicated in the increased incidence of earthquakes around some storage wells. A summary of the chemicals used in fracking can be found here.”
From the CDC:
“The Centers for Disease Control has recently reported that while breast cancer rates have been slowly falling in recent years, they are on the rise in several natural gas production counties in Texas. The counties, including Denton County and five surrounding counties, has been the home to the largest concentration of natural gas production, according to a 2010 Texas Commission on Environmental Quality report, which inventoried natural gas production emission sources in 24 counties among the Barnett Shale.
It just so happened that the cancer hike was exclusive to the same counties that had the highest concentration of natural gas production equipment and emissions – which are known to utilize a number of toxic solvents and other chemicals for their natural gas ‘fracking’ production according to some scientists.
It also so happens that while the rest of Texas and the U.S. on average is experiencing lower cancer rates, rates are up in these six counties: Denton, Hood, Johnson, Parker, Tarrant and Wise counties. These six counties contain about 3 million people within a 5,000 square mile area.
Breast cancer rates have been falling nationally over the last few years according to the National Cancer Institute. Between 1975 to 1999, breast cancers rose from 103 per 100,000 people to 141 per 100,000. Then the rates dropped since 1999, to 127 per 100,000 in 2008 – the last yearly data published by the Institute.
Meanwhile, according to the Texas Cancer Registry, breast cancer rates among these six counties in Texas has risen by nearly 20% from 2005 to 2008.
Research has increasingly found that breast cancer is linked to toxins. These have included smoking, synthetic hormones and other toxins according to the American Cancer Society. Most experts also agree that poor diet and lack of antioxidants also significantly relate to breast cancer. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute have been funding the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program, which studies causitive elements at laboratories on the east coast and west coast.
“Finding cancer clusters has a very limited application in understanding environmental exposure, since statistical research methods work better when studying things that are big,” Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute, told a Denton Record-Chronicle reporter. The Silent Spring Institute is a research group that studies breast cancer risk. The group has found a number of associations between toxins such as solvents and fuel compounds and breast cancer.
Natural gas production has been under fire for their use of potentially toxic chemicals, which they use during the process of drilling through shale using a process called “fracking.” Many states, such as New York, are seeking to limit the amount of potential exposure to these toxins during the production of natural gas. Robert F. Kennedy has reported recently on these efforts.
Medical researchers are currently trying to nail down the precise causes for the uptick in breast cancer rates among these counties – and are closely looking at natural gas production chemical exposure.”
Ms. Jacobs, you claim to be interested in the science–but you’ll now deny the Center for Disease Control.

Hypocrisy. Bought and paid for.”

Rachael Colley:

“Just who gave you the right to decide who can call me by my first name or not, Ms. Lee? And, by the way, you calling him Mr. Massaro is exactly what you are preaching against isn’t it? Isn’t calling him by a formal name showing you feel inferior? “Yes mister,” “okay sir.” Do your friends call you by their last name? Do you refer to your friends as Mr. and Mrs.?
Let me also point out to you my education is in economics. I have taken several classes discussing the glass ceiling and the traditional roles of men and women in the workplace. I chose not to be a nurse or kindergarten teacher, as have you, which, again, demonstrates the tradition roles are changing. I am also not a self-proclaimed feminist. I currently hold a position where I make the same amount of money as my male coworker and I am extremely proud of that. Joe (and, yes, I can and do refer to him as “Joe”) is not a knight in shining armor; rather, he is my coworker and my equal. He and I work hand in hand together on projects, something perhaps you’ve not experienced, by the sound of it. I am not inferior to Joe, nor is he to me. We don’t refer to each other as mister and miss, because, quite simply we are friends and equals. It’s as simple as that and the fact you can’t understand that says more about you than me or Joe.
You say the following in your comment:
“Marxist, Atheist, feminist, vegetarian, union activist, queer, animal welfare theorist – and one of the most reliable, hard-working, publishing professors BU has. Want to discuss my commitment to my university with my university president? Call him: 570-389-4674.” That’s exactly right, Mr. Massaro–and unless you’re a homophobic, misogynist, anti-collective bargaining bigot, you’ll find everything in that list is something to be proud of–indeed to celebrate as excellent avenues of intellectual investigation and opportunities for freedom of expression in a democracy.”
Nowhere do I read where he degrades you for any of that. If you take this reiteration of your own comment personally, you are the one making the argument it is something to be ashamed of, not Joe. If you aren’t, there would be no point in bringing it up at all. Why do you feel you need to defend it, if you are so “proud,” when Joe expresess no opinion on it?
You then say “By Mr. Massaro’s reasoning, we’d still be living under Jim Crow segregation and women (say, “Rachael”) would still be in the kitchen making his dinner and pumping out “his” babies. I have no reason to think that he’d have thought these movements just as “childish” as he thinks the anti-fracking movement.”
Again, this is another example of you making assumptions, thinking people will fall for every word. Please, Ms. Lee, tell us where in any blog post, or anywhere else, where you have read Joe discuss Rachael in the kitchen making dinner and pumping out babies (which is such a classy way to say bearing children by the way)? You can’t find it anywhere? Well, surprise, surprise, surprise! You’ll have to do a lot better than that if you want to put words or thoughts into people’s head.
You also say “But the notion that because there as a smoker at this protest means that it is somehow morally unobjectionable that benzene is used in a process that could expose women UNKNOWINGLY to a carcinogen identified in breast cancer is absurd. That second hand smoke is a source of benzene exposure has led to the regulation of cigarette smoking in closed spaces. GOOD. Now why doesn’t Mr. Massaro apply that same reasoning to fracking?”
Regardless where people are smoking, they are preaching against the things they are doing themselves. Why doesn’t the same reasoning apply? Natural gas is explored outside, not inside, so, there, problem solved, correct? Well, according to the argument you just made my statement would be.
You are clearly a feminist who feels she is right in every aspect of everything and determined to impose her views on everyone else. I know you are digging for a “thank you for protecting my feminism, because Joe is so degrading” but I am not going to feed obsession. You try to turn women against men in nearly every comment you make. Unfortunately for you, you wouldn’t be where you are without men. You have had male teachers, professors, and family members, maybe you should thank them instead of degrading them as you claim they do us.”

My response:

“Ms. Colley, you are ranting.
1. Mr. Massaro would not have printed any of the list about my commitments did he not know his audience could be manipulated via their own conservative ideologies. You know that. I know that–so let’s stop playing that game, shall we?
2. Please read my post to Ms. Jacobs. It applies to you just as well.
3. Mr. Massaro provides no reason whatever for his reader to think he’d not have rejected the civil rights movement as childish. And if there’s any difference, it’s not one he can defend. maybe he likes civil rights and hated fracking, but of you think THESE are reasons, your education has failed you.
4. I don’t make assumptions, Ms. Colley. I offer arguments. And my arguments decimate Mr. Massaro’s piece. You also seem not to get irony. “Pumping out babies” is a way of referring to the patriarchal institutions and ideologies that entitle Mr. Massaro–and in fact demean YOU—whether you get that or not. Why? Because you are contributing to an industry that strengthens the entitlements of all the men in power over it–and they are virtually ALL men. If you think you can rise to the position of an Aubry McClendon under the current conditions, you are sadly mistaken. And if you think that THAT is a worthy aspiration given the cancered bodies of women you’ll have to trample to get there–you are deluded.
5. Colley’s reasoning about smoking: “Smoking is bad. Some of the people who protest fracking smoke. Both fracking and smoking involve benzene. Benzene is a carcinogen. So since both involve benzene, and we do one we should do both.” How ridiculous! We should do NEITHER MS. Colley. And this is true by your own admission that smoking is bad. You’re just so apparently blinded by your monied devotion to EID, you refuse to see this.
6. Fallacy of ridicule and dismissal: Ms. Colley, “You are clearly a feminist who feels she is right in every aspect of everything and determined to impose her views on everyone else.” This amounts to the claim that you, Ms. Colley, don’t like what I have to say so you, Ms. Colley, are going to claim I’m stinky.” No one believes this nonsense about themselves. And even were it true, it’s irrelevant. The facts speak for themselves. Fracking causes cancer–and especially cancer that could affect women YOU know and love. But YOU have chosen to disregard this and promote an industry whose actions are not only implicated in this cancer–but use YOU as their front to gender-sanitize the fact that their poisoning us.
As for looking for a “thank you,” don’t be daft.”

And I am done with these threads. To the possible criticism that I have been rough on Ms. Jacobs and Ms. Colley–no. I HAVE treated them as the equals of their male counter parts. Equally deluded. Equally bought off. Equally (if not more) dangerous.


Also see Dory Hippauf’s IPPA Attack Parrot Strikes Again – Energy-in-Depth Regurgitates
Wendy Lynne Lee

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2 Comments on Green-Washing and Gender-Sanitizing Fracking: Rachael Colley and Nicole Jacobs of Energy in Depth

  1. At the end of the day…..”Energy In Depth” is a propaganda and misdirection mechanism of the gas drilling industry so everything they produce is jaded and suspect. Any reasonably well educated person can read through the screen and see that your just not going to learn anything you can count on, use or quote. Essentially they are a waste of technology.

  2. HI Erwin,

    Yes–propaganda machine is of course what they are. BUt they also serve as a communication center and a kind of clearing house for fellow frackers–and that, I think, is why they have to be countered. They are a hot bed of continuing misinformation that their true-believers use to console themselves that what they’re doing is OK. EID is as much a source of opportunities for denial, collusion, balm–as it is a propaganda machine. Indeed, I think many of its frequent fliers appear there to salve their guilt.

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