Energy in Depth’s Soldiers of Fracking- Fortune: Why We Must Understand Who They Are and What They Do

1. Energy in Depth’s Soldiers of Fracking-Fortune

In her excellent PR Watch piece, ““Energy In Depth” – A Reporters’ Guide to Its Founding, Funding, and Flacks,” Lisa Graves spells out in copiously well-documented detail the purposes and funding sources of what can only be called a propaganda machine for corporations involved in hydraulic fracturing:

In short, IPAA/EID is a PR operation for the industry’s multi-billion dollar financial interests in “unconventional” drilling for what is popularly known as “natural gas.” Although this expanded drilling is often described as essential to our “national security,” the Center for Media and Democracy/PRWatch has shown that the industry is increasingly exporting gas to be sold in other countries. IPAA/EID’s PR efforts pay special attention to the “Marcellus shale” gas that lies deep beneath the surface in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and neighboring states, which constitutes a lucrative market for multi-national firms and their domestic counter-parts to exploit. (“Energy In Depth” – A Reporters’ Guide to Its Founding, Funding, and Flacks | PR Watch)

Energy in Depth’s (EID), reason for being, in other words, is to affect acquiescence to the manipulative rhetoric of what I have called “the good American,” that is, to a conception of citizenship designed to maximally benefit the extraction industry and its expansive array of associated enterprises (Why Fracking Epitomizes the Crisis in American Democracy: Profiteering and the “Good American” | Raging Chicken Press).

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This benefit involves not only identifying citizenship with corporate profitability, but allowing the very real and environmentally destructive incursions of corporations like Shell, BP, Chesapeake, Anadarko, Chevron, etc. onto our farms, state parks, gamelands, and university campuses (The Industrialization of PASSHE: Where the Public Good, its Students, and its Faculty are Auctioned Off to the Extraction Profiteers (Or: Extortion by Extraction) | Raging Chicken Press).

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That the destruction of environment, community infrastructure, social and economic safety nets is abetted through the corruption of government agencies and the drafting of corporate-favored law is well-established—but it is to the re-writing, concealment, effacing, and deflection away from these facts that is at the heart of EID’s modus operandi.

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EID’s is a tall task: it’s one thing to be a site administrator like Tom Shepstone and post demonstrably false cheerleading promotions for fracking. It’s also one thing to be a member of a staff of field directors whose job it is to write feel-good reports about the benefits of fracking. But it’s another altogether to act as soldiers of fortune for corporations whose record of environmental violation, community disruption, worker accident, incursions onto the protected lands of indigenous peoples, gross failures of habitat remediation, and blatant criminal profiteering (think Aubrey McClendon) requires something more than cheerleading.

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That  is the raison d’être of EID, and it requires not merely the suspension of a moral compass concerning, for example, lying about the benefits of fracking for good Americans; it requires soldiers of fracking-fortune, that is, agents willing to fabricate, manipulate, discredit, and if necessary silence an opposition whose stalwart activists are gaining increasing ground in the minds and hearts of their fellow citizens.

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It is supremely ironic that it is to our patriotism that the hydraulic fracturing corporations appeal since they are demonstrably beholden to no country, no flag, no national interest whatever. Indeed, as is reported by Common Dreams, the fracking boom actually threatens national security:

 

Despite gas industry claims that the natural gas extraction “revolution” will create energy security and affordable fuel for US consumers, fracking will in fact benefit those in the US very little, as the natural resource will most likely be shipped offshore to those who will “pay the highest price,” according to a new report released Wednesday by Food and Water Watch. Additionally, there is far less oil and gas reserves to mine in the first place — contrary to what industry leaders would have us believe. (Fracking Rush Threatens US Energy Security: Report | Common Dreams)

 

Citing a recent Food and Water Watch report, “U.S. Energy Insecurity: Why Fracking for Oil and Natural Gas is a False Solution,” Common Dreams points out that “as of October 26, 2012 the Department of Energy has received 19 proposals from various US fossil fuel companies to export liquefied natural gas to foreign bidders. These companies stand to profit greatly by selling “huge amounts of natural gas overseas—as much as 40 percent of current U.S. consumption” (Fracking Rush Threatens US Energy Security: Report | Common Dreams). The report also shows that “natural gas resources will be far more scarce and difficult to extract than industry voices would like us to believe.”

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Given the implications of these facts, namely,

 

(a) that the rhetoric of “Cheap, Abundant, American” is naught but an advertising scheme designed to extort particularly rural Americans into signing away their properties—and the rest of us to shun such folks when they say “no” to the landman, and

 

(b) that there won’t be as much to export as the industry claims—hence the rush to get as much out now as possible, and

 

(c) that what we’ll be left with is contaminated water, polluted air, destroyed roads, community evisceration, and an even wider gap between the obscenely wealthy and the endemic poor,

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it’s no wonder that the soldiers of fortune at EID must mount a very aggressive campaign to insure that the rank and file of the American public doesn’t find any of this out. It’s no wonder, in fact, that EID is so clearly frightened of Matt Damon’s new film “Promised Land” that they’ve constructed a Facebook page that, while it claims to be a “community” for real Americans to talk about their real experiences as residents of shale country, it’s actually just a billboard (much like the Green Slime campaign) for fracking.

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Fact is, if you post anything challenging the rhetoric of the “good American” on “The Real Promised Land” Facebook page, you will be banned from it—putting the lie both to EID’s stated commitment to first amendment rights, and to even the pretense that this is a “community page.” It’s not; it’s an advertisement for the gas industry, and a clear expression of the fear that Promised Land might motivate real Americans to begin raising their voices against the incursions of the extraction industriy. As Dean Marshall points out, it’s an opportunity for EID’s counter-narrative to Promised Land to appear at the top of a Google search (7) The Real Promised Land).

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Such is the counter-narrative bought and paid for by, as Lisa Graves spells out, by some of the most powerful, corrupt, environmentally horrifying corporations in the world: Shell, BP, Chevron, Halliburton, Schlumberger, and KBR, among a host of other, smaller companies like Anadarko and XTO.

 

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Indeed, though it’s not my principle aim here, at the heart of the EID mission is the tallest order of all: the denial of the anthropogenic climate change for which these corporations bear the lion’s share of responsibility, and whose consequences will be devastating especially for those already adversely impacted by fracking, coal mining, mountain top removal, petroleum production—extraction.

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The EID mission is to help insure that the industry makes as much money as quickly as possible, and if possible before too many catch on, and/or before we contemplate going to war not (only) over fossil fuels, but over something far more precious: water.

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More ironic yet, these are the companies whose product—fossil fuels—will become even more lucrative as the fuel of the suicidal water-wars (Water wars between countries could be just around the corner, Davey warns | Environment | guardian.co.uk ). As Graves puts it, “IPAA/EID is more accurately described as a front group launched by global gas companies in order to fight a public relations battle against new environmental protections on fracking” for companies like:

 

* Shell, which is the second largest company in the world in terms of revenue, with income of almost a half a trillion dollars in 2011: $470 billion, just behind Exxon. Royal Dutch Shell is a Dutch company registered in London. In 2010, Shell bought “East Resources,” which had gas holdings in Pennsylvania and nearby, for $4.7 billion. Shell’s environmental record includes the largest fresh water spill of oil in the world (in 1999 in Argentina), a major oil spill near Alaska in 1988, and numerous spills in the Niger delta in Africa. (East Resources’ founder, Terry Pegula, and his wife gave at least $300,000 to Tom Corbett’s campaign for governor of Pennsylvania.)

* BP, which is the sixth largest company in the world in terms of revenue, with revenue of $375 billion in 2011. BP is a British oil and gas company, which took over two US companies, Amoco and ARCO (Atlantic Richfield Company) about a decade ago. Last month, BP and three of its employees were indicted on criminal charges, including manslaughter and obstruction of Congress, in connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and it also agreed to pay a $4 billion fine related to the disaster. (And, although many are unaware of it, BP’s decisions also made the Exxon Valdezdisaster worse.)

Chevron, which is a U.S. company that is the tenth largest in the world in terms of revenue, with income of $253 billion in 2011. Last year, Chevron obtained gas leases for over a million acres, plus hundreds of thousands of acres of development rights, from smaller companies like Chief Oil & Gas. Chevron and other companies have been sued for damaging our environment through the use of the MTBE gasoline additive that has contaminated water and soil. (Chief’s CEO, Trevor Rees-Jones, has been active in politics, giving at least two million dollars to Karl Rove’s Crossroads operations.) (“Energy In Depth” – A Reporters’ Guide to Its Founding, Funding, and Flacks | PR Watch)

 That’s quite a load to try to cover up with “Clean, American, and Abundant,” and it takes a paid army to do it: EID—better named, given this ugly history of environmental disaster and human rights violations, Energy in Death.

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2. A Tale from the Trenches

 

EID could not command the funding it gets without delivering a solid product: a clear path to the ongoing unimpeded profitability of fossil fuel extraction. Hence it’s unsurprising that so much of its energy goes into tamping down, dismissing, discrediting, dividing, conquering, and silencing the opposition at the level of that opposition: the gritty grassroots activism of the anti-fracking movement.

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A highly inclusive, diverse movement growing by leaps and bounds in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Colorado, Texas, etc., EID has its hands full countering the “fractivists.”

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There are many tales detailing EID’s soldier-of-fortune approach to crushing the opposition, but here’s one that I think instructive in several ways important to the growth of the anti-fracking movement:

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On December 12th, Dory Hippauf presented her superb work documenting the money-soaked corporate lineage of EID at a Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition (GDAC) meeting in Dallas, Pennsylvania (Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition Luzerne County PA HOME). She offered a series of graphs and charts connecting the dots to an audience that included EID-soldier Joe Massaro who, we might remember, drafted a highly distorted piece on the protest at Schlumberger, Summer, 2012, for which he received copious criticism

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(More on That Natural Gas Protest That Bombed | Energy In Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative ). Massaro, however, could not draft any piece (to date) concerning Hippauf’s presentation at GDAC because to do so would have required the graphs and charts, and like Graves work, these are damning for EID. So he didn’t, and I made it a point to call him on it in a piece for Shaleshock, “Energy in Death (Depth) Refuses Dory Hippauf Hit-Piece Award: Joe Massaro opts for Silence over Truth,” (Energy in Death (Depth) Refuses Dory Hippauf Hit-Piece Award: Joe Massaro opts for Silence over Truth). I should point out as well that Massaro apparently has a special place in his heart for fractivists who level criticism in his direction because he wasted no time trying to defuse a presentation I gave at Susquehanna University this past October (http://eidmarcellus.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/WendyLynnLee.pdf) via what can only be described as a hit-piece (Wendy Lynne Lee: Activist, Professor and Now a Fiction Story Teller | Energy In Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative).

Taken by Dean Marshall, Double Frack Site, Rt 118, rural Pennsylvania
Taken by Dean Marshall, Double Frack Site, Rt 118, rural Pennsylvania

 

Here’s where it gets hairy—and instructive: during this same period, and no doubt because I (among many others) was beginning to gain some traction on the EID-Marcellus Facebook page, EID banned me from posting. Because EID claims to have a commitment to first amendment rights (what does the good American have if not this?), I called out the site Administrator, Tom Shepstone in a piece titled “Being Banned for half a minute from Energy in Death’s Facebook Page” (Being Banned for half a minute from Energy in Death’s Facebook Page). Moreover, he engages in some pitiful damage control when he says both “You did get banned somehow, Wendy, but it wasn’t me and apparently was unintentional by whoever did it. I simply don’t know how it happened. Regardless, I unbanned you immediately when I saw this comment. I wouldn’t want to deprive our readers of your tirades, which are always wildly entertaining, this one included… Sorry, I know you love playing the martyr, but we love engaging you, so we’re not giving you this badge to wear” and “I don’t know how you got banned. I checked with everyone on our team and no one else does either. Regardless, I unbanned you immediately upon learning of it. I also posted your comment on the blog and answered it. We make it our business to engage folks on the other side and, frankly, your one of the more interesting conversationalists among those we do engage.”

Inconsistent, but whatever.

What follows was a shining example of just what EID is and does: Massaro drafts a new hit piece accusing me of altering/fabricating his words at Shaleshock (Natural Gas Opponents at Shaleshock Media Make It Up | Energy In Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative).

I altered/fabricated nothing. I may be loud, but dishonest? No.

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A blogger at Shaleshock did—and has come forward publicly to own this and to promise it will not happen again.  Indeed, I made clear that I would have no truck with any blog that carries my work who altered, deleted, fabricated anyone’s work or comments short of deleting direct threats. Shepstone demanded that a comment of his be posted at Shaleshock condemning the fabrication. It was, 12.28:

 

Joe Massaro’s words in commenting on your piece are totally replaced and he calls out Shaleshock Media on it (following your standards) and you accuse him of smearing you. No one will buy that, Wendy, absolutely no one. However, I am glad to know you did not do the deed (contrary to you, I except your word on that) and I am pleased you plan to dig into it and leave Shaleshock Media if you learn they did and will not post there again. I take you at your word on that as well. Let me note, however, the site administrator, whoever that is, obviously did it or bears responsibility for it, given that you didn’t do it and we didn’t. I also notice my comment, which was submitted prior to yours on Shaleshock Media. is still awaiting moderation but yours went up immediately. So someone is paying attention and deliberately refusing to deal with my comment. I don’t think you can ignore that. There is a problem at Shaleshock Media. (Being Banned for half a minute from Energy in Death’s Facebook Page)

Shepstone then denied that Shaleshock had done the honorable thing, and I called him out. I showed precisely the strategy EID deployed to make it the victim in Massaro’s manufactured allegations. I say “manufactured” not because Massaro’s words were not altered—they were, and this is patently wrong—but because Massaro—EID—doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about the integrity of claims posted on such blogs. Massaro’s was simply an opportunity to make up an allegation against a fractivist the EID soldiers fear. It just happened to be me this time—but it could have been anyone with the integrity and temerity to speak out against fracking.

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And that is the point.

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My last post on the relevant thread at EID-Marcellus:

Dear reader,

Some facts–please check each out on your own:

1. Mr. Shepstone is lying #1. His comments concerning the incident of my being falsely accused by Mr. Massaro of altering his words were posted at Shaleshock, 12.28 at 5:38PM: (Being Banned for half a minute from Energy in Death’s Facebook Page). That’s day before yesterday.

2. Mr. Shepstone is lying #2: his comment that “I am glad to know you did not do the deed ” is cancelled by ““This isn’t a court or I wouldn’t take Wendy on her word that she had nothing to do with it.”

3. Mr. Shepstone is lying #3: EID in fact alters comments, and is fully guilty of precisely what it accused Shaleshock. My post above (12.29) concerning the damning exposure of the EID propaganda machine by PR Watch contained a claim that Mr. Shepstone deleted. The claim was not threatening, and it was not–contrary to Mr. Shepstone’s insistence–ad hominem.

It is simply fact: “MR. SHEPSTONE, THE FACTS ARE ABSOLUTELY CLEAR. YOU ARE PAID TO DO ANYTHING–INCLUDING LIE, SMEAR, DISTORT, FALSELY DISCREDIT–ANYTHING THAT ACCOMPLISHES THE GOAL OF YOUR MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR SECRET-UNTIL-NOW EMPLOYERS. TO SAY THAT YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED IS TO TRIVIALIZE WHAT YOU STAND FOR.” This is what the PR Watch piece shows, and it’s claim are fully researchable.

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What Mr. Shepstone really means is not that my comments are “irrelevant,” but that they are wholly relevant. His is a pathetic attempt to divert attention away from EID and onto a very different organization, the Park Foundation–a foundation, not a corporate venture. But the fact that his numbers are completely wrong has already been shown–so his censorship and alteration of my words is a rearguard action to cover EID’s painfully compromised and dirty keester.

Lastly, the person who did alter Mr. Massaro’s words has come clean here at 12.30.12, 8:58AM.

I am therefore entirely vindicated in this–and so are all of the bloggers at Shaleshock–a blog that exemplifies the integrity EID cannot because honor would require Mr. Shepstone own the fact that his “field directors” are nothing more than paid soldiers of fortune for the gas industry, that EID not only operates as a smear campaign, but that its agents will censor, alter, and fabricate claims to forward its agenda, and that, he, himself, is deeply morally compromised.

None of these claims apply to Shaleshock, and certainly not to me.

I tell the truth.

Shepstone and his EID soldiers of fortune know it. It’s plainly fear that motivates their rearguard vicious endeavors to malign and discredit–but this time, Mr. Shepstone, I assure you, your efforts have back-fired.

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Mr. Massaro’s theater has accomplished nothing but the further galvanizing of the anti-fracking movement.

 In response to this, EID banned me from its website—illustrating not only that Massaro’s offense concerning the alteration of his words is faux at best, but that, like “The Real Promised Land” facebook page, whatever suits the purposes of insuring that fracking proceeds unimpeded is what EID will have its soldiers of fracking-fortune do.

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Here’s how Massaro spins the ban:

 

UPDATE II: Shaleshock Media has now acknowledged they replaced  Joe’s words and those of his friend with wholly new remarks saying the opposite of what they intended to convey.  They say they’re “sorry.”  However, they have not removed the false comments, have not put up the correct comments, have refused to approve our other comments on the matter and and have not identified the perpetrator of what they describe as an “unfortunate mistake,” “really bad judgment on someone’s part,” “bad joke” and “prank.”   While we appreciate the words, it is actions that speak to real intent and we note the apology came wrapped in a threat.  This is the end of the matter are far as we’re concerned, Shaleshock Media having demonstrated clearly what they’re all about.  Moreover, we will not be giving Shaleshock Media representatives access to this site while they refuse to do the honorable thing and correct their ways. (Natural Gas Opponents at Shaleshock Media Make It Up | Energy In Depth – Northeast Marcellus Initiative)

 

It’s difficult to adequately capture the absurdity of this:

 

  1. Massaro writes a hit piece false accusing a fracitivist of misrepresentation—but refuses to acknowledge this fact even though it’s spelled out for him and supported by hard evidence. He doesn’t take the piece down—but demands that Shaleshock take down the misrepresentation of him. It doesn’t matter, apparently, that while Massaro is misrepresented, I am assaulted and maligned. What matters is only that EID win.
  2. That fact of the matter is that EID can’t post my concluding remarks about the whole episode because it exposes Tom Shepstone—already on the ropes for not knowing who among his soldiers bans people they don’t like—not merely as a fellow soldier of fortune, but not a very competent one.

To return, then to the supremely ironic, the EID soldiers would convince us that it is our duty as good Americans to deliver our property, our water, our health, our children’s futures to corporations like the ones detailed by Lisa Graves and Dory Hippauf. They even try to convince us that such corporations care about our welfare and act in the interest of our nation’s security. But every bit of this is demonstrably false, and it is because it is so false that corporations like Shell, BP, etc., must hire organizations like EID to do the deeply foul work of convincing us of this lie.

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The dirty example profiled here is just one of many fractivists can tell. Some argue that we should not endeavor to engage the soldiers of fracking-fortune at all—that ignoring them will have greater effect on their capacity to swindle and extort.

But I think this is mistaken.

To be sure, EID cannot be our only target—that too is part of their strategy, to distract us while the rape of the environment goes on unabated.

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But, as with the work of Hippauf and Graves, we cannot afford to ignore what amounts to the National Rifle Association of Extraction.

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Like the NRA, EID operates to insure the profitability of its sources of funding. Like the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre, EID’s soldiers will say and do whatever is necessary to insure their objectives: more gun sales in the former, more frack-infrastructure for the latter. The ideologies of both are saturated by the single value that dominates their disposition to the world: money-for-its-own-sake, that is to say, corporate fascism.

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In EID’s world, speech has no premium but what can command dollars, no worth but what can be converted into wealth. We in the anti-fracking movement must come to understand this, for we too want to win.

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The difference? What we want to win is a livable future for our kids—and the moral difference is deafening.

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