Advisory Committee’s Fracking Report Spurs Outpouring of Spin

Michael Giberson

Even before the natural gas subcommittee to the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board released it’s “Ninety Day Report” on hydraulic fracking today, anti-fracking groups shifted their spin operations into high gear. On Monday, a letter to President Obama sponsored by 68 groups called on him to “employ any legal means to put a halt to hydraulic fracturing” in natural gas development. On Wednesday, the Environmental Working Group published a letter sent to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu expressing concern over a “lack of impartiality” on the natural gas subcommittee.

This morning many newspapers are carrying stories on the report. The New York Times article by reporters Robbie Brown and Ian Urbina was noteworthy for the number of times it referred to earlier New York Times stories written by Ian Urbina. (Note especially the mid-article paragraph that begins, “After The New York Times published a series of articles … President Obama asked Steven Chu, the energy secretary, in May to produce an advisory report within 90 days on ways to improve the oversight of natural gas drilling.” To which I respond: After Knowledge Problem first made mention of shale gas production, Ian Urbina wrote several widely-criticized stories on natural gas drilling for the New York Times.)

The Washington Post story concluded with an inadvertently amusing pair of paragraphs relaying the views of Friends of the Earth:

But groups such as Friends of the Earth — which joined 67 other organizations in asking Obama on Monday to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — questioned why the panel would issue a report when the EPA was in the midst of a multi-year study.

“We’re talking about this 90-day rush to judgment that’s just inappropriate,” said Damon Moglen, who directs climate and energy policy for Friends of the Earth.

Apparently a 90-day “rush to judgment” is inappropriate, but by day 87 the Friends of the Earth had already concluded that fracking for natural gas should be stopped immediately.

The “Ninety Day Report” released today is presented as a “draft” document. The public can submit comments on the report, the full Secretary of Energy Advisory Board will review the draft prior to formally submitting it to the Secretary on August 18, and the final report will not be issued until November 18, 2011. See the US DOE website for details.