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More Distortion from StateImpactPA

John Quigley - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.



There is no end to the bias that comes from StateImpactPA, revealed again in an article about oil and gas industry air emissions. StateImpactPA is a fractivist shill.

StateImpactPA continues to distort the facts on natural gas. That’s what the Heinz Endowments and William Penn Foundation pay them to do. If I sound like  broken record on that point, I can’t help it. They keep playing the same song over and over again, with little attention to detail, a whole lot of bias and, always, always, quotes from their sister fractivist shill groups. They know exactly what they’re doing and John Hanger caught them at it last week. The story today, though, is what they’re doing to distort the air emissions record of the industry. Pennsylvania’s DEP hasn’t helped either.

The latest attempt by StateImpactPA to throw up a smoke cloud and obscure the facts is a story about an air emissions report from DEP. “Air pollutants from Pa. oil and gas sites continue to rise,” is the headline. It quotes a few statistics released by DEP, reaches out to their Clean Air Council sister group for a pile-on comment and references an already debunked asthma study for further effect. The thrust of the article is captured in these misleading excerpts (emphasis added):

Although the number of well sites reporting information to the DEP dropped by 2.7 percent from 2013 to 2014, the number of pipeline related infrastructure sites increased by 12 percent…

Sulfur dioxide emissions saw the greatest jump, increasing 40 percent over 2013 levels. Sulfur dioxide contributes to acid rain, and causes respiratory problems including asthma.  Other air pollutants that contribute to public health impacts also increased, including nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds…

The 2014 shale gas emissions inventories include increases of 18 percent for nitrogen oxides, 25 percent for both fine particulate matter and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), and 19 percent for carbon monoxide. Particulate matter causes heart attacks, asthma, and difficulty breathing. It can be fatal for people with heart and lung disease. VOC’s cause a number of symptoms including eye, nose and throat irritations; headaches, nausea, as well as liver and kidney damage.

Notice the pseudo journalism employed. The implicit message is that dangerous air pollution is up even as the number of wells involved has gone down. The percent increases are then presented in a vacuum with no context but plenty of blather about the dangers. It’s Fractivism 101.

The DEP news release, to be fair, is not especially well done, as it fails to explain some of the critical numbers. Nonetheless, it is StateImpactPA that tries to turn what is irrefutable good news into fractivist agitprop. Let’s take a look at the facts, which are readily available from the DEP data found here:

  1. There is no decrease in the number of sites reporting. The sites reporting to DEP include both wells and pipeline infrastructure. DEP’s table suggests the former dropped from 10,275 in 2013 to 10,009 in 2013, a 2.7% decline, while midstream facilities reporting grew from 447 to 508, a gain of 12%. Here’s the thing though; this is not what the data in the DEP files, accessible as Excel files says. The combined list of wells and midstream facilities listed by DEP in those files total only 5,453 for 2014 (and even less for carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide). Moreover, this is up from 4,258 combined reporting sites for 2013. That’s a 20% increase. StateImpactPA never bothered to check the hard data itself.
  2. The number of sites reporting isn’t nearly as relevant as the amount of natural gas production involved. The DEP summary states “According to the recently released 2015 Annual Oil and Gas Report, production from unconventional gas wells increased significantly, from 3.1 trillion cubic feet of gas to 4.1 trillion cubic feet.” That’s a 31% increase. StateImpactPA, of course, ignored it, even though this was the single-most relevant point of reference for anyone wanting to truly understand the figures.
  3. StateImpactPA, in fact, fails to provide any context whatsoever other than the highly misleading wells number, which isn’t even close to the reality. A fair evaluation of the data would compare the increases in emissions to both natural gas production and what’s happening as natural gas is substituted for coal and oil in making electricity. Here’s how the key numbers line up in Realville:
    StateImpactPANotice that Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Oxides (NOX), PM-10, Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH-4) all grew by less than the amount of natural gas production. Methane, which has been the focus of so, so much previous attention by the Wolf Administration, the EPA and all of StateImpactPA’s friends, barely grew at all. PM-2.5 and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) grew at just slightly above production. Only Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) grew significantly faster than production, but that’s also the area where natural gas substitution for coal and oil has produced such dramatic reductions (literally 99.9% in many cases), so the net impact is still hugely favorable to natural gas, a point illustrated by this plotting of EPA emissions data on SO2 for the Commonwealth as a whole.
    StateImpactPANotice how SO2 declined rapidly as natural gas started to be developed and used widely for electricity generation in 2009, with huge declines thereafter, a total of 70% since 2007 when the shale revolution hit Pennsylvania. There have also been major declines since 2007 in all the pollutants disingenuously highlighted by StateImpactPA. PM-10 dropped 32% and PM-2.5 shrank by 27%. CO, NOX and VOCs declined by 28%, 26% and 25%, respectively, despite (and, more often, because of) huge increases in natural gas production.

The story, as told by StateImpactPA, ignores all of this, which isn’t just sloppy journalism. It’s deceptive pseudo-journalism, including the self-serving vacuous quotes from the Clean Air Council, which is funded by the same two foundations as StateImpactPA. This is a recurrent pattern with the latter. Their reporting almost always includes quotes from their sister operations at the Clean Air Council, Delaware Riverkeeper or PennFuture. That’s no coincidence. It’s a coordinated enterprise and the facts are deliberately distorted, as in this case, to advance a fractivist agenda, which is really part of a much bigger no-growth and political agenda.

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3 thoughts on “More Distortion from StateImpactPA

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