Powered by Max Banner Ads 

The Shrinking Fractivist Play Book Down to the Flea Flicker

NED Pipeline - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.


The fractivist play book keeps shrinking and they’re now down to flea flicker type moves that attract attention but seldom deliver anything but big losses.

Football, if it weren’t for the ridiculous politicization of the game this year, gets interesting in  December as marginal teams take chances to improve their prospects for getting into title games. One of the oddest of such maneuvers is the flea flicker play. It appears our fractivist friends have resorted to it with a bizarre accusation that the EPA fracking was modified to please the industry. Folks, if the fractivist play book is down to this, the game is over.

Late last night a reader sent me a link to this extraordinarily lengthy (almost 4,300 words) but empty story. The title —”EPA’s late changes to fracking study downplay risk of drinking water pollution” —explains the theme as well as anything. I had heard rumblings earlier in the day about it but didn’t give it much thought, as this is the sort of pap fractivists put out on a daily basis. When I got the link, I thought I ought to at least peruse the thing. So, I did, to my everlasting regret. It was one of the most pathetic things I’ve seen out of the fractivist play book. It immediately made me think of football and something called the flea flicker play:

A flea flicker is an unorthodox play, often called a “trick play.” in American football which is designed to fool the defensive team into thinking that a play is a run instead of a pass…

After the snap the quarterback hands off or laterals the football to a running back or another player on his team, who then runs towards or parallel to the line of scrimmage. Before the running back crosses the line of scrimmage, he laterals the football back to the quarterback, who looks to pass to an eligible receiver.

The key elements of the flea flicker play are; (1) reversing a pass to do it over again and (2) fakery. That about sums up this fractivist piece. It’s the same old pass play with a twist to make us think it’s something new. It even includes two classic photos of “Junkyard Ray” Kemble; one with his bottles of dirty water and the other with his cigar. Ray is supposed to the lovable character or rogue, you see, who is fighting back against the man. He’s your entertaining uncle or mushugana.

fractivist play book

Ray Kemble amidst his junkyard

The only problem is that Ray operates a junkyard (notice the car in the above picture from the story). Moreover, the only thing apparently wrong with his water is the fact he doesn’t pump his well until he wants to produce a bottle of dirty water. There’s also whatever stuff, if any, that leaked out of those junk cars, of course. His water was investigated, tested and found to be none of things he claimed — years ago. He has zero credibility and, yet, here he is, once again, the playing the center in the fractivist play book as the authors attempt their own version of the flea flicker.

Not only do the authors recycle and repass Ray, but they also engage in flea flicker word games. Here’s the second paragraph (first lateral pass) of the story (emphasis added):

Documents obtained by APM Reports and Marketplace show that in the six weeks before the study’s public release, officials inserted a key phrase into the executive summary that said researchers did not find evidence of “widespread systemic impacts” of fracking by the oil and gas industry on the nation’s drinking water.

Dozens and dozens of paragraphs and well over 2,000 words later, though, we find this, the second lateral pass back to the quarterback:

The documents obtained by APM Reports and Marketplace show that on April 24, 2015, an executive summary was circulated that said “hydraulic fracturing activities have contaminated drinking water resources in a variety of documented cases. Despite these risks, the number of documented impacts is quite low.

This was followed by this, the third, final and only forward pass:

Nowhere did the draft state that there was no widespread, systemic impact on water.

Once again, we just have to ask. Seriously? The authors want us to believe there is some major scandal in the fact there some imperceptible, known only to them, difference in what the two bolded phrases mean? Only in the noisy corners of the fractivist mind could anyone imagine  “Quite low documented impacts” is somehow significantly different than “no evidence of widespread  systemic impacts.” So, what do they do next? Well, they just reassert it with that forward pass, as if something new had happened. That’s the flea flicker, the last desperate pass from the fractivist playbook.

Well, not quite the last. The whole article, of course, perpetuates the lie that drilling is fracking and fracking is anything at all connected with natural gas. That way the specter of unknown, dangerous, lifeform-altering chemicals can make it into the story. The truth, though, is that hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is not drilling; rather, it is a very specific process that comes after, sometimes long after, drilling.

The EPA report itself, unfortunately, melded the two processes together, which is the only way they were even able to say their were any impacts from fracking; by including things such as methane migration, which can occur from water well or geo-thermal well drilling just like it occasionally does from gas drilling.

It is this confusion of terms, in fact, which is at the root of the language controversy here. Several members of the EPA Science Advisory Board wanted to be much more clear on this point and they should have. This article only adds to the confusion by further muddling the distinctions between drilling and fracking.

fractivist play book

Geothermal drilling rig on fire due to shallow methane in Owego, New York

It also includes some very misleading assertions, including the suggestion gas companies had simply refused to participate in providing data. Here’s the offending excerpt:

The study ran into a number of difficulties when it began five years ago.

The EPA, for example, tried to work with oil and gas companies to conduct testing on sites before, during and after a fractured well is drilled. Called “baseline testing,” it would have allowed scientists to see whether the process resulted in any contamination of groundwater. Despite pledges of cooperation from the industry, the EPA could never reach agreement with any company to conduct the tests.

“Initially, industry was very supportive of working together with the EPA to do some field studies,” said Robert Puls, a scientist who oversaw the study in 2010 and 2011. “As the details for doing those studies got closer and closer to actual implementation, their resistance seemed to grow.”

Puls said he left his position at the EPA in 2011 partly because he was frustrated with resistance by oil and gas companies to work with the EPA on the study.

Puls only tells a tiny bit of the real story. He used Rebecca Roter, a prominent fractivist from the Philadelphia area who migrated to Susquehanna County, as his contact in the area for purposes of the study. Here, in fact, is an e-mail exchange related by a Dimock resident contacted by Roter on behalf of Puls in 2011:

I got a real strange phone call from a woman in Brooklyn PA claiming to be helping Dr Puls from the EPA w/ a water study. Then I got this email.  Does anyone know anything about this?  We don’t mind having our water tested however we want nothing to do with the litigants at all.  We don’t want someone who isn’t legitimate around here either.

Thank you,


—–Original Message—–

From: Aludra <Aludra@aol.com>

To: XXXXXXX <xxxxxx.com>

Cc: puls.Robert <puls.Robert@epamail.epa.gov>; puls.robert <puls.robert@epa.gov>

Sent: Tue, Aug 16, 2011 11:40 am

Subject: Fwd: Susquehanna Co visit

Dear Mrs. XXXXXXX,

Thank you very much for speaking with me today.  As promised I am sending along the EPA contact information. I will cc Dr Puls so that he knows you intitial willingess to be in the EPA study, and your preference to deal with him directly.  Thank you very much for your time.


Rebecca Roter, Brooklyn PA 570-XXX-XXXX

From: Puls.Robert@epamail.epa.gov
To: aludra@aol.com
Sent: 8/11/2011 3:45:16 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Susquehanna Co visit

Thanks for your willingness to help. Please identify 8 homeowners who you think have real impacts to their drinking water and are willing to be part of the study. Please send me the list with addresses. Identify where we can meet on Thu at 8 am to begin meeting with them individually.  Access agreement attached.

Robert W. Puls, Ph.D.
Agency Technical Lead, Hydraulic Fracturing Study
Ground Water and Ecosystems Restoration Division
National Risk Management Research Laboratory, USEPA
P.O. Box 1198 / 919 Kerr Research Dr.
Ada, OK 74820

Puls, as the e-mail illustrates, was willing to let Rebecca Roter act as scout for his project. Does anyone have to wonder why the gas industry might have been skeptical about a process where fractivists played such lead roles?

Such is the fake pass nature of the entire story, complete even with quotes from Raina Rippel of fractivist Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project fame. It could hardly be worse. The fact it’s even being offered reveals more about the ever shrinking fractivist playbook than anything else. The flea flicker doesn’t win many games and it isn’t winning this one either.

UPDATE: Katie Brown at EID reports who funded this latest nonsense:

It’s worth pointing out that APM has received tens of thousands of dollars from the anti-fracking Park Foundation and APM and Marketplace were awarded millions in grants by the anti-fracking Tides Foundation, specifically to create a program on “global sustainability and the economy.” From that press release:

“The grant will primarily support the creation of a new desk for American Public Media’s Marketplace business programs, including Marketplace™, Marketplace Morning Report™, and Marketplace Money™, a personal finance program.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

39 thoughts on “The Shrinking Fractivist Play Book Down to the Flea Flicker

  1. Tom, you rely on the EPA assertion that they found no systemic evidence of water contamination from fracking. This assertion is dependent on designing and executing objective studies. Objective studies are dependent on community participation. Industry likes to portray itself as members of the community, yet they resisted supporting the study through participation, even as fracktivists offered to help. So, the EPA nevertheless reached a conclusion that you can support in spite of little support from that part of the community that is industry and in spite of support from that part of the community that opposes fracking.

    I think you are running out of crap to write about and that it is you who are on shaky ground here.

    And you need to update your analogies. The last person I saw execute a flea flicker was Joe Namath in 1969. Against the Oakland Raiders.

  2. Mark Twain once said that a lie is halfway around the world before the truth has left the dock. In today’s social media it is no longer a metaphor, but a truism.

  3. Contemptuous pontificating urban hypocrites like udogma, to their horror, lost the election (many refuse to accept the result) and are losing their fearmongering war on American energy independance and the rural populace. There is no trail of death and disease in drilling regions- it would have manifested by now.

    Smug blue cities would be on their knees in 72 hours without
    oil and gas. Would that they could be forced to practice what they preach.

    • Hey Keith, sorry to stretch your brain, but it’s unreceivedogma here, not udogma. Maybe someday you’ll ask me why I call myself that.

      In the meantime, I got sad news for you, Keith: I was born in St Louis MO, a southern cracker city if ever there was one (Ferguson did not just happen there for no reason), and was raised in the country on the eastern edge of Appalachia, surrounded by trailer homes, though I did not actually live in one myself. Yes, my roots are in white trash, and I am actually proud of it and never miss the opportunity to rub my liberal friends noses in it.

      More sadness for you: I do not rely on oil and gas. My electricity comes from wind, and I use mass transit, ride a bike or walk whenever I can. Yes, I quite literally walk the talk.

      As for the elections: His TriumPfness is a salesman and an entertainer, and good salesmen know that good entertainment is the best sales vehicle. His TriumPhness is famous for the ol’ bait ‘n switch, and look who he has already surrounded himself with: at least three Goldman Sucks people, one who made a fortune out of evicting 35,000 people out of their homes after ’08.

      I am waiting for the day when the pitchfork brigade stops being bamboozled by His TriumPhness’s baubles and realizes they’ve been duped. Not completely the brigade’s fault: the lame-stream media spent the whole campaign chasing rabbits that His TrimPhness was throwing down the holes he crated, instead of reporting real news.

      • I don’t care what you call yourself or why. You’re a deluded poser, one of many collectively responsible for ripping off the Southern Tier.

        • That was a rhetorical position I took, Keith. I knew you would not be interested, thus proving my next point to a T.

          If you had an unusual moniker that I did not understand, I might ask you what it means. Asking questions fills in gaps in knowledge. It’s called intellectual curiosity.

          While anti-frackers do have their share of flat-earthers, the preponderance of people who not only seem to lack intellectual curiosity, but are downright anti-intellectual come from the pro-industry side.

          In order to have a discussion, you have to have some curiosity about the other side’s views and take the time to reason why they take the positions they take, as well as to hold some skepticism about your own views and positions*. Arguing from reason as opposed to emotion also makes it easier to resist chasing rabbits thrown down holes, to resist being manipulated.

          As to why some people are anti-intellectual, there is not much space here to get into that, but bear in mind that His TriumPhness, in an early campaign speech, asserted that he loves the uneducated. It might be worth taking a moment to think about why that is not necessarily spoken from a position of altruism.

          * eg: getting rich vs NIMBYism vs putting food on the table vs climate change: four distinct positions in this debate

        • Udogma- you prove nothing but your own arrogance by parachuting in behind enemy lines and insulting and lecturing everyone here including Tom S.

          The terrified left has lost control of the narrative and is trying desperately to regain it, and it will lie cheat and steal to do so.

          Climate change is not new and not entirely anthropogenic, and the real problem is overpopulation. Good luck getting the world to change it’s energy consumption habits- or running NYC on 100 percent wind and solar.

          The Rockefellers, Parks et al and their waterboy Cuomo kicked the Southern Tier right in the nads, frankly. We’re not too happy about it.

          • Keith,

            re “terrified left”:

            Back in the 70s, colleagues of mine predicted that in the early part of this century, the U.S. will find itself at a crossroads. I’m not going to discuss with you right now the characterization of what that is in detail because it’s a very long analysis (books have been written about it) and you seem not to be interested in a discussion, your preference is to assign labels and call names.

            I will say that they had it mostly correct. The middle and working classes now have a choice: to accept what they are being fed by the alt right media, the conservative media, and the liberal media, (in my book they are all lame-stream media: thank you Sarah Palin, you did get that one mostly right), or to think about whether or not there is another way of looking at things. Don’t go chasing the rabbits being thrown down rabbit holes. Instead, think about why it is that this historical period may be most like that of the 1850s, remembering that the outcome then was civil war.

            So, no: the left (NOT to be confused with liberals: they are center-right elitists) is not afraid because they saw this coming decades ago.

            re “Climate change is not new”

            The causes and implications of are another story, but we agree on something, so that’s a place to start.

            re “overpopulation”

            That is another problem, not “the real” problem, it does not negate the problem of man-made climate change. What do you propose to solve the problem of overpopulation?

            re “The Rockefellers”

            If you only knew what I know about the Rockefellers.

            All I will say is for now is that some members of the current generation of Rockefellers are liberal left-of-center, doing what Tom accuses them of, and you could say that what they are doing has the veneer of NIMBY-ism, although IMO that does miss the mark (that’s why I sometimes have fun accusing Tom of being a class-warfare infantile Marxist ;-).

            However, others are busy rebuilding the family fortune, and they are doing it the way they know best. When the book comes out, I’ll let you know. If I forget, remind me or have Tom remind me.

            re “behind enemy lines”

            I don’t see it that way. You should be thankful that someone from this side is willing to go “behind enemy lines” and try to have a discussion with you, unlike many of my colleagues who view it as waste of time.

            Conversely, you should come down to the city sometime. you might actually like it.

        • Did I for once say that I don’t rely on oil and gas?

          Do you know how to read carefully?

          I would say that my consumption of fossil fuels is about 15% at most of the median consumer. My position is that I do everything within my power to limit my dependence on oil and gas. In so doing, and along with others who practice what they preach, we encourage market forces to meet our demand.

          That is already happening: the majority of new power plants are moving to renewables; major car manufacturers are already banding together into a consortium to build thousands of electric vehicle filling stations across Europe so that the millions of electric vehicles that they expect to have on the road by the middle of the next decade will have a place to “fill up”.

          • And how much of your “consumption” includes plastics or rubber products, which are also derived from fossil fuels?

          • I can read and here’s what you said:

            on December 1, 2016 at 6:24 pm said:

            “More sadness for you: I do not rely on oil and gas. My electricity comes from wind, and I use mass transit, ride a bike or walk whenever I can. Yes, I quite literally walk the talk.”

            Look for yourself as the comment is still there. You are seriously delusional as I stated.

          • Note, Don, that “unreceidogma,” doesn’t get his wind energy from a windmill on his property. He lives in Manhattan and pays a premium for purchasing wind energy via his choice of electricity providers. By paying that premium he also signals other ratepayers and taxpayers that they’ll need to help pay for his choice. You and I both know what that means; that his energy comes from the grid and, therefore, is a mixture of gas, solar, nuclear, wind, coal, oil and hydro power. Moreover, it’s only because the grid includes dispatchable gas and nuclear power that the wind can even be employed. Wind, without the gas or nuclear as backup, is not feasible for powering a Manhattan apparent. So, when he claims he relies on wind that’s little more than a rationalization, a self-deception. He’s very dependent on gas and nuclear, among several other energy sources and while he can claim he puts his money where his mouth is, he’s also dragging the rest of us along for the ride with the necessary subsidies. What’s ethical about that?

  4. It’s also important to note that even proven water contamination might not be the result of fracking. Santa Barbara is known for oil seeping up out of the ground (and ocean floor). The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles are another example. And Spindletop–the site that launched the Texas Oil Boom, was chosen in part because natural gas seeping out of the ground could be ignited. Let’s also not forget that organic fracking, sometimes known as earthquakes, affects geology far more than anything humans have done.

    • I fail to see the logic here: water contamination being the result of natural causes does not disprove the fact that water contamination can be the result of unnatural causes, one of which is fracking.

      • Where is one place where fracking done correctly has resulted in water contamination? Give us something conclusive we can look at, not just a claim. And by the way, injection wells don’t count.

        • “…where fracking done correctly…”

          Well, that let’s you off the hook, now, doesn’t it? The best argument that you can make is that in those instances where the totality of operations* led to water contamination, you would have to say that it was not done correctly. But to the person with dirty water, I would have to say that for them, they quite frankly couldn’t give a damn whether it was done correctly or not, it doesn’t make it any better that they are stuck with dirty water.

          *”totality of operations”, meaning that the problem is often with well integrity. Claims are frequently made that pollution isn’t from fracking, it is from poor well construction, but you can’t have the one without the other, can you? Therefore, the “totality of operations”.

          • No, it doesn’t let me off the hook; it puts you on the hook because anything could be banned if generally accepted and sound practices weren’t followed.

            If we applied your “totality of operations” axiom to the auto industry we wouldn’t have cars because, “Claims are frequently made that vehicle deaths aren’t from unsafe construction, they are from poor driving, but you can’t have the one without the other, can you? Therefore, the “totality of operations.”

            Personally, I believe the risks of leaving natural gas in the ground (or at the bottom of the ocean) far outweigh the risks associated with pulling it out and using it. There are a number of natural phenomenon that can trigger the bulk release of natural gas in the ground or methane hydrate in the ocean. And the consequences of those events would be devastating on a planetary scale.

          • Tim, you are right: 10s of thousands die in auto accidents.

            If you were paying attention,you would have noted that I limit my automobile use as much as possible, because the “totality of operations” of automobiles is that they polite the air, and that yes, they kill a lot of people: either through accidents, faulty construction (relatively rare, IMO), or the pollution that they generate that we all breathe and that causes heart disease.

            I would say that the automobile constitutes about 5% of my transportation use.

          • I forgot to reply about the risk of “leaving it in the ground”

            You are on to something there, but not in the way that you think: the biggest risk there is not that it be left in the ground, but that climate change will cause the greatest warming in the Arctic, causing the methane beds that have been frozen under the Siberian permafrost for millennia to thaw all at once, releasing God-zillions of cubic sq ft of methane from the ground into the atmosphere.

            As for “driver error”, Goggle, Musk, and now Apple are working on that:

            Wall Street Journal: Apple Drops Hints About Working on Self-Driving Cars
            In letter to U.S. transportation regulators, Apple said it is investing heavily in machine learning and automation

            Most of these vehicles will be hybrids or electric.

            Three million men (and some women) work in transportation, driving trucks. This development will put them all out of work, cannot be stopped, and will not be ameliorated by shipping 13 million people back to Mexico.

            OK I’m done for the day.

          • Unless you are only talking about yourself when it comes to fracking, you missed the point of my vehicle analogy. I don’t care if you limit your fracking operations to zero. Just don’t apply that to the rest of us when it comes to fracking or vehicles. Your “totality of operations” argument is lame, as it can be used to limit or ban virtually any human endeavor.

          • We couldn’t melt all the ice in the arctic if we used nuclear weapons, so I’m not worried about any near term melting that isn’t going to exceed what we have seen in the last 100,000 years. Although a well placed and decent sized asteroid could definitely do a lot more that we could if we tried. But you do bring up a good point. I am now an advocate for the immediate mining of mining the natural gas located in the arctic. I’d even support a trans-Canadian pipeline to bring it to North America and the ports that will be used to transport it to the rest of the world.

    • “organic fracking, sometimes known as earthquakes”

      That’s very creative of you, bravo: I’ll have to try that one on at my next anti-fracking meeting!

      • If you want to score with the chicks who don’t shave their armpits or legs, don’t forget to mention the organic CO2 contributions to the atmosphere, also known as volcanoes.

  5. The EPA SAB on Water Quality Effects of Hydraulic Fracturing was subject to scientific peer review as were several other studies Please see my recent article
    Richard W. Goodwin West Palm Beach FL

    Goodwin, R.W. “COMMENTARY: EPA and Peer Review Science – Environmental Evaluation Hydraulic Fracturing [Part II]”; Oil Pro, Sept. 14, 2016

    A review [analysis and evaluation] of regulatory and governmental scientific peer reviews shows that Hydraulic Fracturing [HF[ does not pose an environmental and/or health threat – when practiced according to sound engineering principles.


  6. Wow. I also just read that article and basically could not get over how many words it took the reporter to basically say almost nothing!!

    Plus anonymous sources plus I noticed some bad sources.

  7. Ok, this is now officially the udogma blog… Let us prostrate ourselves in penitance and rejoice that he deigns to allow the hayseeds to bask the reflected glow of his manifest brilliance. This after all Andrew Cuomo’s NY, where conservatives are not even welcome.

  8. “Moreover, the only thing apparently wrong with his water is the fact he doesn’t pump his well until he wants to produce a bottle of dirty water. ‘

    I’m curious, Tom, did you read the ATSDR report on the toxins found in Ray’s water?

    Also, please do remind me again how it is Cabot admitted in the three CO’s they polluted these water wells, yet you now deny it. I know you have some kind of talking point for that.

    Also, the Marcoms, next door to B Ely admit their water was polluted when Cabot fracked in 2012, how do you dismiss them again?

    And did Ray’s “junkyard” cause Fiorentino’s water well to explode?

  9. Also, Tom, you note that “fracking” is not “drilling”.

    I’ve heard industry describe to the EPA that fracking is “subtle and bounded”, disconnected from all related activities.

    I understand why industry wants to limit the definition of fracking to just what occurs in the horizontal during the stimulation process. Generally industry will not even include what occurs in the vertical during that same stimulation process in their defintion.

    With Mitchel’s advancements, new technology has allowed the fracking boom we have today – horizontal drilling, longer well bores, etc. YET, the public would like to know if that ENTIRE process pollutes drinking water, since the entire process is going to be used to serve the LNG export industry’s plans.

    How do you think the public should phrase the question regarding the safety of the entire process, so-as to get an answer from industry about the safety of the entire process?

    Since industry wants to define fracking as only what occurs in the horizontal during the stimulation process, and states THAT process does not pollute drinking water, for the 3 million expected gas wells that will be needed to feed the LNG export industry .. will industry agree to only install “subtle and bounded” horizontal well bores? Since industry will not allow the rest of the process to be included in their definition, how can they claim the rest of the process does not pollute drinking water?

    You told me drilling has nothing to do with fracking. Ok, then you only get to frack .. you only get to install the horizontal portion of the gas well, with no vertical to access it, since you will not include that vertical – or any other part of the process – in your definition.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 Powered by Max Banner Ads