Penn Environment – The Heinz Flimflam Artists

deicing chemicals - frackingTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

Penn Environment is a flimflam organization funded by the Heinz Endowments and others to trash the oil and gas industry with phony reports and statistics.

Penn Environment is a dishonest organization; a group of flimflam artists funded to attack the oil and gas industry in some of the most disreputable ways imaginable. It owes its existence, though, to groups such as the Heinz Endowments which pretends to be the advocate of the public interest in advancing science and bringing environmentalists and industry together. That head fake is belied by the latest report out of Penn Environment, a recycled piece of trash from the past.

Penn Environment Stunts

Penn Environment has pulled some amazing stunts in the past. Who can forget these pictures of the flooded Pakistani drilling rig they tried to pass off as Pennsylvania and a South African sewage plant discharge pipe they later attempted to say was “toxic industrial pollution” associated with fracking and the like?

Penn Environment

Left: Pakistani drilling rig Penn Environment tried to foist onto public as example of flooding in Pennsylvania – eagerly grasped onto by fractivist dolts until exposed. Right: South African sewage treatment plant discharge pipe Penn Environment tried to say was “toxic industrial pollution.”

Now, Penn Environment is out with a new old “report” attempting to slam fracking. Entitled Fracking Failures: Oil and Gas Industry Environmental Violations in Pennsylvania and What They Mean for the U.S., this piece of propaganda was produced by the Environment America Research & Policy Center, which is an arm of Penn Environment’s parent organization, Environment America. It is utter nonsense as, Nicole Schomburg, my former associate at Energy In Depth, articulated in this thorough report. Here are the critical excerpts explaining the latest flimflam:

This isn’t the first report on violations the affiliated groups have put out. In February 2012, Penn Environment released a similar report that, as EID pointed out, lumped all violations together, suggesting that a clerical error was equivalent to a major environmental incident.

This time around, Environment America chose not to include administrative violations—sort of—but nonetheless suggested companies were committing major violations left and right:

“Between January 1, 2011, and August 31, 2014, the top 20 offending fracking companies committed an average of 1.5 violations per day.” (pg. 4)

In an effort to defend itself against the obvious criticism, EA claims these are not from “paperwork” or administrative error, but serious incidents. What they don’t state until later in the 45-page report is that they redefined the definition of what constitutes an administrative violation. In fact, the reader doesn’t get to the methodology of their figures until page 25, and only after they rehash their older studies on how fracking supposedly harms the environment and public health.

If the reader is diligent and still following by page 25, the authors describe how they eliminated duplicate violations by using the violation number and only included information for unconventional wells. But then, they reveal their hand:

“In addition to specifying specific violations, the downloaded file also sorted them into categories: ‘administrative’ or ‘environmental health and safety.’ We discarded Pennsylvania’s categorization as inconsistent and inadequate, and instead ourselves divided the violations into two categories: ‘administrative’ or ‘environmental and health,’ based on the definitions listed in Appendix A.

This is followed up with (emphasis added):

“The data presented in this report include only environmental and health violations, not administrative violations. Compliance with administrative rules is very important – failure to comply with administrative rules can conceal other types of violations and deny the public access to critical information about drilling practices in their communities. However, to emphasize the immediate hazards posed by fracking to communities, this report focuses solely on violations with the direct potential to threaten the environment and public health.”

Looking at EA’s violations list, nearly half of the types of violations (42 out of 103) that they classified as “environmental and health” are actually administrative, according to the state. That means EA redefined a huge subset of “violations” so they could classify them as major threats to public health, even though they are not threats.

Here are a few examples of the items that EA classifies as dire health emergencies:

  • E&S Plan not adequate
  • Plan not on site
  • Improper interaction with Pa. DEP employees

There are many others, but these show you the lengths to which EA had to go in order to malign development. For a complete list of the “Environmental and Health” violations the authors used to reach their conclusions, please click here.

Frontier Group Front

c-s-mayNot much more needs to be said about the quality of the report, although Nicole does a great job of detailing additional problems (read the whole thing, though, as it’s excellent). She also points the role of the disreputable Colcom Foundation (founded by Cordelia Scaife May, a Mellon family heir pictured to right) which is one of the principal funders of fractivism in Pennsylvania (and obsessed with population growth), in funding this recent report.

Ironically, the report was written by the Frontier Group, the same organization Penn Environment blamed for the sewage photo incident:

They were less inclined to apologize for the most recent misdirection.

“If you call it a PennEnvironment mistake, you’re going to be wrong!” snapped Staaf when asked about the error.

“PennEnvironment had nothing to do with the cover, and I don’t think this is the right direction for the story,” she said.

Staaf denied any responsibility, saying “None of the staff at PennEnvironment had anything to do with choosing that photo.”

The report carries PennEnvironment’s logo on the front page — just above the logo for the Frontier Group, the Boston-based contractor that actually wrote and produced the report.

Staaf said the Frontier Group is responsible.

Those were pretty strong words, but they’re were just words because Environment America chose the exact same group to work with again on this latest report so effectively dismantled by Energy In Depth. That tells us a lot about Penn Environment, their parent organization and and their trustworthiness, which scores about a -7 on a scale of 1 to 10. It says this about itself:

Frontier Group uses the power of ideas and information to achieve a cleaner environment and a fairer and more democratic society. We are issue experts, writers and analysts who recognize that having the facts on your side is important but isn’t enough to change the world – it also takes effective communication, organizing and advocacy to get real results.

Read that a couple of times and you’ll understand what they mean to say is this; sometimes you have to lie to achieve your ends but the ends justify the means. That’s their philosophy so well exampled by this latest report, which is pure propaganda and sophistry. They are vague about who they really are; whether they’re consultants, a 501(c)3 organization or something else but they do tell us they’re part of the Public Interest Network (don’t you love these euphemisms?), which includes includes “state Public Interest Research Groups, U.S. PIRG, state environmental groups in 29 states, Environment America…Frontier Group,” etc. It is, in other words, a partnership of trial lawyer rainmakers and Environment America.

Penn Environment

When Penn Environment blamed the Frontier Group for shoddy work, it was simply a case of the right hand blaming the left hand for shoplifting. How convenient. No wonder they wanted to use them again.

The Funders

When we look at Environment America and affiliate funding for the most recent years available we see who sponsors this crap. The Energy Foundation provided $1,397,000. That organization, in turn, is funded by the Google entities (sponsors of the Ivanpah ripoff and funders of NRDC, Sierra Club, Earthworks, Catskill Mountainkeeper, 11th Hour Project, Climate Central and even the Rockefeller Family Fund) and the Sea Change Foundation, the dark money group which is also connected to certain Russkies. Other major funders of the Environment America gang include the Sea Change Foundation itself ($600,000), the money laundering Schwab Charitable Fund ($250,000) and the Park Foundation of course ($50,000).

Then, there is the Heinz Endowments, which has given Penn Environment $225,000 in recent years to “to raise the level of public understanding of the environmental, health and other implications of shale gas production in Pennsylvania” and similar things. Heinz also gave $45,000 to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, one of the contributors to the recent flimflam report, “to provide guidance to municipalities regarding land use planning, municipal zoning ordinances and local decision making, including for natural gas development and operations.”

Penn Environment

Teresa Heinz Kerry – The woman behind the Tides Foundation and the Heinz Endowments, two fractivism’s major funders

This might seem strange, given the report specifically attacks the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which was funded by Heinz. The report, in fact, says this:

Top violators also include the four firms that told the public they would adhere to higher standards when they formed the Center for Sustainable Shale Development in 2013. Since then, those firms – EQT, Chevron Appalachia, Consol and Shell – have together committed at least 100 violations…

In April 2013, Chevron Appalachia had been among several companies that announced – to great fanfare – their participation in the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD), a coalition of drilling companies and environmental organizations focused on finding ways to reduce the environmental and public health threats posed by fracking. Companies receiving CSSD certification pledge they are meeting and will continue to uphold strong standards of environmental responsibility.

Why would an organization indebted to the Heinz Endowments attack the work of the Heinz Endowments? Is this another episode of the right hand blaming the left hand? No.  The Center for Sustainable Shale Development was arguably a bad idea from the beginning (consorting with the enemy seldom makes sense), but even giving it the benefit of the doubt, it was clearly over when Terrible Teresa Heinz Kerry, unnerved by any suggestion fracking might be tolerable, intervened to take it all back.

This is a lesson in dealing with fractivists and especially their special interest funders. They cannot be trusted. The Heinz Endowments and Colcom are actively engaged on several fractivist fronts and it is foolish to think they have any objective other than destroying the industry. Together with the Park Foundation, Schwab and Tides, they both fund the CELDF, for example. They also joined hands to fund Fair Shake, a legal shakedown sham aimed at the industry.

This latest report, which can easily be dispensed with by simply accessing the Pennsylvania DEP violations database to see the real nature of what are largely administrative technicalities, is simply another piece of shameless propaganda financed by the same people using a different cover page. The only improvement is this; there are no phony photos this time – that we know of – but all the flimflam is intact.

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3 thoughts on “Penn Environment – The Heinz Flimflam Artists

  1. Pingback: Penn Environment – The Heinz Flimflam Artists | ShaleNOW

  2. If they destroyed the industry, then what would they do for a living? They know we will continue to drill because we have to, and they will keep getting fat off of fear mongering.

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