The Delaware Povertykeeper Launches Junk Science Initiative

TomTom Shepstone
Natural Gas Now


The anti-growth Delaware Riverkeeper, a/k/a the Delaware Povertykeeper, is trying to pre-empt lifting of a DRBC moratorium by financing some junk science.

If one wanted to know how fractivist disinformation is made, it was only necessary to participate in webinar of sorts put on by a group of hired guns known as CNA to introduce the latest and worst piece of fractivist junk science to come down the road. Entitled “The Potential Environmental Impact from Fracking in the Delaware River Basin,” the report is a superficial analysis intended to pre-empt any thought by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) of lifting its moratorium on drilling now that it’s under new non-ideological leadership. It is a sterling example of how fractivists, and especially their funders, attempt to manipulate the press with what is utter nonsense of zero credibility with anyone not already on their team.

Everything you need to know about this project is found on the acknowledgements page:

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The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, of course, is what we have repeatedly referred to as the “dirty tricks arm of the William Penn Foundation.” They would not exist in their current form without the WPF’s extensive financing and they’re part of a junta of fractivist groups it funds that also includes the Clean Air Council, PennFuture and the like.

The Delaware Riverkeeper is loudest among them, perhaps because it’s the most deaf to the economic concerns of anyone living north of Bucks County. That’s why they’re entitled to another name – the Delaware Povertykeeper – which more accurately describes what they’re all about. They claim to have financed this CNA study (more on that in a moment) and that is the first “danger, danger, danger” alarm bell that should gone off in the minds of journalists as the Delaware Povertykeeper is as mouthy and as biased a source as can be found on the subject of fracking.

The others who we’ve highlighted have equally deep biases and the best credibility meter on this score is a collage of pictures of the highlighted contributors at work:

Delaware Povertykeeper

Tony Ingraffea pals with Mark Ruffalo, Sean Lennon and Yoko Ono at Artists Against Fracking event (top left); Maya Van Rossum launches into tirade at Occupy and “Don’t Drill the Delaware” event (top right); Paul Rubin hangs with Dimock frauds wearing his anti-fracking pin (middle left); Bob Howarth wears his anti-fracking pin at another anti event (middle right); and Maya Van Rossum interviews Art Berman for an anti-shale video produced by the Delaware Riverkeeper.

You can search our site for more information on these characters but, suffice it to say, none are the slightest bit objective and their involvement in this junk science production is the ultimate verdict on its credibility, which is zero. Paul Rubin, as an example, is one of the favorite experts employed by the Delaware Povertykeeper. His professional opinion was all but totally rejected by the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board recently and was previously skewered by a New York court.

UPDATE: An alert reader informs me still another of the reviewers was Kevin Heatley, a well-known fractivist who consults with the Google-funded Responsible Drilling Alliance or RDA in Williamsport and whose writings have appeared at Shale Justice.

There are, nonetheless, several other indicators of just how shoddy this work really is, beginning with its projection of as many as 4,000 wells in the Delaware River Basin. That is an absurd figure only made reasonable by even more absurd figures from just three years ago when the Delaware Povertykeeper was hyperventilating about 60,000 wells (emphasis added):

Based on industrial and academic estimates that trillions of cubic feet of natural gas are theoretically recoverable from the formation, over 30,000 and as many as 60,000 natural gas wells are anticipated in the Delaware River Basin alone and the impacts to water quality and quantity, air quality, recreation and the wildlife within and near treasured lands could be severe.

CNA’s estimate, though reasonable by contrast, is still way off the mark. We learn on page 11, for example, it assumed “a 4,000-foot lateral length and 500 feet of spacing between laterals.” It only takes a few seconds on Google to learn every company is extending laterals, some to as much as 10,000 feet, with Range Resources aiming for a 5,200 feet average as of last year and Cabot averaging 5,300 feet. It we use Cabot’s figure and apply a little of the geometry we learned in high school, that means each well pad covers 33% more land with a rectangular well pad layout, reducing earth disturbance in the process. That, in turn, means a 25% reduction in the number of wells. There goes 1,000 wells.

But, that isn’t all. No, the 500 feet average spacing figure is also off. Spacing today can range between 600 and 750 feet. The 600 feet common to all producers in Northeastern Pennsylvania will increase the amount of land from which one well pad can draw gas by another 7% and lower the number of wells by another 160 wells or 4%.

Then, there is the tiny matter of where CNA assumes one can drill. The report theorizes a “dispersed” and a “concentrated” form of well development, the latter being what’s actually taking place with an average of eight wells per pad. This would yield 500 pads under their assumptions (355 in reality).

The “dispersed” model is their social construct of what could happen with four wells per pad. No one is drilling four wells per pad when they can drill eight, of course, because everyone wants to spread the overhead connected with a pad, but putting that aside, guess which model CNA uses to map the impact? The “dispersed” model, of course, because it disturbs far more land, requires far more infrastructure and covers the map. Here is the map they use for the upper basin as a whole (poor quality in the original):

delaware povertykeeper

CNA’s analysis for this option yields 3,900 wells, not 4,000, but look at the coding and the suggested location of those well pads. The “least likely” and “existing well pads” are both coded with dark colors, which tends to lead the casual observer to think the Upper Delaware pattern of development will be similar to the Susquehanna basin where drilling is occurring, but there are no existing well pads in the Upper Delaware basin and the number of “most likely” pads is a small fraction of the total. It appears, in fact, only 65 of the 500  suggested pads are “most likely.” This would yield 500+ wells.

Moreover, the map shows “most likely” and other pads in highly unlikely locations extending into southern Wayne County, as well along the Moosic Mountain syncline, where no interest has been shown by gas companies.

The entire 4,000 well scenario is based on a foundation of sand, if you will, and sand doesn’t yield shale gas. The real number of likely pads and wells, is less than half of what CNA has projected.

And, that’s hardly all they got wrong. Consider the following:

  • The report “assumed that all land cover changes are permanent, that there are no other land cover changes in the study area, and that there are no secondary land cover changes (e.g., converting additional forest to farmland to make up for arable area lost to gas infrastructure),” which is laughable considering Wayne County  forestland has grown by 44,458 acres or 16.7% since 1959.

    That’s roughly four times the amount of earth disturbance that would be involved under CNA’s highest calculation of 23 acres per well pad (which includes pipelines and roads and is also way overestimated) times 500 well pads or 11,500 acres.CNA also resorts to the gratuitous use a Wal-Mart Supercenter analogy to make it’s point but does so based on the wholly improbable “dispersed” model of well development and it’s own maximum amount of disturbance and a dramatically unrealistic number of wells. The real amount of disturbance, with a more likely 2,000 wells and 250 pads, is at the low end of the scale (17 acres or lower) which would yield 4,250 acres altogether. This is easily less than 1% of the land area involved, And, this is assuming all the well pads will be developed in forest land, which is certainly not the case.
  • The report speculates on increases in erosion and sedimentation but takes no account of Pennsylvania’s extremely strict management requirements in that regard, requirements that gas drillers must and do meet and that ensure there is no increase in erosion. Likewise, the report never mentions the extensive long-term measuring of water quality in the Susquehanna River Basin where drilling has been going on for eight years and none of the CNA speculation is backed up by the facts.
  • The webinar presentation included commentary from Tony Ingraffea, last seen giving Yoko Ono the biggest smile ever (see photo above) while supporting her Artists Against Fracking initiative. They’re both natural gas users, of course, so perhaps that’s the reason. Tony worked hard at adding the opinions to this junk science presentation so CNA could proclaim its false neutrality. He relied upon his own contention there are 580 peer reviewed publications addressing the health impacts of fracking and 94% say it’s harmful. What Tony didn’t say, of course, was that his fractivist associates at Cornell and at his own fractivist think tank (bought and paid for by the Park Foundation) were among those peer reviewers, demonstrating the fraud that is behind so much of “peer review.” It might better be called “perp review” in the case of the studies Tony loves, given that the perpetrators are reviewing the crime reports.

That gives some idea of the problems with CNA’s report. It lacks any substance but, more than that, it’s paid for the Delaware Povertykeeper, which gets its money from the William Penn Foundation. The WPF recently also funded another $320,000 grant to CNA for the following (emphasis added):

Develop and test, with partners, a new Delaware River Basin-scale model to quantify the impact of land management practices in this large, complex watershed.

I asked about this during the webinar presentation and was told it is a separate grant relating to multiple water quality initiatives in which CNA is engaged with WPF. What does that mean? I’m not sure, but I’m very troubled by two things; a) who the partners are, and b) the similarity of this language with that found in the DRBC’s description of the grant it secured from WPF for its such effort. Is the Delaware Povertykeeper a partner? Well, obviously yes, but it would be nice to see it specifically admitted.

Or, is the DRBC the partner? The grant WPF gave the DRBC was supposedly “toward building Its capacity to assess, manage and mitigate impacts to water resources due to land changes related to natural gas development activities.” That suggests the answer could be yes, which is highly disturbing given all that the WPF does to undermine natural gas development. Regardless, it’s an absolute scandal that DRBC went to the WPF for money from the very organization funding Delaware Povertykeeper lawsuits against it.

That scandal happened under the leadership of the DRBC’s former Executive Director, not its current one, of course, and I don’t intend to suggest otherwise. Carol Collier has gone off to her reward with a job at another William Penn Foundation (WPF) subsidiary, which further exacerbates the situation looking back and at what’s happening here. The WPF is looking to influence the DRBC in another way now with this CNA junk science report. It’s pathetic on one level, yet serious questions remain as to what’s going on here. Is the $320,000 grant to CNA connected with the one to the DRBC, or is it more of what we see with this report?

Either way it demonstrates the undue influence of the WPF and other groups like it. They’re manufacturing the news based on utter crap for research. Meanwhile, Carol Collier got her seat on the William Penn Foundation board, although the organization doesn’t seem keen on admitting it. Perhaps they’re embarrassed, just as they should be with this awful report? Nah…nothing embarrasses them before the little people of the upper Delaware River region who they’re keeping in poverty.

Editor’s Note: Also see Energy In Depth’s excellent in-depth analysis here.

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7 thoughts on “The Delaware Povertykeeper Launches Junk Science Initiative

  1. Tom, are you saying that BFF review is not good science, especially when it is funded by people who are, as James Delingpole would say, as slippery as eels in a vat of KY Jelly? As soon as I learned that DRKN was funding this, and that Tony Ingraffea was doing the commentary afterward, I could have saved everyone a lot of time and money and written the report myself with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back while doing cartwheels in my living room!

    One current employee gave this less than favorable review of CNA online:

    Management lacks leadership qualities. Bringing money in is more important than the mission to provide quality research or the people. Management and leadership do not care about the people-cares about getting money in, spending the money, and providing product to client. Clients ask for research, but don’t always care or trust research results or do anything with what you provided-frustrating. Mentorship is hard to find depending on the division you are assigned. Morale seems low.

  2. What does Joe Levine and the Damascus Citizens for Sustainability have to say I wonder? Is that a picture of an Occupy Wall Street protest or a protest against a permit for the Constitution pipeline or is a picture of a protest against all infrackstructure? Inquiring minds want to know. Why is the guy on the right with the beard Wes Gillingham and his organization involved in a conspiracy theory and miseducation and disinformation campaign on the proposed Port Ambrose LNG import project again?

    Inquiring minds want most to know when it is that an objective reporter or publication is going to cover this movement. I know it isn’t going to be Capital New York, Scott Waldman and friends or other reporters who breathlessly write down every word this movement says. Maybe some of these reporters like David Giambusso or Wayne Parry are just too indebted to their sources like Jeff Tittel from the NJ Sierra Club for material? Maybe the reporters just regurgitate press releases and are afraid of making enemies with their sources? Maybe they’ve forgotten what their job is?

    Perhaps Ken Lovett would be interested in uncovering how it was that 50 democrats came to sign this letter to cuomo?

  3. All of these city dwelling clowns heat their New York City, hi-rise apartments with hydro fracked natural gas. As far as the drilling goes, it was was agreed to from the very beginning, that there would not be any drilling in the watershed. What part of that don’t they understand? LoKo Ono’s house is in Franklin Township, New York and not in the watershed.

  4. frankly, Southern Tier and Delaware landowners have been suffering criminal economic injustice at the hands of these rich sadistic s.o.b.’s. they think it’s fashionable to destroy opportunity for us- and they do it by lying, buying politicians and owning the courts and with a compliant media.

    you can’t be a Democrat unless you’re a fractivist; this is a sick joke that has no basis in reality, and they are ALL fossil fuel consuming polluters- the richest being the worst. make no mistake- they want your land and this is a siege.

    it’s time to create an Energy ID Card. you ain’t got one? no fossil fuels for you. that would shut them up.

  5. The DR is doing huge huge damage to the economy of Delaware County and some very impoverished and disadvantaged towns, communities and families with her fight against pipelines and transport including Sunoco’s. Keep up the great work exposing the hypocrisy and fraud going on here. The DR also wastes hundreds of thousands on personal crusades and PR campaigns in Radnor where she lives. That’s right. For her ideals, kids should go hungry and sit in failing schools and communities should continue to suffer but certainly not her own kids. They get the best of the best in Radnor’s wealthiest ward in schools that spend $30,000 per child. Guess what, she’s late filing her 2014 financials too. Keep up the great work exposing her illegal non-profit status, because she is 100% working to influence legislation. Very damaging legislation to PA’s already struggling economy. Catch her lying about the DRN’s “thousands of members” too… it has no members.


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