Frack Backers Seek to Pack Fed Drilling Hearing

Washington, DC – The natural gas industry is pulling out all the stops to build a friendly crowd of drilling and fracking supporters at a federal Energy Department field hearing on fracking scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday in Washington, Penn., the heart of the mid-Atlantic natural gas production region.

In a story headlined “Greasing the Palms,” Huffington Post’s Tom Zeller reports that Tom Shepstone, head of a natural gas industry advocacy group called Energy In Depth, sent an email Thursday to supporters offering air and bus transportation, meals, hotel rooms and “tickets for the Pittsburgh Pirates game (they’re playing the Mets that night).”

“We need as many of you from our region there as possible under the circumstances,” Shepstone pleaded in the email. “Given the short notice and the distance, we are prepared to help make this happen.”

Today, as the email circulated around Washington, Zeller reported that Shepstone had withdrawn the inducement of baseball tickets. He didn’t say why, but a quick check of the schedule shows that the game is at the same time as the Department of Energy panel's meeting. He was still offering to finance travel, accommodations and food.

“More false promises from the natural gas guys,” said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook. “They first ply people with an all-expenses paid trip, including a night at the ballpark in an attempt build some phony crowd of supporters, then take their baseball tickets away. The natural gas companies also promise landowners their water won’t become contaminated with toxic fracking fluids. How many people want to stake their family’s health on that kind of claim?”

Monday's hastily-scheduled meeting, to take place at historic Washington & Jefferson College, is the first listening tour staged by the Obama administration’s new natural gas panel, an industry-stacked advisory board convened by Energy Secretary Steven Chu to study fracking safety. It is chaired by John Deutch, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. An Environmental Working Group investigation, Deutch has collected more than $1.4 million in the last 10 years for serving on oil and gas industry boards. Five of the six other panel members have direct financial ties to the oil and gas industry.

EWG has asked Deutch to step down because of his conflicts of interest and has asked Chu to balance the panel with independent experts committed to transparency and citizens from communities affected by oil and gas drilling and fracking. On Wednesday, EWG filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Energy department, seeking documents on how the Energy department came to create a panel to dominated by industry representatives.


EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.

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