The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Editorially Speaking, New York Times is Behind the Curve on Shale Gas

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 11, 2012

Here’s what caught our eye in an otherwise relatively benign New York Times editorial on shale natural gas and hydraulic fracturing:

“For their part, the oil and gas companies — both the ExxonMobils and the mom-and-pops that abound in hydrofracturing — need to drop their warfare against necessary regulations.”

And later:

“Stronger federal rules are plainly needed.”

Last things first: Stronger federal rules? Where has the Times’ editorial board been the occasions when EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has downplayed the notion of federal shale gas regulation overlaying existing state regulation? Here’s Jackson last fall:

“We have no data right now that lead us to believe one way or the other that there needs to be specific federal regulation of the fracking process. … So it's not to say that there isn't a federal role, but you can't start to talk about a federal role without acknowledging the very strong state role.”

And a couple of days later, on MSNBC:

“States are stepping up and doing a good job. It doesn’t have to be EPA that regulates the 10,000 wells that might go in.”

It’s likely Jackson knows there’s not much the feds could add to the competent, efficient oversight that state regulators already are providing. And the Times doesn’t explain what it believes federal regulation – probably duplicative, almost certainly unnecessary – would accomplish.

In fact, industry recognizes the need for regulation. We just believe it’s best handled by the states. That’s why we’ve worked with the states through the STRONGER organization to develop regulatory regimes tailored for their specific circumstances. API and its members also have worked hard to develop industry standards that often form the basis for state regulations – on wellbore integrity, water management, community relations and more. Industry supports disclosure through the FracFocus online chemical registry.

All of the above address the editorial’s other assertion – that energy companies need to “drop their warfare” against regulation. Sorry, but the real warfare here has been waged by the Times in its “Drilling Down” series, a collection of inaccuracies, misrepresentations and manipulations that the Council on Foreign Relations’ Michael Levi dubbed a “war on shale gas.” This has included flawed reporting on mortgages, leases and the economic future of shale gas – at one point drawing a penalty flag from the newspaper’s own ombudsman. 

So, while noting the editorial’s positive points about shale gas, we encourage the newspaper’s editorial board to get up to speed on the good work states are doing to regulate industry activity, as well as industry efforts to get shale gas development right.


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.