The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The New York Times, Shale and Editorial Oblivion

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 14, 2012

News that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has settled on a plan to allow hydraulic fracturing in five counties along the state’s border with Pennsylvania is obviously great news for those counties, many of them starved for the kind of well-paying jobs that come with shale development.

As for New York’s other counties that sit on top of energy-rich shale deposits, Cuomo’s plan raises questions – like this one from Anschutz Exploration’s Tom West, in an interview with Bloomberg:

“As a first step, this may be a way to get past all the hysteria. But if this is a permanent line in the sand, how do you compensate the people on the wrong side of the line?”

Great question. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, though hardly hysterical, a New York Times editorial on the Cuomo plan is oblivious to some key facts about hydraulic fracturing (following Sunday’s pattern). Which makes you wonder whether the two pieces constitute a kind of passive-aggressive contribution to the news columns’ “war on shale gas.” Thursday’s editorial:

“More than a dozen states have encouraged extensive hydraulic fracturing. But the natural gas industry is poorly regulated, and the environmental risks are real. Reports of air and water pollution elsewhere have raised fear and opposition among many residents who live in New York’s portion of the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation.”

“Poorly regulated” industry? How about a poorly researched editorial that misses – or worse, leaves out – EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s endorsements of the work states are doing to regulate hydraulic fracturing. We’ve practically got Jackson’s words memorized, but for the Times’ benefit (again), here she is 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.”

Here’s Jackson 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.”

Frankly, if there’s fear bubbling up over hydraulic fracturing in New York, if local questions have morphed into opposition, the Times has had a big hand in it with coverage that’s rife with inaccurate reporting and misrepresentations, collected here. And now two editorials that read like some folks just haven’t been paying attention.


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.