New York Politicians Seek to Make Political Hay from NYT Articles on Natural Gas Reserves Estimates

Fake alarmPredictably, now that the New York Times has delivered a journalistic drive-by hit piece claiming that energy companies are using false data and accounting trickery to overstate shale gas reserves, NYT sycophant leftist politicians in New York State are making political hay from it. For opportunistic politicians, it’s all about the seriousness of the allegation, never mind that the allegation is totally false.

Two Ithaca-area lawmakers have begun inquiries following reports that the gas industry may have underestimated the cost of extracting shale gas from underground formations.

New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, D-Ithaca, and U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, expressed alarm after reports in The New York Times on Monday revealed that rule changes and oversight problems at the Securities and Exchange Commission may have caused natural gas companies to overestimate their reserves. The Times also detailed the use of data from industry-biased sources and intra-agency disagreements regarding gas reserve estimates at the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

"These reports raise serious questions about the economics behind the shale gas rush," Hinchey said. "Now, it’s up to the SEC and the EIA to get to the bottom of these charges and ensure that the public has accurate and honest information about our country’s shale gas reserves. EIA has some serious questions to answer and the SEC needs to investigate whether investors have been intentionally misled."

Lifton called for investigations by the New York attorney general, the state comptroller and the Legislature, as well as an immediate 60-day pause for a public comment period in the supplemental generic environmental impact process under way at the state level, and urged the federal government to begin proper oversight of the gas drilling industry.*

Let’s call to remembrance another series of anti-gas articles by the same NYT reporter (Ian Urbina). In February of this year, the NYT ran a series of articles which said, essentially, that the wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania being treated and returned to PA waterways contained high levels of radioactivity from naturally occurring sources in the ground. The “serious allegation” was that the wastewater was contaminated with radioactivity and that it was not being processed properly and released into PA streams and rivers, contaminating those streams and rivers with radioactivity.

Just one little problem with Mr. Urbina’s February fiction: It wasn’t true. Extensive testing first by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (see here and here), and also by the City of Lancaster (see here) proved there is no radioactivity in PA’s waterways.

Just as it was not true in February with radioactivity, so the latest “serious allegation” of overstated gas reserves will no doubt prove to be untrue as well. But that won’t stop politicians like Hinchey and Lifton from making political hay in the meantime.

*Elmira Star-Gazette (Jun 28, 2011) – Probes urged into estimates for Marcellus gas drilling

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