MDN Responds to a Reader’s Questions

Below is an email MDN recently received from a reader. I thought it would be instructive to share both the reader’s original email and my response so newer readers of MDN have a better understanding of what this blog is about, and the “angle” from which it comes with it’s coverage and commentary. Here is the reader’s email to MDN (the “sic” references below indicate where there are misspellings in the original email to me):

I have recently read an article on, “Marcellus Drilling News,” entitled “Gas well blowout in Clearfield County, PA causes ‘modest’ environmental damage.”  I am currently obtaining my Masters of Science in Environmental Policy, and I have a few questions/ comments/ suggestions for this article in particular.  Although the article is informative to the extent it was intended, there are a few journalistic traps that you have wandered into.

First, the rhetoric of the “Anti-drillers” and “Mainstream media” is a tired plea for attention.  Those who want to believe the “mainstream media” will believe them, and those who wish to get their news from their uncle Lenny are going to do so as well, regardless of what an article communicates.  News releases, in my opinon [sic], lose strength when the closing statement bashes the media, and establishes apples to oranges comparisons, which leads me to my next point.

Comparing environmental degredation [sic] and drilling accidents to car accidents is a comparison that has absolutly [sic] no relavence [sic].  This ‘statistic’ (used loosley [sic]) is meaningless.  This is not unlike making the statement, “Hotdogs are one of the leading causes of choking among children, how many children choke on phonebooks, ZERO! Take this as a lesson and feed you child the yellow pages today.”  I know that this is a bit of an exageration [sic], but it is not too far off the comparison that was made in this article.

Lastly the wording downplaying the fracking fluid’s chemical contents by using a very sneaky “(mostly water)” comment.  Even though chemicals only compose 1% of the fracking fluid in drilling operations, this accident released nearly 350 gallons of pure chemicals, most of which are unknown.

In closing, in order to be a more reliable source of news for a public that is obtaining more “liberal education” (see how that takes away from the content of the letter), it would behoove Marcellus Drilling News to leave out these quips I have mentioned above.  If you would like to see how a news report should look, I have attached a shortened research report written by me on Marcellus law and policy in New York and Pennsylvania that you could post on your site.

There is one question that is on my mind and could also be another suggestion.  I would like to know where funding for this site originates.

Thank you for your time in reading this,

And here was my response:

Thanks for your email and research paper. I will take time to read it. I appreciate all comments, even from those who disagree with my own views. MDN is a blog site, I have a point of view, I express it. There is no funding for the site—it is a labor of love on my part. I receive no money from anyone for it. I work in a completely different (non-energy) industry and this is a “hobby” taking only an investment of my time (which I’ve had precious little of recently, hence few updates). As I’ve stated in comments on the site before, I reserve the right to run advertising on the site at some future date—but that in no way affects my opinions or coverage.

I feel, passionately, that environmental extremism coupled with ignorance is behind most anti-drilling sentiment, and I aim to counter-balance it with MDN. I believe drilling can be done safely. Zero accidents? Nope. We can’t expect it from ANY human endeavor—it’s just not a reasonable viewpoint. Safe enough? A resounding YES. That’s where I “come from” with my reporting and opinions. I’m not a journalist so I don’t worry about falling into journalistic traps. I understand my commentary tends to grate sometimes…I try and keep a balance with what I report and keep snide remarks to a minimum. But blogs do take positions and make no apologies for the positions they take.

Chances are if we were to meet on the street, in a store or at university, we would quite possibly be friends. I have good friends who are on the other side of the fence on this and many other issues. I’m not an unreasonable person, nor avaricious. I don’t stand to make money from leasing land—I only have 2/3 of an acre in a residential neighborhood! At its very core, the struggle in New York is over private property rights and liberty—the right to do with your land as you see fit, provided it does not harm others. Gas drilling does not harm people nor the environment. Does it affect the environment? Sure—but it’s limited, and believe it or not, clearing some trees and drilling a hole in the ground, and even pumping a few million gallons of water with chemicals, does not irreparably damage Mother Earth and it certainly does not pollute drinking water supplies. I encourage you to dig deeper in your own research and not fall prey to the standard environmentalist party line.

I hope this helps you understand a bit more about MDN and the writer behind it. Thanks for reading MDN, and thanks for taking the time to write.

Jim Willis
Editor, MDN

  • Elizabeth

    Wow, I appreciate that you shared this letter, as I responded nearly the same way to the same post in the comment area.

    At the same time you assert that you are not a journalist, your blog title is misleading to the public. The word “News” is indeed part of the title of the site. Just like Fox “News”, this helps me to understand the word choices you make and the tack you take in your presentation.

    Thanks for clarifying it for us.

    Does your assertion that drilling “does not irreparably damage Mother Earth and it certainly does not pollute drinking water supplies” have any scientific basis? No. It doesn’t. (see how my asserting that gives no clarification or substance to my article by not offering factual evidence, just my opinion?)

    If you don’t want to be critiqued about your word choice and position…perhaps using a word other than “News” in your title would be appropriate. Maybe “Marcellus Drilling Opinion” or “Marcellus Drilling and Shilling” (again, my word usage is divisive, while I just think it’s funny even though it may seem “grating” to some)

    I anxiously await a respectable report from this site that doesn’t fall into the trap the gas companies lay for us all- that of dividing us as a community against one another rather than closely watching what they are doing to steal our quality of life while we bicker amongst ourselves.

  • Jim

    Thanks for your always entertaining comments Elizabeth. Now I know from where you come too. Those on the political left love to knock Fox News, even as it continues to grow in popularity year after year while others like MSNBC and CNN fade into obscurity. Why? Because they report independently.

    I don’t have to be a journalist to use common sense and my own powers of observation. If drilling is causing environmental damage on the scale you say it is, where is *your* proof? I’m simply observing that with tens of thousands of gas wells drilled and being drilled, there is relatively little to no long-term environmental damage occurring, because if there were, there would certainly be major coverage of it. How else do you explain the media jumping on any accident anywhere, no matter how small, repeating it for weeks on end? Because there are so few of them in the gas drilling industry.

    Yes, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. We come from polar opposites. But I continue to hold out hope that you’ll see the light. 🙂

    As for shilling, the only people I shill for are landowners–proudly so.


  • guinea

    We are fighting to keep drilling out of Upper Burrell Pa. We have been on field trips to Washington Co. Pa to talk to people who have signed leases and have had their property ruined by this drilling.
    Their water and air has been polluted and they are suffering from respiratory illnesses.
    As everyone knows the legislature in Pa is one of the most corrupt in the country. The majority of our politicians have been bought off by the oil and gas companies by campaign contributions.
    The politicians and corporations have no regard for the inviroment at all their only concern is greed. We can’t drink oil or breath gas and live.
    These people signing leases think this is easy money and are finding out after the fact there is no such thinng as easy money. They’re paying the price in contaminated water and air, and property that becomes a wasteland. The banks won’t give mortgages on land that has these gas wells on or near, so they can’s sell it.