The science is in: climate change is a threat, and fracking worsens climate change. Fracking also brings many other well-documented problems, including water contamination, air pollution and adverse health effects. Clean, safe energy solutions are available, such as wind and solar power, energy efficiency technologies and conservation policies. To harness these solutions, we must remake the U.S. energy system -- but the oil and gas industry stands in the way.
The oil and gas industry has captured U.S. energy policy. To see that U.S. energy policy continues to serve the industry’s bottom line, it has erected a huge money machine to push a pro-fracking agenda at all levels of government. Whether it’s lobbying the halls of Congress or spreading misinformation in the media, the following groups are helping the oil and gas industry manipulate public opinion so it can continue drilling and fracking for fossil fuels. Here is our list of some of the main players helping to push fracking on the American public.
America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA)
- ANGA was formed in 2009 by a group of 27 independent natural gas companies to lobby for an industry-friendly climate bill.
- ANGA “… works with industry, government and customer stakeholders to promote increased demand for and continued availability of our nation’s abundant natural gas resource … ”
- ANGA lobbies for natural gas interests and spends millions of dollars on advertising and public relations aimed at convincing people to carry out its agenda.
- ANGA spent $300,000 on lobbying in the early stages of the failed climate bill in 2009, to push for natural gas incentives.
- In 2012, ANGA gave $50,000 to a group called Longmont Taxpayers for Common Sense, the largest donation to help keep a local fracking ban off of the ballot in Longmont, Colorado.
- In one of its most egregious public relations stunts, which can be seen in its 2012 IRS 990 form, ANGA gave $1 million to help fund “Truthland,” a short film devised by the oil and gas industry to respond to the 2010 documentary “Gasland.”
American Gas Association (AGA)
- AGA is a natural gas utility trade association that advocates for the use of natural gas and “represents companies delivering natural gas to consumers …”
- AGA’s president and CEO, Dave McCurdy, is a former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma. Among McCurdy’s priorities at AGA is to expand the use of natural gas for transportation, so as to serve the AGA membership’s interests in increasing demand for natural gas.
- AGA is credited with positioning natural gas as a “bridge fuel” decades ago. This positioning has allowed natural gas to be viewed as part of the solution to climate change, but climate pollution stemming from natural gas dependence is a major threat.
American Petroleum Institute (API)
- API is “the only national trade association that represents all aspects of America’s oil and gas industry.”
- API uses its financial power to back several dark money groups, including the Coalition for American Jobs, a 501(c)(6) group, which was set up by API lobbyists and is also supported by the chemical industry to air political ads for supportive candidates.
- Since 2008, API has been led by its president, oil lobbyist Jack Gerard. Under Gerard’s leadership, API has invested heavily in public relations campaigns, like its Vote4Energy advertisements that inundated televisions during the 2012 presidential election.
- According to the Center for Public Integrity, in 2012 API spent $85.5 million to four PR and advertising firms including $51.9 million to just one firm—Edelman, which calls itself “the world’s largest public relations firm.” The API is Edelman’s biggest client.
- A bulk of API’s advertising and lobbying is done under names of its front groups: Energy Nation, Energy Citizens, EnergyTomorrow and America’s Energy Forum.
- API’s front groups aggressively employ astroturf campaigns to give the appearance of grassroots support by organizing rallies and spreading misinformation to promote its agenda.
Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA)
- IPAA is a national trade association that represents companies focused on exploration and production of oil and natural gas.
- IPAA is responsible for creating Energy In Depth (EID), an industry-biased media outlet designed to respond to hydraulic fracturing criticism.
- In 2011, DeSmogBlog revealed an IPAA leaked memo from 2009 that stated: “For months, IPAA’s government relations and communications teams have been working around-the-clock on a new industry-wide campaign — known as “Energy In Depth (energyindepth.org) — to combat new environmental regulations, especially with regard to hydraulic fracturing.”
Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC)
- The MSC is a trade association working to promote drilling and fracking for shale gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.
- The MSC comprises a large number of companies and law firms with stakes in expanded drilling and fracking for natural gas in the region, and across the country.
- One of the MSC’s associate members, Aqua America, the second largest U.S. investor-owned water company, sells water to shale drillers.
- The MSC’s Executive Board is run by industry employees from Range Resources, Williams, XTO Energy, CONSOL Energy, EOG Resources and numerous other companies profiting from fracking.
- The group spends big money on public relations initiatives, has funded industry-biased fracking studies and has given money to colleges.
- Many of Pennsylvania’s elected officials, regulators, lobbying groups and law firms have direct ties to the natural gas industry and the MSC.
Astroturf Campaigns and Front Groups
American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF)
- While ACSF benignly describes itself as “an independent nonprofit working for cleaner energy in the U.S. transportation and power sectors,” it is, at best, an astroturf group that works to advance the natural gas industry.
- ACSF was co-founded in 2007 by Aubrey McClendon, the former Chesapeake Energy CEO who was stripped of his chairmanship in 2012 after it was revealed that major financial backers of Chesapeake issued personal loans to McClendon in order for him to take personal stakes in the company’s wells.
- Although McClendon stepped down from the ACSF board in 2013, its leadership still has ties to oil and gas industry interests.
- One way that ACSF exerts its influence is through its financial backing of academic studies — funding so-called “frackademia” — such as the high-profile 2011 MIT study, The Future of Natural Gas, led by Ernest Moniz, now U.S. Secretary of Energy.
- In 2011, before the report was released, Moniz was appointed to a profitable position on the Board of Directors of ICF International, a consulting firm with strong ties to the oil and gas industry.
- Moniz also served on the NGP Energy Technology Partners advisory board for several years (although it is unclear whether or not he was compensated), in addition to his many other professional ties to the energy sector.
America's Energy Forum
- America’s Energy Forum, launched in 2008 by the American Petroleum Institute (API), is a lobbying group.
- In a presentation by API, the target audience of America’s Energy Forum is described as: “Politically influential third parties — 'grasstops' — including ‘political family’ members of local, state, federal lawmakers and federal candidates.”
- API says that the mission of America’s Energy Forum is to: “Orchestrate new public policy outcomes for the industry by surrounding lawmakers with the most politically persuasive grass-top constituents supporting energy issues.”
- For an example of how the group operates, in early 2014 America’s Energy Forum managed to write, and have a North Carolina mayor sign, a letter of support for oil exploration off the state’s coast.
Big Green Radicals
- On March 6, 2014, Big Green Radicals, an industry front group, launched an attack on Food & Water Watch, and two other activist groups, with a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal, a 90-second commercial online and a website calling us a “big green radical.”
- Big Green Radicals is led by PR flack/lobbyist Rick Berman, a man nicknamed “ Dr. Evil.” He has been the force behind many industry front groups pushing the interests of tobacco companies, payday lenders and casinos, and is often hired by companies to attack consumer and public interest groups.
- Berman runs an advertising firm, Berman and Company, which shares office space with many of his industry-driven nonprofits, devised to appear like grassroots advocacy groups or independent research institutions.
- Big Green Radicals is a project of Berman’s Environmental Policy Alliance.
Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD)
- The Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) greenwashes the public with the delusion that widespread drilling and fracking can be done safely and sustainably, as long as the industry follows the CSSD’s drafted voluntary guidelines and performance standards.
- These “standards” are the basis for the CSSD’s certification scheme, which it shamelessly likens to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program for recognizing green building design. For $30,000, applicants that meet certain standards are rubberstamped and the company can flaunt that it has met certain “sustainability” criteria.
- Launched in March 2013, the CSSD was formed by a group of 11 companies, foundations and nonprofits: Chevron, CONSOL Energy, EQT, Shell, PennFuture, Group Against Smog and Pollution, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Clean Air Task Force, Environmental Defense Fund, The Heinz Endowments and William Penn Foundation.
- In reality, the CSSD is a portal for the oil and gas industry to exert its influence and help “scrub the image” of drilling and fracking.
Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA)
- CEA poses itself as a grassroots organization, claiming that it works as “the voice of the energy consumer” and that it “provide[s] consumers with sound, unbiased information on U.S. and global energy issues.”
- However, HBW Resources — an oil and gas lobbying firm — formed CEA in the late 2000s, and an IRS 990 form shows that CEA is run out of HBW Resources’ Houston office; many of the listed CEA staff are also employed at HBW Resources.
- CEA has been a staunch advocate of the Keystone XL Pipeline, of drilling offshore from Florida to Maine and of fracking.
- In 2011, CEA funded a public relations campaign that helped defeat a fracking ban ordinance in Peters Township, Pennsylvania.
- More than once, CEA president David Holt, also a managing partner at HBW Resources, has written articles attacking Food & Water Watch, alleging without support that we are misrepresenting the risks and harms from fracking. Science makes clear the significant risks and harms.
- However, CEA is misleading the public by claiming that it is a grassroots group. Its members consist of industry trade associations and oil and gas companies, while it receives funding from oil and gas industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute.
- Energy Citizens is one of the American Petroleum Institute’s (API’s) front groups and has a presence in every congressional district in the United States.
- Energy Citizen’s mission is to “identify, recruit, educate, engage, and mobilize citizens to voice support, participate in the energy-policy debate, and affect change at all levels of government” in order to fulfill oil and gas industry interests.
- API describes its Energy Citizen membership base as mostly males with “nationalistic tendencies,” who consider themselves “eternal pragmatists,” “very religious” and “right of center,” and who “Love Sports — in particular Motorsports.”
- According to a 2012 presentation by API’s Director of External Mobilization, the target audience for Energy Citizens is “Voters without a direct connection to the oil and natural gas industry.”
- A leaked memo, however, exposed that in 2009, Energy Citizens planned astroturf rallies against climate change legislation that year, rallies that were fully organized from the top down and paid for by API, other industry lobbyists and API member companies, so that employees of those companies would participate.
- The memo noted: “API will provide the up-front resources to ensure logistical issues do not become a problem. This includes contracting with a highly experienced events management company that has produced successful rallies for presidential campaigns, corporations and interest groups. It also includes coordination with the other interests who share our views on the issues, providing a field coordinator in each state, conducting a comprehensive communications and advocacy activation plan for each state, and serving as central manager for all events.”
- Energy Citizens propagates its agenda by using the web to “educate, activate, and organize,” while also attending Vote4Energy rallies, holding roundtables and participating in hearings.
Energy In Depth (EID)
- EID acts as a PR arm for the oil and gas industry.
- EID uses pseudo-grassroots tactics to build opposition against fracking activists, and it aggressively attacks any group, person or media outlet that displays concerns about or objections to fracking, in order to discredit them.
- Among its tactics, in 2011 EID bribed citizens into testifying at public hearings in Pennsylvania on the industry’s behalf by offering free Pittsburgh Pirates tickets, paid airfare or bus transportation, and meals, in an effort to fill the space with pro-industry members of the public.
- In response to “Gasland,” IPAA and EID spearheaded the pro-fracking short documentary “Truthland.”
- EID’s “Contact Us” page on its website used to describe itself as, “… a project of America’s small, independent oil and natural gas producers…” Conversely, major fracking companies have heavily funded EID.
- As an IPAA memo noted: “The ‘Energy In Depth’ project would not be possible without the early financial commitments of: El Paso Corporation, XTO Energy, Occidental Petroleum, BP, Anadarko, Marathon, EnCana, Chevron, Talisman, Shell, API, IPAA, Halliburton, Schlumberger and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.”
- EID’s influence is extensive. For example, former EID spokesperson John Krohn is now employed with the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
- Energy Nation, one of the American Petroleum Institute’s front groups, is a fleet of fracking advocates made up of current and former oil and gas industry employees, vendorsand their families.
- Although backed by major oil and gas interests, Energy Nation attempts to rally itself like a grassroots organization. As illustrated in this presentation, the group strongly fosters employee mobilization to get current and former employees to be active “brand ambassadors.”
- Energy Tomorrow is central to the American Petroleum Institute’s misinformation projects.
- A key method of disseminating its propaganda is through TV advertisements, in which Energy Tomorrow spokesperson Brooke Alexander — a former soap opera actress — hypes the “benefits” of natural gas jobs.
Environmental Policy Alliance
- Environmental Policy Alliance — “EPA”! — is a project of the Center for Organizational Research & Education, formerly known as the Center for Consumer Freedom, and has the same registered address as Rick Berman’s PR firm Berman and Company.
- The Environmental Policy Alliance says it is “ … devoted to uncovering the funding and hidden agendas behind environmental activist groups and exploring the intersection between activists and government agencies.” In reality, the group is operating on its own financial interests, not the public interest:
- In July 2014, the Environmental Policy Alliance launched a snarky and misleading advertisement in Colorado to counter fracking activists who have been campaigning to get anti-fracking ballot measures on the November ballot.
- The ad spot mocks, insults and ridicules fracking activists, claiming that activists’ opposition to fracking is rooted in asinine assumptions, ignorant of science — even though science makes clear the significant risks and harms.
- In June 2014, Anastasia Swearingen, who works for Rick Berman and the Environmental Policy Alliance, published two pro-fracking newspaper op-eds attacking the Bureau of Land Management for not yet opening up federal lands to fracking and drilling.
- Swearingen’s op-eds are based on findings from a University of Wyoming study authored by Timothy Considine, a notorious figure in the world of frackademia, who has led industry-skewed studies funded by the Marcellus Shale Coalition and American Petroleum Institute.
- In March 2014, five days after Swearingen published an op-ed attacking LEED certification in USA Today, the paper added an editorial update stating that it found out that she was “… employed by public relations firm Berman and Co., not the Environmental Policy Alliance.”
- The editorial update went on to say: “The Environmental Policy Alliance, a tax-exempt group, has no employees and is housed at the same address as Berman, which controls the recently created group, according to Berman spokeswoman Sarah Longwell.”
United Shale Advocates (USA)
- On March 20, 2014, the Marcellus Shale Coalition launched a new initiative in Pennsylvania, United Shale Advocates, “focused on ensuring that [they] advance common sense, predictable policies that encourage investment and job growth across the Commonwealth.”
- This group, with its noticeably patriotic abbreviation (USA) is billed by the MSC as “a movement to tie together those interested in Pennsylvania energy and it’s a platform for them to engage further.”
- As previously mentioned, the MSC is a consortium of major oil and gas industry players and their special brand of “grassroots” organizing, which should really be called “gasroots” organizing.
- On May 6, 2014, “USA” hosted a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to oppose any efforts to impose taxes on the oil and gas industry in the state, and in support of fracking jobs and further development of the Marcellus Shale in Harrisburg.
- Launched on January 1, 2012, Vote4Energy is another American Petroleum Institute astroturf campaign, which staged fake citizen support with commercials that highlight “real Americans” who are “energy voters.”
- Activists revealed, after responding to the Vote4Energy casting call sent out on behalf of API, that the campaign initiative was an election-related advertising package with CNN, tied to the network’s political coverage for maximum political influence.
- The casting call, sent on December 1, 2011, stated:
- “We are writing to you because we need all ages and races to express their views in a Commercial Spot on American Made Energy!”
- The call listed five qualifications that they were seeking, including:
- “You are willing to go on camera and state your beliefs” and;
- “You are comfortable portraying YOURSELF! They want REAL PEOPLE not Actors!”
- Yet several people were kicked out if they didn’t agree to read API’s script verbatim.
- “Truthland” is a short film conceived by the oil and gas industry as a rebuttal to “Gasland.” Its name, however, is an oxymoron, as the film is rather misleading.
- The film, released in 2012, initially had its web domain registered to Chesapeake Energy Corporation.
- It was eventually changed so that it was registered to MFL Holdings, ATTN TRUTHLANDMOVIE.COM, care of Network Solutions, but LittleSis (a project of Public Accountability Initiative) was able to save a cached screen shot of its domain when it was registered to Chesapeake.
- According to the movie’s website, it is a project of Energy In Depth and IPAA, and according to an EID document acquired by LittleSis, Fred Davis, a Republican media strategist, produced “Truthland.”
- Biased appearances were also made by: Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission member and fracking advocate, Terry Engelder; former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary, John Hanger; and former Pennsylvania DEP Deputy Secretary for Mineral Resources Management, J. Scott Roberts.
- “FrackNation,” a pro-fracking documentary, was released in 2013 in response to “Gasland 2” — with its public debut at the same time as Matt Damon’s “Promised Land.”
- The people behind “FrackNation” claim that it is an independent, grassroots-funded film, free from financial backing from the industry. But that doesn’t mean it is without its biases.
- Once described as “stars of the Republican Party,” the producers/directors of “FrackNation” are climate change-denying couple Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, who have significant ties to powerful right-wing entities.
- McAleer and McElhinney’s first two films received money from Donors Trust/Donors Capital, a nonprofit that siphons money into the climate change denial agenda and has financial ties to the Koch Brothers.
- In a 2012 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, McAleer referred to environmentalism as “outsiders coming in and treating people like children.”
- McAleer and McElhinney are reportedly “proud” that film critics compared one of their early films, “Mine Your Own Business,” to “pornography” and “Nazi propaganda.”
- “FrackNation,” endorsed by countless oil and gas groups, also spotlights several industry persons, a former Big Tobacco champion, and climate change deniers, dubbed as “independent experts.”
- DeSmogBlog has described how “FrackNation” takes a page from the Big Tobacco playbook and tries to turn clear scientific concerns into a matter of opinion, or into a “he-said, she-said” debate.