Just The Facts: “Outspoken Opponent” of Marcellus Shale Continues Misinformation Campaign

Pittsburgh, Pa. – State representative Jesse White – an “outspoken opponent” of safe, tightly-regulated, clean-burning American natural gas development – has doubled-down on his misguided public relations efforts. In his latest salvo, Mr. White claims that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) “developed a specialized computer-code system to manipulate the test results for residents whose water was tested by the DEP over concerns of adverse effects from gas drilling operations,” while also going as far to suggest that “someone belongs in a jail cell” potentially.

The only shred of manipulation here, of course, is from those opposed to job-creating American natural gas development – which has helped propel Washington County (Mr. White’s legislative district) to third in the nation in job growth – including a plaintiff’s attorney, who, like Mr. White, continues to lob unsubstantiated claims. The foundation of Mr. White’s fragmented argument is that DEP omitted certain water quality findings in its report to landowners who had brought legal challenges to a nearby natural gas producer.

What is missing from this flurry of allegations, though, is that the Association of Public Health Laboratories – an independent, non-profit organization that reviews public laboratories and makes recommendations to improve organizational structure and scientific practices – conducted a peer-reviewed analysis of DEP’s testing laboratory, determining the lab to be “well-managed, efficient and highly functional,” capable of meeting the varied needs of a statewide regulatory agency. Also not to be overlooked is that Mr. White has a pattern of rushing to judgment, taking a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach with the natural gas industry in this district.

Rhetoric aside, here are the facts:

CLAIM: Mr. White suggests that it was “unlawful and reprehensible” that DEP provided landowners with “only includes eight of the 24 metals actually tested for: Barium, Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, Sodium and Strontium. The homeowner would not be given results for: Silver, Aluminum, Beryllium, Cadium, Cobalt, Chromium, Copper, Nickel, Silicon, Lithium, Molybdenum, Tin, Titanium, Vandium, Zinc and Boron.”

FACTS: According to DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday, “The battery of analyses we order during investigations are thorough and give us the results we need to make sound determinations, which we fully stand behind.” But more to the point, why aren’t Silver, Aluminum, Beryllium, Cadium, Cobalt, Chromium, Copper, Nickel, Silicon, Lithium, Molybdenum, Tin, Titanium, Vandium, Zinc and Boron relevant in this context, and therefore, not provided to the landowners who have brought legal action? Mr. Sunday adds this:

  • Our laboratory has the capability of analyzing many, many compounds. Not all of these analyses are necessary for an investigation into whether oil and gas impacted a water supply. Our investigators request certain compounds be screened for in an analysis, in particular, those associated with oil and gas activities. The results of such an analysis are subject to quality control and quality assurance. That the lab is capable of doing additional analysis for a particular investigation doesn’t mean that our analysis was inadequate or incomplete. We have a Marcellus-specific analysis that we run at our laboratories based on our experience with the Marcellus activities. The outrageous contention that DEP has “omitted key Marcellus shale ‘markers’” has not been substantiated by this attorney or the so-called expert witness, or any evidence whatsoever. (Canon-McMillan Patch, 11/1/12)

The DEP official further explains the agency’s scientifically-based methodology:

  • State DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday said Thursday night that these suite codes were developed specifically to test for certain types of contamination — namely, to indicate Marcellus shale drilling-related contamination. “If you’re looking at runoff from a mine site, that is different from looking at runoff from a landfill, and different from contamination due to hydraulic fracturing,” he said. “These are a Marcellus shale specific list of parameters that are most indicative to that contamination.” Using the same suite, the report would not include results for silver, aluminum, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, nickel, silicon, lithium, molybdenum, tin, titanium, vandium, zinc and boron. Sunday also said that in order to deduce contamination brought on by Marcellus drilling, there are a plethora of other tests done. “We have a full set of analysis that we run and gives us a very clear indication whether there was any contamination from drilling,” he said. This analysis includes a pre-drilling baseline water test, testing for volatile organic compounds and hydrocarbons, an examination of the geology, the distance to any drilling operations, and whatever other site-specific factors there may be, he said. Suite 943 and 946 also include additional testing parameters. (Beaver County Times, 11/2/12)

Reflexive, politically-motivated and willful disregard for fact-based information, science and proper context may make for a flashy attack from a known attacker, but Pennsylvanians deserve more from their elected officials. Indeed, Mr. White has a clear record of manufacturing groundless accusations against the natural gas industry, which supports nearly 240,000 jobs across the Commonwealth according to the state Labor & Industry Department. And while Mr. White is well-versed in the art of fear-mongering, he continues to find himself – once again – on the opposing side of the facts.

**UPDATE**

  • In a Nov. 6 letter, Pa. DEP secretary Michael Krancer lays out the facts to Mr. White about his “untrue, inaccurate, simply false” claims. Click HERE to view this fact-based letter online.

**UPDATE II**

  • In a Nov. 9 letter, Sec. Krancer underscores the fact that that Mr. White’s “assertions are false and not based in fact.” Click HERE to view this letter online.

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