Monday, February 28, 2011

Updated: Not Interviewed But Quoted, Errors and Omissions of the NYT, Part 2

[READERS NOTE: Please read first the Statement that I issued on February 27th. See the post entitled: "Statement regarding Sunday NYT February 27th Drilling Article."  This post is one of a 7 part series examining the reporting and the reporter's narrative of lax regulation and oversight in Pennsylvania.]

The reporter for the NYT February 27th article never spoke to me before publication.  He did not interview me for the piece.  Though not interviewed, I am quoted.  Here is the section:

"'There are business pressures' on companies to 'cut corners,' John Hanger, who stepped down as secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in January, has said. 'It's cheaper to dump wastewater than to treat it.'"

I probably said that somewhere at some time in some context, but I did not say it to this reporter in the context of this story.

He says that he asked for an interview with the DEP staff but never got it.  I have done hundreds or thousands of interviews.  My former DEP staff knew that I was totally accessible and to make sure that requests for interviews reached me. 

I know of no other reporter in the 28 plus months that I served as Secretary who did not get an interview with me after supposedly requesting it.  This reporter stands alone to my knowledge.  Is his version of events up to January 18 impossible? No.  But count me as skeptical.

What adds to my skepticism is that the reporter says he made no effort to contact me from January 18th when I left office to February 27th when the article was published.  He did not contact me to confirm the words that he pulled from somewhere and stuck in my mouth for this story. 

Instead according to the reporter, he contacted the new administration at DEP on January 21st asking that it confirm my words. He did not ask the new administration for my contact information that was readily available.  Governor Corbett replaced Governor Rendell on January 18th. 

Interestingly, the reporter did contact  former Secretary John Quigley of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the agency that runs the state forests and state parks, after he left office.  He interviewed for about an hour former Secretary Quigley. 

Secretary Quigley informs me that the representation by this reporter of that interview and his views as expressed to the reporter in this article is highly selective and misleading.

The reporter said after publication on sunday that once I left office my perspective was not relevant and that he had read other interviews. 

But in an email on Sunday before I talked with him, he says: "I just read your blog post. It's very informative and candid." 

Well, Mr. Reporter, which is it?  Is it that my perspective is irrelvant as you said to me on sunday?

Or is my perspecitve "very informative and candid," as you wrote to me in an email after reading the blog and before we connected on the phone.

Had you bothered to contact me at least from January 18 to February 27th, your readers would have had the benefit of my "very informative and candid" perspective.

I find it amazing when this reporter is writing a narrative of lax oversight and regulation in Pennsylvania for essentially the period that I served as Secretary of the Department charged with regulating the industry that my perspective is not relevant or that other interviews by other reporters at other times on other topics sufficed.  And it turns out that the emails show the Reporter does not believe his own slimy, verbally stated reason for not interviewing me.

You be the judge.

1 comment:

  1. John,

    I read the NYT article. The NYT story scared me. I understand from your blog that you were active, not negligent in addressing the issues at hand. Your blog hit many points that are the concerns of everyone. I do sense from your own comments you did what you could. Unfortunately many of our responses to the environment are reactive than proactive. Your blog defends you well, but the narrative also suggest we are living in the wild west. The increase in staff and the 1400 violations I found scary as well. The millions of dollars that drillers are willing to risk in fines and clean up is a sad story of speculation gone wrong. Despite our best efforts the scale of drilling is beyond monitoring. I do not know how it is possible for the DEP to monitor drilling practice and water use at the same time. There are so many variables and so much room for human error, negligence or greed.

    I find the NYT article telling of our shortsightedness, and your blog informed me that the DEP adapted to the new environmental issues we face, which I understand has multiplied.

    Our impact on the environment is always a matter of scale. I wish the pace of retrieving natural gas was much slower. It is not going any where.

    I am now 52 and little has changed regarding cleaning up pollutants. I have observed the only way pollutants are made less harmful is by diluting contaminates in the water or air. Our current method of  cleaning up the environment is to  re-distributed pollutants further away from the source of the contamination, basically spreading pollutants every where in small benign amounts.    

    In 1958, Dr. Seuss envisioned the environmental scenario we are currently living.   His story, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back depicts a crisis with a pink bathtub ring. The futile cleanup  illustrates how reckless and thoughtless actions have dire consequences.  The story is well worth a re-visit. Perhaps Oprah could put Seuss on her must read list for our legislators. 

    The Cat in the Hat Comes Back
    The Cat in the Hat made a return appearance in this 1958 sequel. On this occasion, instead of Thing One and Thing Two, he brings along Little Cat A, nested inside his hat. Little Cat A doffs his hat to reveal Little Cat B, who reveals C, and so on down to the microscopic Little Cat Z, who turns out to hold the key to the plot in his hat. The crisis involves a pink bathtub ring and other pink residue left by the Cat after he snacks on a cake in the bathtub with the water running. Preliminary attempts to clean it up fail as they only transfer the mess elsewhere, including a dress, the wall, a pair of ten dollar shoes, a rug, the bed, and then eventually outside. A "spot killing" war then takes place between the mess and Little Cats A through V, who use an arsenal of primitive weapons including pop guns, bats, and a lawnmower. Unfortunately, the initial battle to rid the mess only makes it into an entire yard-covering spot. Little Cats V, W, X, and Y then take off their hats to uncover microscopic Little Cat Z. Z takes his hat off and unleashes a "Voom" which cleans up the back yard and puts all of the other Little Cats back into the big Cat in the Hat's hat.