Monday, February 28, 2011

UPDATED NYT Gas Drilling Errors and Omissions in Drilling Article, part 1: "STRONGER."

[NOTE TO READERS: Please read first the February 27th post entitled: "Statement Regarding Sunday NYT February 27th Drilling Article." I am the former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. This post is one of a series examining the reporting and the reporter's narrative of lax regulation and lax oversight].

The Sunday New York Times Article was replete with errors and omissions to advance its narrative of lax regulation and lax oversight of gas drilling in Pennsylvania.  I am going to document these errors and omissions one-at-a-time in separate posts and many of the posts are now on this blog. 

I have concluded that they cumulatively provide a strong case of bad faith journalism.  The article excludes information completely or from the main story, used misleading words to conceal important points, and consistently shaped information to advance the narrative of "lax regulation."  Others can make their own determination at the end of the series.

And what would be the motivation for such bad faith journalism?  The reporter got a huge front page story on the New York Times Sunday paper, a significant professional accomplishment.  It is the talk of many around the nation. 

The timing is also interesting.  This story about lax regulation of drilling appeared on Sunday, the Oscar awards day.  The article appeared on NYT website with a story about an anti-drilling celebrity activist from New York.  Gasland, nominated for an Oscar, and the controversy about it was some of the sizzle about this year's Oscars, and the envelope was going to be opened on sunday.

Now let's examine the strange omission from the article of the independent review of Pennsylvania's hydraulic fracturing regulatory program done by STRONGER (see  STRONGER is a public-private and government collaboration to provide independent professional reviews of state oil and gas drilling regulatory programs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection invited in May 2010 STRONGER to do a review of its program.  As STRONGER says in its written report that we "volunteered" to have our program reviewed.  The previous STRONGER review of Pennsylvania's drilling program was done in 2004.

STRONGER issued a 26 page report of its findings on September 24, 2010.  It is a largely positive review that concluded "the program is, over all, well-managed, professional and meeting its program objectives."  It drew substantial press coverage when issued.

[An earlier version of this post stated that the Sierra Club was a member of the STRONGER review team; the Sierra Club has submitted a comment that states it was an observer not a member of the review team; please review the comment and also STRONGER's description of those involved in the review of the Pennsylvania regulatory program.]

When I challenged the article's failure to include STRONGER the reporter first gave as the reason why it was not included the word "dated."  I was floored.  He did not say that he was unaware of it.  He said that it was out of date. 

The report was issued on September 24th, 2010.  The report is available on STRONGER's home page under the button "Recent Reviews."

The report is the only independent, professional examination of the Pa regulatory program during the time period that the reporter is working.  But it appears not in an ocean of ink.  Why?

The report is inconsistent with a poor, lax regulatory program or the article's narrative.  Some readers would have found it credible had it been included.  The narrative ruled so the STRONGER report never was mentioned.

1 comment:

  1. Mr Hanger, The Sierra Club was an observer in the one-day interview session held at DEP, along with Earthjustice and other environmental representatives. We were allowed to ask questions, but did not participate in the preparation of the STRONGER report. We were not part of the STRONGER review team.

    In any event, Mr. Hanger You mischaracterize the conclusions of the STRONGER report.

    Please revise your comments