Congrats to LAT on success of fracking disinformation campaign

Congrats to LAT on success of fracking disinformation campaign

June 9, 2013

By Chris Reed

Fracking - banThe new Los Angeles Times poll showing sharp skepticism among Californians about hydraulic fracturing — the newly improved oil-gas drilling process that has triggered a brown energy revolution — should trigger fierce pride among Times reporters Neela Banerjee, Evan Halper, Julie Cart, Wes Venteicher, Bettina Boxall, Shan Li, Michael J. Mishak, Kathleen Hennessey, Amy Kaufman, Kenneth Turan, Nicole Sperling, Ronald D. White, Tiffany Hsu, Ruben Vives and Michael Hiltzik.

A Nexis hunt shows that over the past year, each of these L.A. Times’ reporters has written about fracking WITHOUT EVER MENTIONING THAT THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DISMISSES ENVIRONMENTAL CRITICISM OF THE PROCESS.

Why do I uppercase this? Because it is literally incredible that journalists for an important, powerful newspaper think that the position of the greenest president in the history of the nation is irrelevant to one of the most pitched public policy debates in the nation.

Energy and interior secretaries, EPA chief, task force all call it safe

To recycle some of what I’ve written before:

— A task force commissioned by the Obama administration’s Energy Department concluded in a 23-page report issued in November 2011 that fracking was just another heavy industry, one with significant but manageable pollution concerns.

— The president’s first energy secretary, UC Berkeley’s Steven Chu, said: “We believe it’s possible to extract shale gas in a way that protects the water, that protects people’s health. We can do this safely.”

— Chu’s replacement, MIT physicist Ernest Moniz, said the risk that fracking posed to water supplies was “challenging but manageable.”

— The president’s first Environmental Protection Agency director, Lisa Jackson, disputed claims that fracking, which occurs 5,000 feet below the surface, had polluted water tables which are usually less than 1,000 feet below the surface. She testified before a House committee that she was “not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water.”

Neela Banerjee: Serial factual omitter

The single most graphic example of the fact that there is a calculated decision made to not mention the Obama administration’s views comes from a recent article by Neela Banerjee — who has written more than any other LATer about fracking — and Wes Venteicher. Published on May 17, it dealt with Sally Jewell, Obama’s interior secretary, and her announcement of new federal fracking rules for drilling on public and Indian lands.

Banerjee and Venteicher noted the controversy over fracking and turned to an industry spokesman to offer the context that fracking has been around decades and hasn’t been the devil.

“‘States have been successfully regulating fracking for decades, including on federal lands, with no incident of contamination that would necessitate redundant federal regulation,’ said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs for Western Energy Alliance, a Denver-based trade group.”

The New York Times covered the same press conference and, like Banerjee and Venteicher, also quoted Jewell. But while the LAT offered mushy generalities from the interior secretary, veteran NYT reporter John M. Broder believed it was somewhat more significant that she said this:

“Anticipating criticism from environmental advocates, she said: ‘I know there are those who say fracking is dangerous and should be curtailed, full stop. That ignores the reality that it has been done for decades and has the potential for developing significant domestic resources and strengthening our economy and will be done for decades to come.’”

Fracking safety: NYT cites Obama Cabinet member, LAT quotes flack

How does Banerjee sleep at night, slanting things this dramatically? When trying to steer the public toward an opinion on fracking’s safety, she quotes an oil industry flack. The New York Times quotes OBAMA’S SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR. And it’s a quote the LAT reporter could have used but chose to ignore.

I rest my case.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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