“Energy In Depth” – A Reporters’ Guide to Its Founding, Funding, and Flacks

“Energy In Depth” – A Reporters’ Guide to Its Founding, Funding, and Flacks by Lisa Graves, December 28, 2012, PR Watch, The Center for Media and Democracy
What is Energy In Depth, really? EID describes itself as “a research, education and public outreach campaign focused on getting the facts out” about hydraulic fracturing, widely known as “fracking.” It’s a website created by a trade group for the gas industry — the “Independent Petroleum Association of America” (IPAA) — and a public relations firm.  In short, IPAA/EID is a PR operation for the industry’s multi-billion dollar financial interests in “unconventional” drilling for what is popularly known as “natural gas.” Although this expanded drilling is often described as essential to our “national security,” the Center for Media and Democracy/PRWatch has shown that the industry is increasingly exporting gas to be sold in other countries. … IPAA/EID’s “about” page says its “supporting members” are state associations of gas producers. It displays their logos, instead of the global corporations that launched it. What the logos cloak – in classic PR sleight of hand – are the larger interests behind the IPAA/EID operation.

It has been described by some in the press as merely a “pro-drilling group” (in contrast with “anti-drilling” groups or citizens), but here’s how IPAA described EID in a leaked internal memo from 2009, obtained by DeSmogBlog last year. IPAA privately told its allies that EID was its new ”online resource center to combat new environmental regulations,” created with funding from Shell, BP, Chevron, and more. In other words, IPAA/EID is more accurately described as a front group launched by global gas companies in order to fight a public relations battle against new environmental protections on fracking. The leaked IPAA memo reveals that the EID campaign was created through the “financial commitments” of some of the biggest companies (with some of the worst environmental records) on the planet. …
Other corporations whose funding helped launch IPAA/EID include two Canadian gas companies, EnCana and Talisman, plus Occidental Petroleum (California’s largest gas producer) and Marathon (now Marathon Oil Corporation, which also has major interests in gas). Other IPAA/EID funders include Schlumberger, the world’s largest petroleum field services company, which began long ago as a French firm but has been headquartered in Texas for many years. The IPAA memo also lists Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oil field services companies, which helped pioneer “proprietary” fracking fluids and whose Energy Services Group is involved in supporting fracking activities. (Halliburton recently settled a criminal corruption case alleging bribery by its then-CEO, Dick Cheney, and a former subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR), in connection with its natural gas operations in Nigeria.) IPAA/EID was also launched with the financial support of the American Petroleum Institute (API), a non-profit trade group that represents many of these same interests. API had revenue of over $181 million in 2010 from “membership dues” from corporations and other sources, and it spent one-third of its income on the Edelman PR firm. According to its 990, API gave nearly $200,000 to IPAA for “energy education” between 2008 and 2010. Another IPAA/EID funder mentioned in the IPAA memo is Anadarko Petroleum Company, which has gas wells in Pennsylvania and Texas. Anadarko owned a 25% stake in the Deepwater Horizon, with BP, Halliburton, and others.

Anadarko made the news on fracking last year after its Public Affairs Manager, Matt Carmichael, promoted the use of military “psyops” in Pennsylvania communities to combat “an insurgency” of citizens concerned about fracking (as recorded by Sharon Wilson of the Oil and Gas Accountability Project). IPAA/EID’s Chris Tucker tried to spin those comments by claiming they were meant as a joke, despite all evidence to the contrary. Carmichael is a former senior communications guy for KBR, which was a subsidiary of war contractor Halliburton. None of these major for-profit companies or API — the financial underwriters that launched IPAA/EID — are listed on the campaign’s website or in its description of its supporters.

IPAA/EID has been on the attack against critics of the fracking that is so lucrative for its secretive financial backers. … Because EID was created as an operation within the IPAA, it does not file its own IRS Form 990 tax form, and so its true revenues and expenses are hidden from public view.

Who Leads IPAA/EID and for How Much?
The portion of IPAA’s annual revenues or expenses that fund its EID campaign is not disclosed. What is known is that in 2010, IPAA paid its president, Barrett (Barry) Russell, more than one-half million dollars in total compensation ($511,000 and a promise of health insurance for him and his wife for life). Russell was elected president of the IPAA in 2000. He also has seat on the board of the Business Industry Political Action Committee and the National Energy Education Development Project. He’s been IPAA’s “chief legal and financial officer since 1988 and an officer of IPAA’s educational foundation since its inception.” He previously worked for the EPA, and he also worked for consulting firms, such as Booz, Allen and Hamilton, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. IPAA paid another nearly one million dollars in total compensation for its next five highest paid employees combined (who each earn over $200,000 a year). This list includes Lee Fuller and Jeff Eshelman, who are specifically listed on the EID website as part of the EID team. Fuller, a chemical engineer, is IPAA’s Vice President of Government Relations, and he is listed on the website as EID’s “Executive Director.” He began working for IPAA in 1998 after working as a lobbyist for the gas industry for 12 years following an eight-year job staffing the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, where he handled rules on drilling fluids, wells, and Superfund sites. Eshelman is also a Vice President for IPAA and has served as its spokesman for a number of years.

Shining a Spotlight on the IPAA/EID Marcellus Team
According to the leaked memo from IPAA, EID’s reason for being is to serve as a “major initiative to respond to . . . attacks” on fracking and amplify “coordinated messages.” Although IPAA/EID’s reach is nationwide, one area where it appears to be particularly aggressive is Pennsylvania, through the blogging and outreach of Tom Shepstone. … 
In the period between his bankruptcy and his public association with IPAA/EID last year, Shepstone was often quoted in the press with the description “local businessman.” He also wrote online comments praising right-wing diatribes. … But, beyond his apparent animosity toward progressives and other concerned Americans, it is Shepstone’s claims that are particularly astonishing. Here’s a sampling of his disinformation sound bites:

* “Hydrofracking Improves Water Quality!” – When Shepstone made this claim at a public meeting, he was met with a spontaneous burst of laughter in disbelief, but he claimed it was true because more wells will be tested due to fracking than are currently monitored. In claiming fracking improves water quality, Shepstone conveniently ignores the millions of gallons of fresh water contaminated in the process of fracking each well, resulting in waste water whose “brine” is not even recommended for use on roads because of the risk of ground water contamination. He also ignores concerns that the water may become contaminated with dissolved radium due to the radioactive uranium rock in the region, requiring additional treatment, among other concerns that have been raised across the country about the potential for contamination of America’s precious aquifers and the spoiling of Americans’ wells.
* “Natural gas produces water rather than depleting it” – Shepstone made this claim apparently based on the fact that burning methane gas or heating wet gas releases water vapor, and water is a heavier molecule than methane, but his claim ignores the fact that millions of gallons of fresh water are being pumped from aquifers and rivers to be spoiled with each fracking well, and the industry is banking on drilling thousands and thousands of such wells in the region.
* “There is no evidence the development of this resource will damage the environment . . . but plenty of evidence the farm and the woods can be saved with it” – This Shepstone claim is predicated on the notion that rural land can require money for property taxes to maintain, which he says gas leasing revenue will aid, but his claim ignores the effect of industrialization on farms, parks, and rivers, which has been documented by Oscar-nominee Josh Fox and others. Shepstone’s claim also ignores other documented environmental hazards from fracking, including the venting of unprocessed methane gas and other carcinogens associated with fracking (as documented in the video at the link).
* “Hydraulic Fracturing Is An Open Book” – Shepstone pushed the idea that fracking fluid “is an open book” because some of the chemicals in it have been revealed, even as he sought to minimize concerns about what secret chemicals are in dozens of pounds of ingredients used in each well that companies keep secret under the claim that they are “proprietary,” chemicals he says are basically harmless jellies. Because the blend of secret chemicals is proprietary and varies by manufacturer he cannot actually prove his assertion, but that’s no deterrent.

In his effort to smear Park and those concerned with fracking, Shepstone sidesteps the proliferation of non-profit groups that peddle pro-fracking claims, as exposed by Dory Hippauf. Beyond IPAA/EID, these include API (which has launched front groups called “Energy Citizens” and “EnergyNation”), the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Ohio Shale Coalition, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, the Center for Liquified Natural Gas, energy Tomorrow, EnergyfromShale.org, energyNow!, EnergyAnswered, LNGfacts.org, SecureOurFuels.org, Oilindependents.org, the Consumer Energy Alliance, Vote4Energy.org, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), the Institute for Energy Research (IER), and others. [Emphasis added]

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