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UB & The Buffalo News—Bamboozled by Natural Gas Industry

Sharon Wilson once dreamed of getting rich like her north Texas neighbors who seemed to be driving out the gate in the morning in a beat up pickup, only to return in “new, fully loaded Dodge diesels wearing new 7x beaver hats.” She began to research the best way to reap the benefits of the mineral rights she owned while also preserving the surface of her Texas land. It became an enlightening journey, to say the very least. Along the way, she became known as a “fracking insurgent”—a label she proudly wears today. Click here to read her story, and take some time to explore her enlightening TXSharon blog.

Last Halloween, as fate would have it, she attended the “Media & Stakeholder Relations Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative 2011” in Houston. Her $1,299 admission to the two-day gas industry event was paid for by EARTHWORKS’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project. The event included senior industry speakers from Chesapeake Energy, Range Resources, EQT  Corporation, Cabot Oil & Gas, Encana Oil and Gas, and Norse Energy, among others. Wilson brought her tape recorder along to document the event.

Among the shocking things she took away from the conference was the way the gas industry labels anti-frackers “insurgents” and employs ex-military PSYOPS to do intelligence and work within communities to thwart opposition and further the industry mission. Click here Click the icon above to listen to Matt Carmichael (Manager of External Affairs, Anadarko Petroleum) advising attendees to download the US Army/Marine Corps Counter-Insurgency Manual to be prepared for the fight ahead. He also considers “Rumsfeld Rules” to be his bible. (You can also click here and scroll down to the Carmichael link.)

Another speaker, Dennis Holbrook (Executive Vice President of Regulatory and Public Relations, Norse Energy) was recorded sharing a number of tips on how the gas industry can better manipulate public opinion toward the gas industry cause. Here are some anecdotes he tells those in attendance about New York State, UB, and the Buffalo News:

“We consider New York a pretty significant battle ground so…we aren’t there yet. We have a Governor , I think, that believes this thing should probably move forward. And I’ll just give you a couple more quick observations—I made some notes to myself while these gentlemen were speaking. We talked about “don’t dump the media,” be an information source for them, develop a rapport, keep it simple, don’t let the opponents define the issue, make it your meeting rather than theirs because they keep it far too superficial, seek out academic studies and champion with universities—because that again provides tremendous credibility to the overall process. We tend to be viewed, as I said earlier, very skeptically. We’ve aligned with the University at Buffalo—we’ve done a variety of other activities where we’ve gotten the academics to sponsor programs and bring in people for public sessions to educate them on a variety of different topics. One last thing: The key in all this is to keep it credible. I’m gonna read you a quote to sort of finish up right here so we still have some time for Q&A. This is an editorial that showed up not too long ago. It says, ‘Life is about managing risks, with sensible protections. Hydrofracking includes certain inherent risks, but so does any exploration for oil or gas—which virtually all New Yorkers use. New Yorkers who insist on never taking any risks should not get into a car—though they could get hit by one while walking. Or, just stay in bed all day—risking bed sores.’ I like this quote, obviously. I pulled it out and bring it along with me. I’ve told some media folks: ‘You probably think that’s coming from somebody in the industry.’ What you might find sort of fascinating is to find out that this quote actually comes from the Buffalo News—which is a Warren Buffet owned paper, so it’s not known for being overly conservative. A year ago it endorsed the moratorium on hydrofracking. So this is a major turnaround for this paper. And we spent a good year and longer meeting with editorial boards, providing essays to the paper, and doing whatever we could to educate the reporters on a different perspective than what they’d been led to believe until now. So I view this type of turnaround as a major success story. And these are the type of areas that I think can have a tremendous amount of influence. It doesn’t matter whether they’re gonna throw a well in Buffalo or not. But the spread of that information out there has a tremendous impact on the politicians and the other folks that we ultimately have to bring around to understanding that we can do this safely.”

Click here Click the icon above to listen to Holbrook’s full talk at the event. The above quote emerges around the 10:30 mark. (You can also click here and scroll down to the Holbrook link.)

Good to see that the State University of New York at Buffalo and our daily paper, the Buffalo News, aren’t swayed by the arguments of corporate shills. Here’s one of Holbrook’s slanted essays the News published August 30,2010. Here’s another one of his they published July 20, 2011.

Norse Energy recently pulled offices out of the area and relocated back to Texas. ““What’s bad news for Buffalo is good news for Houston,” Holbrook said. Click here to read about that.


  • James Northrup

    The gas industry said they were going to use universities as pitch men for gas, and they did 

  • Jim_Holstun

    A superb article–you KNOW this is what’s going on, and yet actually hearing and seeing the words is always a shock, somehow. Mr. Holbrook, Exec. VP for Norse Energy, seems to be referring here to last year’s Marcellus Shale Lecture Series (, hosted by UB’s Geology Department, whose speakers ran the ideological gamut from A to A’—i.e., they were all passionately pro-fracking. This was the origin of the UB Shale Resources and Society Institute. UB Geology Professor Robert Jacobi was the primary organizer of this series. When it ran, Professor Jacobi was also the Director of Special Projects for Norse Energy, as his LinkedIn profile reveals. (

  • Timothy R. Ruggiero

    Those of us who have been dealing with oil and gas for awhile now certainly the frackers lie, stretch the truth and even just dream up numbers and statistics, and most of the time, pay very good money for ‘studies’ that serve no other purpose than to reinforce their own beliefs. Sometimes, those ‘studies’ come from a university, and the one thing that the energy companies rarely share is that they paid for the study. So, of course the study is in agreement with their thinking and belief. You get what you pay for.

    That said, I know from my own personal experience that some faculty members of universities sometimes do things and say things on their own that are not endorsed or even known about by the university until  someone starts asking questions about it. In the meantime, since Professor X has an affiliation with Y University, the energy company will always make the tie between Professor X and the Y University, as if the University itself is fully involved. Sometimes they are, but sometimes, it’s just that one faculty member. And sometimes, the university is not wanting to get in the middle of whatever issue, so they simply deny having anything to do with it.

    • Scubawithdogs

      Let’s not forget many of these universities have natural gas well production sites on their property and they obtain royalty money from these. The University of North Texas and University of Texas at Arlington both receive royalty money from natural gas well drilling and have presented studies in favor of drilling.

  • Its not UB that needs to be convinced, it’s Cornell.  If that were to happen, I myself would dial down my perspective.  I attended the UB Marcellus Shale lectures and they were strongly pro gas and fracking.  As a land use planner, I know well the loopholes in the mining and minerals laws as far as impacts to residents and the inability to do a anything about it because of the way it was written to support the industry rather than actually addressing public health and safety.  However, Dr. John Martin was the best speaker, neither for or against.  He presented all of the energy alternatives available to meet the future forecasted demand for energy.  Then he compared the costs and benefits and you could then arrive at the right one by your own judgment…No gimmicks, sugarcoating, glossing over the facts…just straight forward.  The gas industry could take a few tips from that approach.  People know when they are about to be exploited and that is their whole modus operandi…not the fear of risk taking.

  • Oh yeah, having worked for a state environmental agency….remember, there is no such a thing as “cleaned up”.

  • Mary/Bruce Beyer

    Please watch your back Buck Quigley and Artvoice editors.  Remember Karen Silkwood.

  • Jim_Holstun

    Hey, Dennis, it felt pretty damned good to brag at that meeting about your ability to buy a university, didn’t it? But now you probably wish you’d shut up just a little bit, right? The shareholders can’t be too happy about the bad PR you’ve created.

    As you enjoy your new digs in Houston, you might want to acquaint yourself with two fine old Texas idioms:

    “Dumberna sack a hair.”

    “That old boy is so dumb he couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions was writ on the heel.”

  • James Northrup

    I debated Dennis the Fracking Menace on the Susan Arbetter Show.

    He struck me as more lobbyist than oil man.  And Norse’s NYS results have confirmed it.

  • Charley_Tarr

    Speaking of “Goin’ Back to Houston”….heard there’s a special version of ‘College Wars Thursdays’ featuring ‘Blondes-in-Royal-Blue-Pantsuits’  called  “Goin’-Back-to-Cincinnati”