For NPR, Fracking Fight Is Between Farmers & Movie Stars

Dairy farmer (cc photo by Dennis Jarvis)

When it comes to fracking, who are you going to believe? Hard-working farmers… (cc photo by Dennis Jarvis)

So many people believe fracking–a method of releasing oil or gas from rock–to be unsafe that hundreds of U.S. communities have voted to ban it. If you’re unsure how to feel about it, NPR would like to help with that.

The network–which receives funding from America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a pro-fracking industry group–ran a report March 20 that began by explaining that despite “all the money coming out of the ground in some places,” New York doesn’t allow fracking, which “causes landowners to feel they’re being left behind.”

Listeners meet a three-generation family of dairy farmers whose “rewarding but hard life” is that much harder because they don’t have “any natural gas wells and the income that comes with them.” Even if New York approves fracking, they still won’t make as much money as landowners in Pennsylvania, where the process was approved earlier, but, explains NPR‘s David Chanatry, “drilling would still mean jobs.”

Mark Ruffalo (IMDB)

…or Mark Ruffalo?

Who stands between these hard-working people and money and jobs coming out of the ground? It’s “actor Mark Ruffalo,” who is “one of many artists and celebrities who have embraced the anti-fracking fight.” Landowners, we’re told, “increasingly resent the antis, who they see as meddling outsiders who will never be convinced that fracking can be done safely.” Rather than hear why they should be convinced, we hear from a resenter, a woman with “six kids, three mortgages and no health insurance,” who wishes those people would “stay in Hollywood.”

So on one side, struggling family farmers, and on the other, rich celebrities from out of state. That’s a tough one. But wait–two-thirds of the way through, we learn “there is significant opposition to drilling among people sitting on gas, as well. Concerns over water use, waste disposal and impacts on the land. Their biggest fear is that drinking water will be contaminated.”

But we don’t hear from any of them, or learn whether they work hard or have kids; and the piece moves merrily to its conclusion that while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defends the state’s approach, “many landowners” think he’s really only worried about “how fracking might affect his interest in higher office.”

About Janine Jackson

Program Director and Co-producer of CounterSpin
Janine Jackson is FAIR's program director and and producer/co-host of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. She contributes frequently to FAIR's magazine, Extra! and co-edited The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s (Westview Press). She has appeared on ABC's Nightline and CNN Headline News, among other outlets, and has testified to the Senate Communications Subcommittee on budget reauthorization for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Her articles have appeared in various publications, including In These Times and the UAW’s Solidarity, and in books including Civil Rights Since 1787 (New York University Press) and Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism (New World Library). Jackson is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and has an M.A. in sociology from the New School for Social Research.