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The Truth About the "Truthland" Screening

Although it’s easily viewed for free on the web, the short film Truthland will have its Buffalo premiere tonight (July 26) at 7pm at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. The 35-minute movie is a ham-handed stab at countering Josh Fox’s Gasland. According to the website, it was produced by Fred Davis, who made political ads for George W. Bush and John McCain. The domain for the website promoting the film——was discovered to be owned by Chesapeake Energy Corporation. The Buffalo event is sponsored by the Independent Oil and Gas Association of NY (IOGA).

Dennis Holbrook

What may be more alarming is the panel that’s been set up to discuss the film. In particular, Dennis Holbrook (executive vice president of regulatory and public relations, Norse Energy) was secretly recorded last Halloween at a private natural gas conference in Houston, 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.”

Holbrook’s work is being rewarded by his employer. According to reports out this week:

Dennis Holbrook, Chief Legal Officer and EVP, received 1,000,000 newly issued options with an exercise price of 2.92 NOK. Mr. Holbrook holds an additional 83,333 share options which carry an exercise price of 20.10 and an exercise period of 9 June 2010 – 24 July 2014. Dennis Holbrook now holds a total of 1,083,333 share options and 218,387 shares in NEC.

Clearly, Holbrook has a very personal stake in lifting the ban on high-volume horizontal fracking in New York State—though he denies any conflict of interest.

Other panelists include Dr. John Conrad of Conrad Geosciences, who speaks one or two times a month on the topic of shale gas as part of the company’s “public awareness activities.” Conrad Geosciences is involved in many phases of fracking, from surveying to mitigation of accidents.

John Holko is the owner of Lenape Resources. Lenape is actively lobbying against New York towns that may want to consider a home rule moratorium on fracking.

Dr. Scott Cline is a petroleum engineer who speaks at many pro-fracking events. You can see a sample of his point of view by visiting

Then, of course, there’s the star of Truthland, Shelly Depue. Depue is cast as a homespun character on a quixotic quest in search of the truth about fracking. She travels the country—paid for by the pro-fracking group Energy in Depth—learning how safe the practice is.

What you won’t learn from the film is that on her own land back in Pennsylvania, the Department of Environmental Protection was busy writing up violations to the company that drilled there, related to bubbling on all sides of the well casing, etc. Her neighbors claim their water has been ruined by the botched wells. As of July 22, 2012, the DEP inspection report on the well is marked “still pending.”

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