Today’s post contributed by Kevin Lynn, Communications for Linde Corporation.
I wasn’t always in the gas business. Like my Cabot colleague George Stark, we are two of thousands of people from Pennsylvania who did something else for a long time before this new industry called. My own route to Marcellus shale was slightly more circuitous and the folks at Cabot thought you might like to hear how I got “here” from “there.” I hope so!
I do communications for Linde Corporation. We lay pipeline for gas companies like Cabot, connecting their wells to gathering lines and the larger distribution lines. My boss, Scott Linde, refers to us as “plumbers with really big wrenches.” We all come from somewhere, as the saying goes, but I came to Linde from—the Media. Yes, from those people. For years I was a television news and sports reporter and anchor. I won the Associated Press award as the best news reporter in Pennsylvania and on the sports side I anchored Sportscenter on ESPN (prior to broadcasting, I was a professional tennis player and the coach at Yale). Then, tragically, I grew a face for radio. Who knew? On radio I twice won the AP award as the best talk show host in Pennsylvania.
All of which means that not only am I nosy—like reporters should be; I’m opinionated—like talk show hosts inevitably become. We’re only a problem if you did something wrong, or decided to live your life out in public. Once you step into—or are dragged into—that public arena, we own you. And it is a sad fact that even a faint sun will burn if you’re exposed long enough.
Before folks like George Stark and me, the gas companies behaved very differently. Since most of the gas people hail from the south and west, they came from a culture with a different view of oil exploration. There are fewer people, more open spaces and it is not uncommon to see oil derricks and other petroleum equipment on any horizon. People had a century to get used to the industry and didn’t ask too many questions. The oil companies traditionally played their cards close to their vests. Who could blame them?
That all changed with the Marcellus shale find. Pennsylvania has more people and fewer open spaces. In addition, the Keystone State has a long history of journalistic activism. More than a century ago, Ida Tarbell wrote a famous history of the mess left behind—here in Pennsylvania–by John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. It is considered by many historians to be the first example of investigative journalism. So when you combine the skepticism which accompanies our state history with a non-responsive oil industry, you’ve got a formula for trouble. The solution? Hire your adversaries…. Simply put, I used to be the guy who grilled the oil company schmos for information. Now, I’m the schmo.
Sure enough, when I began with Linde in 2010, I had a resistance to drilling through the water table to get to the shale thousands of feet below. After all, modern man survived for hundreds of thousands of years without oil; we’ve only needed it for a century or so. But in all that time, no human could go a week without water and live. In addition, I saw the documentaries; I saw the flaming faucets.
But I was a good reporter and I did my homework. I read everything on our business. I learned how safely and carefully the drillers treat any intrusion through the water table. I also learned that just like human DNA, petrochemicals have their own unique signature. The signatures prove that the gas that flames in sinks doesn’t come from the Marcellus layer; it comes from ambient gas already in the ground. Yes, those sinks have always burned and will continue to burn with no help from Marcellus shale.
Finally, a word on the Liberal Media from which I sprung. My position has changed on many issues. But am I more liberal? I was for nuclear power until I learned there’s nowhere to safely dispose of the spent fuel rods. I was for capital punishment until I learned that since 8% of those executed are innocent, they could kill me–by accident! And yes, I was against fracing until I learned more. So, uh, does that make me more liberal about drilling, or more conservative? Get back to me on that….