A recent national report from the Government Accountability Office found that a higher regulatory standard is needed to ensure that drinking water sources are protected from fracking wastewater practices. But the largest circulating newspapers of the states with the highest levels of fracking production -- therefore among the most vulnerable to its risks -- have ignored this study.
A gas company is attempting to use a half-century old Pennsylvania law to frack underneath the land of property owners who refuse to allow the controversial practice on their land, yet a majority of Pennsylvanians may be unaware as two of the state's top three newspapers have failed to mention the contentious issue.
Hilcorp Energy, a Texas-based oil and gas company, is pushing legal action in Pennsylvania to be able to drill underneath the property of landowners that have refused to sign a lease if enough of their neighbors have already signed, a practice known as "forced pooling." The "unused and outdated" law, which is "pitting neighbor against neighbor" as reported by the Associated Press, would "shred private property rights" according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, the only of the three highest circulating papers in Pennsylvania to cover the story. The other two, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, have completely overlooked the issue which has received national attention.
The "forced pooling" law would force landowners to allow the use of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to extract natural gas reserves underneath their property without their consent, creating concerns about the impact on property values and the threat of water pollution. A leaked document from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that natural gas extraction has caused methane to leak into domestic water wells, causing "significant damage" to the drinking water supply of the town.
Pennsylvania isn't the only state dealing with the "forced pooling" issue. Energy companies have been exploiting similar laws in many states including in Illinois and Ohio to the outrage of unsuspecting landowners. In Ohio, citizens are "furious" about the ruling that one citizen fears will "make him legally responsible for spills and other damage" according to the Associated Press. Some residents have "resigned to losing future income," while dozens of others are pushing forward lawsuits in an attempt to stop the forcible drilling.
There is a similar sentiment in Pennsylvania even among those who support natural gas drilling and fracking. For example, Pennsylvania's Republican Governor Tom Corbett -- a strong proponent of natural gas extraction in Pennsylvania -- opposes the law, likening it to "private eminent domain." And Marcellus Drilling News, a pro-fracking news site, has expressed disapproval of Hilcorp's use of the law, calling it "the low road."
Several local media outlets published editorials and opinion pieces highlighting and praising CBS' faulty 60 Minutes Benghazi report. Now that CBS has apologized and withdrawn its report, will local media follow suit?
On October 27, CBS' 60 Minutes aired a report highlighting comments from security officer Dylan Davies, who went by the pseudonym "Morgan Jones" and said that he was an eyewitness to the September 12, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. After several inconsistencies surfaced in Davies' statements about the evening, CBS pulled its report, apologized to viewers, and said it would "correct the record" on the next edition of 60 Minutes.
Immediately following the 60 Minutes report, various local media outlets across the country published editorial and opinion pieces hyping the report and heralding it as evidence that President Obama and his administration were lying about the attacks. At least six local media outlets, including The Columbus Dispatch, The New Hampshire Union Leader, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Washington Times, The Charleston Post and Courier, and The Boston Herald, all hyped the CBS report with one outlet calling it a "damning report" while another said the administration's "coverup [is] being exposed." Pittsburgh Press writer Jack Kelly published a piece in the Post-Gazette claiming the report was "noteworthy for the new information provided -- in particular the interviews with 'Morgan Jones' and [Lt.] Col. [Andrew] Wood."
The 60 Minutes report reinvigorated the widely debunked myth that there are "lingering questions" about the Benghazi attack and continued to push a right-wing media narrative that the Obama administration has engaged in a cover-up in response to the attacks. The pervasiveness of the myth even hit Congress as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) threatened to hold up presidential nominations until questions surrounding Benghazi were answered.
Now that CBS has retracted its report, will local media outlets who also injected this misleading myth into their opinion pages do the same, or will they continue to rely on debunked information that misleads their readers?
Over the past three months, major print outlets throughout the country largely failed to discuss rising structural inequality and poverty in the United States while reporting on policies and programs that affect low-income groups.
Despite the prevalence of green energy in Pennsylvania, a Media Matters study found that both the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette generally ignore clean energy in their reporting and neither paper has ever mentioned the overwhelming public support for green energy.
According to the Media Matters study, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette collectively wrote 62 articles on energy and the environment from July 1, 2012 through August 15, 2012. In that time period, neither paper reported on public support of green technology, and both papers failed to discuss green energy in all but 9 articles. These papers did, however, cover stories about natural gas, coal, and oil frequently -- rarely mentioning green energy as an alternative source of energy.
Although nearly impossible to discern from the pages of the Inquirer or the Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania is actually one of the top green energy producing states in the country. As of 2010, Pennsylvania made the Solar Energy Industries Association's top 10 list for cumulative installed solar capacity. In addition, both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have been designated Solar America Cities by the Department of Energy. Through the solar energy initiative championed by former Governor Ed Rendell, consumers could expect to see savings of $10 billion by 2017.
Pennsylvania also ranks 16th nationally in total wind capacity installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association, with 751 megawatts (MW) currently online and another 3,391 MW in queue. Last year, PECO Energy Co. announced it was dropping the extra fee for purchasing renewable power -- which mostly comes from wind energy -- and would be keeping prices the same for customers or potentially even lowering their bill.
Green energy is also very popular among Pennsylvania residents. According to an October 2010 poll by Susquehanna Polling and Research, 85 percent of Pennsylvania voters surveyed thought it was important to support continued expansion of wind energy farms. In addition, a majority of voters would still support clean energy technology even if it cost $2 extra per month. Another poll conducted in April 2012 by the Small Business Majority found that 73 percent of Pennsylvania small business owners surveyed thought that government investment in clean energy has an important role in boosting our national economy. Pennsylvania's largest newspaper, however, have entirely failed to report this dynamic.
For more information on our analysis of clean energy coverage in state media click HERE
A two-part Media Matters examinantion of the largest newspapers in CO, NH, NV, OH, PA and VA from July 1-August 15 and from August 16-October 31, 2012 revealed a variety of shortcomings in the way clean energy and regulatory issues are covered by those publications.
Pennsylvania's five largest newspapers have generally failed to cover the mounting defections of lawmakers and corporations from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing advocacy group whose membership and model legislation have had significant influence on Pennsylvania government.
The New York Times and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's suggestion that Sen. Barack Obama is "delay[ing] the World Series" with his purchase of 30 minutes of network airtime to be broadcast October 29. Neither article noted that, according to the Fox executive who reportedly negotiated the ad buy, Obama's purchase of the airtime would not delay the start of the game.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Sen. John McCain's assertion that Sen. Barack Obama's health-care plan "will force them into a new huge government-run health care program" without also reporting that the claim is false.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette uncritically reported that Sen. John McCain "asserted that Mr. [Barack] Obama doesn't seem interested in keeping" a special U.S. envoy to aid the peacekeeping process in Northern Ireland. In fact, the Obama campaign has stated that, if elected president, Obama "will appoint a senior envoy to Ireland who will build on the groundbreaking achievements of the Clinton Administration and help bring the historic process to final fruition."
Several media figures have echoed the sexist notion that Sen. Joe Biden will have to soften his tone and manner in a debate against Gov. Sarah Palin, in contrast with the tougher tone he could take if the Republican vice-presidential nominee were male.