FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Pinkwashing Fracking?

by STEVE HORN

The Wizard of Oz was spot on when he said to “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” That’s good life advice if you fall into the “Ignorance is bliss” camp. For a journalist though, it’s doing the exact opposite that’s a sin qua non for the job.

Kevin Begos of the Associated Press took the Wizard’s advice to heart in his July 22 story titled, “Experts: Some fracking critics use bad science.”

Citing “Gasland” director Josh Fox’s viral video “The Sky is Pink” as an example, Begos wrote, “Opponents of fracking say breast cancer rates have spiked exactly where intensive drilling is taking place — and nowhere else in the state…But researchers haven’t seen a spike in breast cancer rates in the area.”

As his main source of expertise on the breast cancer issue, Begos turned to Chandini Portteus, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation’s Vice President of Research, Evaluation, and Scientific Programs. Of the connection between fracking and breast cancer she stated, “what we do know is a little bit, and what we don’t know is a lot.”

Sara Jerving of the Center for Media and Democracy came to diametrically different conclusions in her April 2012 probe for PR Watch, writing,

Benzene, which the U.S. EPA has classified as a Group A, human carcinogen, is released in the fracking process through air pollution and in the water contaminated by the drilling process. The Institute of Medicine released a report in December 2011 that links breast cancer to exposure to benzene.

Up to thirty-seven percent of chemicals in fracking fluids have been identified as endocrine-disruptors — chemicals that have potential adverse developmental and reproductive effects. According to the U.S. EPA, exposure to these types of chemicals has also been implicated in breast cancer.

Jerving also cites the piece of evidence that Fox used to tie fracking to breast cancer in “The Sky is Pink,” explaining, “In the six counties in Texas which have seen the most concentrated gas drilling, breast cancer rates have risen significantly, while over the same period the rates for this kind of cancer have declined elsewhere in the state.”

Who, then, are the “men behind Komen’s curtain”?

Many environmental activists are familiar with the “greenwashing” concept. Fewer, though, are familiar with “pinkwashing,” best documented by the book Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy by Samantha King. It’s a concept fully on display with regards to the ties that bind Komen to the shale gas industry.

Komen’s Ties to the Halliburton Loophole

Behind curtain one is Jane Abraham, named to the Komen Board of Directors in May 2012. She’s the “wife of former [U.S.] Senator and U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham,” according to Komen’s website.

Upon leaving his posts as a Senator and Energy Secretary under the George W. Bush Administration, Spencer fled straight for the Board of Directors of Occidential Petroleum, where he still sits on the Board today. Occidential has fracking operations set up in both California– and North Dakota-based shale basins.

He also is one of the Principals of The Abraham Group, LLC, a consulting firm which, among other things, advises oil and gas industry clientele, headed by his wife Jane.

Spencer Abraham was the Bush Administration’s Secretary of Energy when Vice President Dick Cheney oversaw the Energy Task Force. The Task Force was composed of Cheney, as well as the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy. It was instrumental in facilitating private meetings between oil and gas executives and upper-level Bush Administration Cabinet members.

In the fracking sphere, one of the crucial outcomes of the Task Force’s meetings was the “Halliburton Loophole.” This clause located within the Energy Policy Act of 2005 allows chemicals found in “fracking fluid” to be deemed a “trade secret,” exempting the shale gas industries from both the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act when they perform hydraulic fracturing for shale gas.

Other Komen Oil and Gas Industry Ties that Bind

Komen also maintains what it calls its “Million Dollar Council,” which receives funding from Koch Industries’ subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific, as well as General Electric (GE). Koch Industries and its many subsidiaries have a major financial stake in shale gas drilling. So too does GE.

Georgia-Pacific “produces resins used for chemicals used to prop open micro-fractures, an important process for fracking to occur,” explained Lee Fang of the Republic Report. Other Koch subsidiaries — including Koch Pipeline, Flint Hills Resources, Koch Supply & Trading and Koch Chemical Technology Group — all have a fiscal future intricately tied to shale gas production, according to Fang’s reporting.

GE, meanwhile, also describes itself as a “massive player” in shale gas production. As I wrote for AlterNet in September 2011:

GE created a device for recycling the water used during the controversial and toxic hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process. Furthermore, it maintains natural gas fueled power plants, and manufactures natural gas-powered turbines, having sold more than $1 billion worth of them in 2011 in the United States, according to Reuters. GE also recently made a deal with Russia to sell between $10 and $15 billion worth of turbines.

The Komen “Million Dollar Council” list also includes a key investor backing oil and gas industry interests, Bank of America, a corporation which boasts on its website of its investments in commodities like coal, oil and natural gas.

Furthermore one of the members of Komen’s Board of Directors, John D. Raffaelli, has spent many years working as an oil and gas industry lobbyist. Described by Komen “as one of the most effective lobbyists in Washington,” Raffaelli served as a hired gun for the American Petroleum Institute, Atlas Energy (which has since been sold to Chevron), General Electric and Edison Electric respectively between 2008-present.

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

In response to a long email query from CounterPunch to Begos questioning numerous aspects of his story, CounterPunch received a short email response from AP’s Director of Media Relations, Paul Colford stating, “The AP stands by his story.”

Fox wasn’t too thrilled with the AP story.

“It is clear to me, as it was from the first moment, that Kevin Begos was not out to give fracking critics a fair shake or look objectively at the facts,” Fox said. “He was deliberately seeking ways to try to discredit the anti-fracking movement and he was willing to twist facts and quotes to serve that purpose while disguising his work as impartial. It is worse than bad journalism, it is highly unethical, dangerous and irresponsible”

It’s unlikely Begos had a vendetta, as Fox suggests. Alternatively, by not doing his homework, Begos was likely unaware that he was serving as a stenographer for the shale gas industry’s stealthy public relations apparatus via Komen.

“Komen has, since its inception, prioritized corporate partnerships over environmental health,” King told CounterPunch. “They do so by providing companies such as General Electric, whose products and practices are linked to cancer, with a platform from which to declare a commitment to ending the disease. At the same time, Komen refuses to prioritize research on the environmental causes of breast cancer and on primary prevention — an unsurprising stance given their dependence on pinkwashing sponsors.”

Steve Horn is a Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog and a freelance investigative journalist based out of Madison, Wisconsin.

Clearance Sale of Vintage
CounterPunch T-Shirts!

We’ve marked down some of CounterPunch’s most popular t-shirts to only $8.00,including the CP shirt featuring Alexander Cockburn’s own scrawl.

Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist and Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog, where this piece first appeared.

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail