Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
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:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail