In Some Pennsylvania Pro-Fracking Corners, Name-calling, False Claims, and Swastika-Laden Images Circulate
Cabot Oil and Gas is a shale drilling company that, according to state regulators, botched its shale gas extraction operations in an area around Carter Road in Dimock, Pennsylvania, about a decade ago.
Cabot has for years fought liability for locals’ contaminated water supplies and has remained in legal disputes long after reaching secret settlements with many Carter Road residents that reportedly included non-disclosure agreements.
Outside a courthouse not far from Dimock, a Cabot spokesman recently claimed that people complaining about water contamination from fracking were actually paid imposters, an unsubstantiated claim quickly echoed in pro-gas circles.
“This is not Cabot vs. three landowners. This is Cabot vs. the money that’s behind this. These are paid activists, paid actors on behalf of Food & Water Watch and the like,” Cabot spokesman George Stark said outside court in February, according to the Associated Press.
It’s a line that in the Trump era carries echoes of the “crisis actor” claims tossed around by the far-right — a conspiracy theory-grade claim that equates efforts to help families left without drinkable well water with a scheme to induce people to invent evidence tying fracking to problems.
More broadly speaking, the evidence linking shale industry activity to drinking water contamination is already well established, not just by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but also by the U.S. Department of Justice, state regulators (documenting thousands of spills at fracked wells), and countless peer-reviewed scientific papers.
Nonetheless, Stark’s claim that fracking opponents are part of some sort of scheme was picked up by a major natural gas PRshop and by a far-right industry news service, Marcellus Drilling News (MDN), which mixes a sizable dose of slurs, name-calling, and prejudice into the news clips it circulates to subscribers daily, and whose editor is friendly with Stark and with Cabot.
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