Realm of Ridiculous Rhetoric

by Kathleen Sgamma, President on January 10, 2018 - 8:31am

At the risk of revealing too much about myself, I have to admit that sometimes I go off on tangents.

Such was the case after reading an article in E&E News about the hydraulic fracturing rule withdrawal. A former Interior employee is anonymously quoted as saying, “So I guess my professional life from 2012-14 is being erased.” After pausing to enjoy some Schadenfreude and reflect on how many countless regulatory people in our industry spent years of their professional lives countering the regulatory overreach of thousands of bureaucrats, I exercised the power of social media and easily found the tweet.

 

I never ran across Mr. Nussdorf when he was at BLM for two years (since moved on to HUD,) but the part about being called “Nazis, demons and inhuman” seemed a bit dramatic. As anyone who’s followed controversial or high-profile rules knows, it’s typical for anti-development groups prognosticating environmental gloom and doom to generate thousands of comments. A rule is never strict enough, and anything a regulator does to possibly allow fracking or other development to move forward, no matter how strict, is akin to decimating the globe. That type of rhetoric enabled groups to generate over 1.3 million comments, almost all just parroting the talking points.

Rather than pull out the smelling salts when encountering hysterical comments, most regulators likely just roll their eyes, duly note the concern, and drive on. They spend the bulk of their time addressing the handful of substantive comments providing useable information that may necessitate adjustments to the rule.

But I was intrigued, and did a bit of exploring. With the help of a member, I searched on “Nazi” in the dockets for the 2012 and 2013 proposed rules. I found 14 uses of “Nazi” within petitions submitted by Food & Water Watch, 350.org, Greenpeace, CREDO Action, Environmental Action, Move On.org, Public Citizen, the Climate Reality Project, Daily Kos, and Save Our Environment. Despite the implication by Mr. Nussdorf, only one was directed at BLM and the rest at industry. All were despicable and once again proved the truism that those who cry Nazi just end up looking the idiot.

The petitions from these groups contain tens of thousands of names signing onto general statements that fracking should be banned, coupled with various flavors of misinformation about the supposed dangers of fracking. Most people simply sign the petitions, but some people feel compelled to add their own special flare, with 14 choosing to use the Nazi bomb.

While I don’t hold these anti-development groups directly responsible for errant uses of “Nazi,” besides a quality control problem they are somewhat culpable. By spreading gross falsehoods about fracking and blaming industry for all manner of supposed evils, it’s no surprise that some unhinged individuals take it too far. After all, we’ve even seen threats to kill oil and natural gas workers.

The very next day, another article caught my attention. It noted that comments to the Fish & Wildlife Service’s mitigation policy strayed far afield, with only 10% staying on the topic at hand. This time I didn’t go off on a tangent; just a quick chuckle that off-topic rants are suddenly news and the smug knowledge that we had submitted substantive comments providing respectful, meaningful information to help inform the policy.