One of the specialty gears in the liberal media machine is ProPublica, the investigative journalism outfit whose recent campaign against Chesapeake Energy both plays on environmental scare mongering over extracting oil from shale rock deposits and conveniently attacks a business competitor of one of its board members and a member of its Business Advisory Council.
Mark Colodny, a managing director of Warburg Pincus, is a ProPublica Board Member and the chairman of its Business Advisory Council. David Coulter is another Warburg Pincus managing director who sits on ProPublica’s Business Advisory Council.
Warburg Pincus is an investment bank with $40 billion in assets and it very active in the energy sector, including is equity position in shale oil giant Antero Resources. Antero is active in two shale plays. The Marchellus Shale Play with leases for more than 384,000 net acres of land in that shale belt that stretches from southeartern Pennsylvania into the northwest counties of West Virginia. The second play is the Utica Shale Play in eastern Ohio.
If you have not heard of shale, maybe you have heard of fracking.
Fracking is the shorthand for fracturing, the process of “fracturing” shale deposits from mini-explosions blast from a horizontal pipe. The once solid rock is then cracked into veins that fan out from the explosion source. Oil or natural gas embedded in the shale is drawn to the veins and flow through their channels back to the pipe for extraction to the surface.
Fracking is the latest in deep catalog of environmental boogiemen. But, it is a safe and innovative way to bring cheap hydrocarbon energy to America. In the last five years, it has turned the world markets upside down, so that North Dakota produces more oil that Saudi Arabia.
From another perspective, the oil and natural gas produced through fracking means OPEC meetings are no longer top stories on the news and nobody threatens to cut off our oil anymore.
As the Left’s journalism bully, ProPublica has answered the challenge with a ongoing series: “Fracking: Gas Drilling’s Environmental Threat.” Here is the tease: “The promise of abundant natural gas is colliding with fears about water contamination.”
The villain a healthy number of these stories is not Antero Resources, but instead one of its competitors, Chesapeake Energy.
Here are some examples:
- Chesapeake Energy’s $5 Billion Shuffle: The energy giant raised the cash it needed to survive by slashing royalties it paid property owners to drill on their land.
- Unfair Share: How Oil and Gas Drillers Avoid Paying Royalties: “Chesapeake Energy, the company that drilled his wells, was withholding almost 90 percent of Feusner’s share of the income to cover unspecified “gathering” expenses and it wasn’t explaining why”
- Chesapeake Energy Cheat Sheet: What’s Been Uncovered So Far. Excerpt: “In the event of criminal prosecution, the potential consequences are substantial. Under the Sherman Antitrust Act, price fixing is a felony, punishable by fines of up to $100 million for companies and $1 million for company officials.” The reference to the punishment is the classic technique of the hitman reporter. They might as well as said someone accused them of treason and the punishment is a hanging from the highest tree in all the land.
- PA Officials Issue Largest Fine Ever to Gas Driller: This article starts with a $1 million, which the company paid without admitting guilt. But, the real point of the article is the ProPublica’s indignation at the under-regulation of fracking. After the short description of the fine, the article goes on, graph after angry graph, about how the EPA needs to do more.
Who really knows if Chesapeake is the victim or a rogue? The point is how is it that Chesapeake gets the hit stories as representative of an industry, when ProPublica reporters could just go to the next ProPublica board meeting and meet the men running Antero Resources?
ProPublica is a presents itself as an objective news organization because it is not owned by corporate interests. But, what is one to think of its actual financial backers: Herbert Sandler and George Soros.
Sandler has the distinction of being one of the infamous mortgage barons of the 2000s. His go-go home loan operation, World Savings Bank, treated the business of giving home loans to unqualified home buyers like they were running a ring toss booth for a traveling carnival. Its best-known innovation was the “Pick-A-Pay” loan that allowed lenders to juggle interest and principal payments month-to-month.
The San Francisco banker, who has contributed more that $100 to Democratic Party candidates and committees, sold his mortgage carnival to Wachovia in 2006 for $25.5 billion at the top of the market. When all the Pick-A-Pay loans became Punt-A-Payment loans, Wachovia was merged into Wells Fargo in October 2008 that the season of Treasury Department arranged bank marriages.
As for George Soros, his Open Society Foundation has given more than $300,000 to ProPublica The Soros contribution certainly dwarfs Sandler’s pledge of $10 million for 10 years when he founded ProPublica in 2007, but taking money from Soros is taking money from Soros.