Sustained Outrage

New York regulators are proposing a series of changes to ease the impacts of large-scale natural gas drilling, but if you listen to the CEO of Chesapeake Energy, folks who are concerned about the industry’s impacts are nothing but a bunch of extremists.

There are a bunch of stories out there about Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon’s comments today at an industry conference in Philadelphia. Here’s the Associated Press take:

The chief executive of one of the top U.S. natural gas producers has delivered a blistering rebuke of critics of shale gas drilling, calling them “extremists” engaged in “unfettered fear-mongering.”

Now, Chesapeake is clearly a big player in this industry, ranking second in a list recently compiled by ProPublica, which reported:

Chesapeake calls itself the most active driller in the country, with operations in 15 states, from the Rockies to Texas to Pennsylvania. The company is a good example of how “independent” doesn’t necessarily mean small. As of last year, the company owned an interest in 45,800 wells, of which 38,900 were primarily gas wells.

Chesapeake has built itself as a gas company, but it is increasingly looking for “liquids-rich plays,” according to its annual report. Gas wells generally produce oil and other hydrocarbon liquids as well in varying amounts, depending on the geologic formation. With oil prices high and gas prices low, many companies are seeking more wells that are oil- and liquids-rich, particularly in North Dakota, southern Texas and Pennsylvania.

Also, according to that report:

Aubrey McClendon, the chairman and CEO, is also the company’s founder. He has the unusual option of purchasing a small stake in every well the company drills . He received $21 million in total compensation.

A longer version of the AP story has more choice quotes from the Chesapeake CEO:

McClendon accused those critics of distorting the facts. He asserted there have been only a few dozen cases of methane migration of well-water supplies in northeastern Pennsylvania, and that residents were merely inconvenienced.

“Looking back, was anybody hurt? Was there any permanent or even temporary environmental damage? No, no and no. Some folks were inconvenienced, for sure, and for that we’re deeply sorry,” McClendon said. But he said the industry’s benefits ā€” including lower home-heating bills, tens of thousands of new jobs, and millions of dollars of landowner wealth ā€” more than outweigh the isolated cases of contamination.

He also said that new well-casing standards in Pennsylvania have largely eliminated the methane problem.

“Problem identified, problem solved. That’s how we do it in the natural gas industry,” said McClendon.

And there’s more:

In his speech, McClendon blasted organizers and participants in an anti-drilling rally held outside the convention center.

“Remind me: What value have the protesters outside created? What jobs have they created? You know the answer and so do I,” he said. “So it’s time that we contrast what we do for a living with what they do for a living.”

He said the opponents’ goal is to shut down gas drilling altogether.

“What a glorious vision of the future: It’s cold, it’s dark and we’re all hungry,” said McClendon.


Oddly, none of these colorful quotes made the summary video of McClendon’s speech that was posted on the website of America’s Natural Gas Alliance, and industry group: