Fox News host Sean Hannity's attempt to blame oil spills from deepwater drilling on environmentalists rather than under-regulated oil companies was debunked by a news service that largely serves energy industry clients.
On May 22, Hannity spoke at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in North Dakota, a state that has recently experienced a boom in oil and gas production. Platts, an industry journal that specializes in covering the oil industry for those employed in relevant industries, reported in coverage of the conference that “Hannity did not know some important details about the drilling industry” including falsely claiming that oil companies were drilling in deepwater because environmentalists forced them out of shallower waters.
In the aftermath of the BP oil spill in 2010, Sean Hannity and other Fox News figures repeatedly claimed that BP was only drilling in dangerous deepwater because environmentalists had “pushed us out there.” However, as Media Matters pointed out at the time and Platts is now reporting, companies were actually drilling in deepwater due to discoveries of large, potentially lucrative reserves there.
Platts also pointed out that a reporter challenged Hannity on his portrayal of the fossil fuel industry as a panacea for unemployment, noting that some states “such as Vermont, Georgia or Idaho, which have no oil production” while North Dakota has “naturally abundant resources” (North Dakota also has a very small population, making the impact of the boom on the unemployment rate unusual compared to the rest of the country). Hannity, who has been hosting fossil fuel companies on his radio show as part of a “Get America Back to Work campaign,” reportedly replied that increasing oil production in some states would trickle down to other areas.
The Associated Press summarized Hannity's speech as arguing that “government needs to get out of the way” of the oil industry. However, investigative reporter David Cay Johnston argued instead that the government needs to get involved in North Dakota, where worker fatalities have soared because “preventing accidents costs much more than paying off the families of dead workers.” An AFL-CIO study found that North Dakota has more workers dying on the job than any other state -- with a worker fatality rate “more than five times the national average” and “one of the highest state job fatality rates ever reported for any state.” The study noted that “the oil and gas industry in North Dakota has been a major source of these fatalities” and that North Dakota's fatality rate has “more than doubled” since 2007, around the time that North Dakota's oil boom took off.