Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Dana Perino are giving speeches “sponsored by” major fracking companies while pushing for fracking on Fox.
The conservative commentators spoke at the Shale Insight 2014 conference on September 24-25. The two-day event was organized by the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), an industry lobbying group that advocates for the “development of natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica Shale geological formations.” MSC members include Chevron, Shell, and ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy. The group spent over $900,000 on lobbying in Pennsylvania during the first quarter of this year.
MSC announced at the conference that it's launching an advertising campaign to combat negative connotations about fracking, the controversial method used to extract natural gas from shale rocks. MSC president David J. Spigelmyer said at the conference that “Folks have tried to hijack that word and paint it as something negative ... It's our effort to take that word back.”
Both Perino and Hannity's speeches were sponsored by major energy companies.
Perino's talk (“An Interview on Politics and Energy”) was sponsored by Range Resources Corporation, “one of the largest drillers in the Marcellus Shale.” Pennsylvania regulators recently fined Range Resources $4.15 million -- “the largest the state has ever imposed on the shale gas industry” -- for “leaks at open pits Range operates to store the so-called flowback waste from natural gas wells.” Perino was interviewed by Scott H. Segal, a top energy lobbyist who represents Range Resources and other energy companies. Perino reportedly “said the exportation of natural gas from the United States could be integral in dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin” (a pro-fracking myth).
Hannity's speech was sponsored by CONSOL Energy, “one of the largest independent natural gas exploration, development and production companies.” In 2011, the company agreed to pay "$5.5 million in fines and build a $200 million treatment system to resolve water quality violations federal regulators believe led to a massive fish kill along the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border." The company also “may be fined for an accidental, small spill of flowback water from a Marcellus shale natural gas well in Washington Township in August.” During his speech, Hannity reportedly “railed against government bureaucracy and the Obama administration while praising the energy industry for its growth since the shale boom.”
Range Resources and CONSOL Energy are listed as conference platinum sponsors. Companies paid $50,000 to be a platinum sponsor; benefits include “Sponsorship of keynote address” and “Opportunity for company representative to provide introductory remarks from podium.”
The Internet Archive's cache of the conference's website shows that Hannity and Perino were both confirmed speakers since at least August 10. Both have repeatedly praised the virtues of fracking on Fox News in recent weeks:
- On his September 15 program, Hannity promoted his “five-point plan” which includes fracking.
- On September 17's The Five, Perino criticized efforts by the New York state government to fight fracking, saying it “doesn't make any sense.” The Marcellus Shale Coalition and its members have lobbied for fracking in New York.
- On his September 18 program, Hannity wondered why energy problems can't be solved by proposals like fracking. The segment was branded, “Drill baby drill.”
- On September 19's The Five, Perino said she'd like “to be in north New York with fracking.”
Perino and Hannity apparently used similar talking points in their “sponsored” speeches and on Fox News. Hannity reportedly told the conference “the unemployment rate in North Dakota is virtually zero because of energy.” On his September 15 Fox News program, Hannity said “unemployment rate in North Dakota is zero. Unemployment in Midland, Texas is zero. It's all about energy. Fracking, drilling.” During her conference speech, Perino reportedly “noted an anti-drilling message in this week's climate change demonstrations in New York.” On September 22's The Five, Perino similarly criticized environmental activists, saying they “would be better off talking about some sort of energy independence here in America, such as fracking.”
Hannity hosted Spigelmyer and former Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who also spoke at the conference and whose lobbying firm does work for MSG, on the September 16 edition of his Premiere Radio Networks show. Hannity plugged his speech at the conference, and promoted the virtues of fracking with his guests. At one point Spigelmyer thanked Hannity and Ridge for “volunteering” to speak at the conference.
The conference also featured Heritage Foundation chief economist and Fox News contributor Stephen Moore, who reportedly told the gathering that “Being against fracking is like being against a cure for cancer.”
A representative for the conference did not return a request for comment.