Fracking Industry’s Answer to “Gasland”: Devised by Astroturf Lobbying Group and Political Ad Agency
By Ben  •  Jun 13, 2012 at 16:02 EST
Fred Davis of Strategic Perception LLC, makers of Truthland

Strategic Perception LLC's Fred Davis, political attack ad man and producer of Truthland

Truthland, a 35-minute compilation of interviews with fracking proponents, is being promoted by the oil and natural gas industry’s PR arm, Energy In Depth, as an answer to the 2010 anti-fracking film Gasland. The advertising campaign for Truthland emphasizes that it documents the concerns of “a Susquehanna County mom, dairy farmer and teacher” who is “the real deal,” as opposed to Josh Fox, the writer and director of Gasland and “a spoiled avant-garde showman from New York City,” in the words of EID’s Northeast Marcellus campaign director, Tom Shepstone.

While the new film’s protagonist, Shelly DePue, is indeed a farmer from rural Pennsylvania, the notion that Truthland is a depiction of her independently-planned road trip around the United States to “find out just what the truth was” became less and less believable the more we examined it. Rather, the film and its “full-scale website and social media campaign” was planned from start to finish by the natural gas industry. Even its web domain, truthlandmovie.com, was registered by industry giant Chesapeake Energy:

chkdomainregistration

(Apparently, this instance of funding transparency was not intentional – on June 12, the Whois listing for the Truthland domain was updated to remove “Chesapeake Energy Corporation” and replace it with “MFL Holdings, ATTN TRUTHLANDMOVIE.COM, care of Network Solutions.” Our cached version of the Chesapeake registration, above, is from June 8.)

The origin of Truthland as an industry PR campaign is confirmed by EID spokesman Chris Tucker’s presentation to a meeting of West Virginia oil and natural gas industry representatives in May. EID operates as an “astroturf” organization that keeps its substantial gas industry backing and orchestration hidden behind the names and faces of “locals” and “natives,” but in this case, they failed to sufficiently hide the degree to which its “authentic” Gasland response was planned at the highest level.

The EID planning document also reveals that Truthland was produced by Fred Davis, a prominent political ad maker who has filmed TV spots for George W. Bush and John McCain and was the leading strategist behind an inflammatory advertising campaign (“The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama”) prepared for the 2012 general election that attracted so much negative attention that Mitt Romney publicly distanced himself from its makers.

EIDtruthland

After first appearing on YouTube in the first week of June, Truthland was quickly withdrawn from the website when it began to pick up hits, alarming supportive viewers. On a natural gas-leasing web forum, a member claiming to represent the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York wrote that the film’s unveiling was the responsibility of “Susan Oliver a ‘communications consultant’ who lives in DC but has acreage in Bainbridge [in Chenango County, NY].” Like many professionals working for the natural gas industry, Oliver tries to keep her work in the PR industry (“Persuasive media relations pro intensely committed to victory”) hidden when it’s more useful to appear to be simply a “NY Marcellus Shale landowner”:

2susanolivers

To deride Gasland‘s Fox for his residency in New York City, as Truthland and its media campaign do repeatedly, seems hypocritical when the supposedly more “authentic” film was made by a high-profile ad firm based in Hollywood, CA and promoted by a Washington, DC media relations expert.

*

Unfortunately, the environmental and health concerns about fracking that Truthland‘s protagonist, Shelly Depue, determined to be “unfounded” after her trip have become a reality on her own property. In March, after a DePue neighbor outside Montrose, PA reported sludgy water and an “erupting” water well that was also determined to have unusually high methane levels, the Scranton Times-Tribune investigated and found that Tulsa, OK-based drilling company WPX Energy had been cited for environmental violations on multiple nearby wells in 2011, including on the Depues’ property, which they had leased to WPX (then Williams Production Appalachia) in July 2010. The violations were for “defective casing or cement … meant to protect aquifers [which contain drinking water] from gas and other fluids.”

depuepermits

Map of the Depues' 10 permitted horizontal drilling wells from fracktrack.org; well permits viewable at https://www.paoilandgasreporting.state.pa.us/publicreports/Modules/WellDetails/WellDetails.aspx (permit numbers 115-20418, 115-20459, 115-20460, 115-20461, 115-20462, 115-20501, 115-20502, 115-20503, 115-20504, 115-20505).

An excerpt from Truthland shows Shelly examining a well casing on-site with a former Pennsylvania DEP employee, who describes its safety features: “Multiple layers of protection … You can see nothing’s going to get in or out of this pipe.” Yet this is exactly what occurred. WPX’s improperly cased wells on the Depue property are now being cited in a lawsuit brought by the neighbors affected, who are currently receiving drinking water from the gas drillers. It’s not known whether the Depues’ water has been harmed by the casing leaks.

*

Energy In Depth has not exactly been forthcoming with the real story of the making of Truthland, but neither did they go to extraordinary lengths to hide the information contained in this blog post. No leaked documents were needed, just those publicly available to anyone with an Internet connection and a few hours to set aside for research. There was the attempt to scrub Chesapeake’s name from the film’s web domain, but considering that it had been visible for months before disappearing on the day of the film’s release, that looks to have been an afterthought.

EID’s Shepstone blasts the “sheer arrogance” of the makers of Gasland, but Truthland makes the drilling industry and its PR machine look very arrogant indeed. They appear to believe that rural landowners in Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio will accept the conclusions offered to them by what is essentially a fracking infomercial without taking a close look at the companies that funded it and carefully tailored its contents to suit their message. Their strategy for obtaining gas leasing rights from landowners includes consulting military counterinsurgency and psychological operations experts, but if they think the friendly visage of Truthland‘s star is enough to distract viewers from the real issues at stake, they have severely underestimated the intelligence of their target audience.

55 Responses to “Fracking Industry’s Answer to “Gasland”: Devised by Astroturf Lobbying Group and Political Ad Agency”

  1. Isabella C Says:

    Will you answer the issues raised by the ovie as well?

    Such as the fact that Josh Fox knew that there was methane in drinking water before drilling occurred but thought it “not relevant”.

    Such as the fact the EPA has deemed the Dimock drinking water safe for consumption.

    Such as the fact Lisa Jackson states fraccing is a safe process.

    Seems that you are spinning as madly as possible to deflect through inneuendo and ad hominem attacks rather than squarely answering the rather diturbing counter arguments this new movie raises.

    Sure it ws funded by the i dustry…does that mean it is completely wrong?

    Answer the questions

  2. WCGasette Says:

    Excellent work. Thank you.

  3. Truthland Says:

    […] Shelly DePue who is indeed a farmer from rural Pennsylvania, is not all that independent after all. LittleSis has all the details but here are some juicy […]

  4. Sharon Wilson Says:

    Thanks LittleSis. We knew the truth would out soon. If fracking were such a great deal for everyone, industry wouldn’t have to make silly mocumentaries like Truthland.

    No one I know here in Texas was against fracking initially. We all thought it was a great idea. But once we experienced the reality of living with fracking, that all changed. It is horrific.

    Dear Isabella, questions about Gasland are all answered here: http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/whats-fracking/affirming-gasland

    The EPA determination about Dimock is in question.

    Lisa Jackson couched her words carefully and industry twisted them. We are waiting for the result of the EPA fracking study.

    Here is what landowners KNOW: When they drill and frack, our water gets contaminated.

    If industry wants to convince the public at large otherwise then need to
    *FULLY disclose all chemicals used at every stage.
    *Abandon the polluter loopholes in our federal environmental laws
    *National baseline testing
    *Prove their love of the free market system by giving up government subsidies.

    We need to fund truly clean renewable energy NOW! Get off of Dirty Fossil Fuels. Join us at the Stop the Frack Attack rally in DC on 7.28.12 http://www.stopthefrackattack.org/

  5. Chip Northrup Says:

    Another fracking informercial from those wacky fracking shills Energy in Depth . . . .

    What a crock of fracking flowback

    Great sleuthing on “Shelley” the folksy narrater and her bogus quest

    http://blog.shaleshockmedia.org/2012/06/12/truthland-lies/

  6. Truthland Lies – by Energy In Depth « No Fracking Way Says:

    […] http://blog.littlesis.org/2012/06/13/fracking-industrys-answer-to-gasland-devised-by-astroturf-lobby… […]

  7. Joseph Says:

    I wish I had a jug of dirty water to carry around with me. That clown in PA does it all the time.

  8. Michael Lebron Says:

    For me, what is key here is that it appears that A) Shelley was selfishly and shortsightedly intent on exploiting the opportunity of being the “star” in a “road film” to the point that she never bothered to bring up with the producers or the directors that she had a real-life narrative that undermined the film’s narrative, and B) no one in Hollywood or the sponsoring gas firms bothered to ask. The guy in Hollywood was just a hack picking up a check, and the gas firms are so used to exploiting people that it never occurred to them that Shelley might be ripping them off instead.

    During my 20 year career in advertising and communications, I have seen too many thoughtlessly produced products such as these. Sadly, as mediocre as this infommercial is as a as a professional piece of craftsmanship (calling it “Truthland”: I mean, really, you couldn’t be at least a little bit more clever and creative than that?), I do fear that it is crafted well enough that – together with the $s put behind it – it will accomplish at much of its intended effect.

    Fortunately, we have talent and the truth on our side: the talent will just have to work a little harder at delivering the truth.

  9. S. T. Bond Says:

    One more should be added to Sharon Wilson’s list of things the industry should do to inspire confidence: use tracers in every frac job. That would not get all problems, such as shallow pollution coming up through the cracks around drill tubing, but it would inspire some degree of confidence when a claimis made the frac did not reach the surface.

  10. Peensez Says:

    One thing I know for sure…if it comes out of Shepstone’s mouth…there aint no TRUTH to it.

  11. Scott Cannon Says:

    This video shows the proximity of the Depue wells in relation to the problems in Franklin forks. On the map at 6:39, it’s the left most well. In appearance, the Depue wells look like they drilled directly under Salt Springs Nation Park. The excuse the gas industry is using to explain the methane migration, water spewing, and black chunks in the Franklin Forks water. If it is at all coming from Salt Springs, it could very well be caused by the fracking underneath it.
    http://youtu.be/iPM64kseP30

  12. Scott Cannon Says:

    Here’s a picture set of the Depue signs I took on my trip for the Marcellus Shale Reality Tour Part 5 video. http://www.facebook.com/media/set/edit/a.4189933316272.2175001.1522786448/#!/media/set/?set=a.4189933316272.2175001.1522786448&type=1

  13. Scott Cannon Says:

    Here’s the link to the public Depue picture set: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4189933316272.2175001.1522786448&type=1&l=186e8f936c

  14. Andy Mechling Says:

    LittleSis you are beautiful. Thank You.

  15. Sarina Says:

    Senator Wendy Davis from Texas had a bill up in the TX Senate last year for the tracers. At least it made it out of the committee. But that’s all folks.

    http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=82R&Bill=SB772

  16. maggie Says:

    I find it hilarious when people move from other parts of the country to a new state, then say oh that little earthquake, its nothing! Im used to California, when it gets over 5 then ill worry. Hey Nimrod MOST states are NOT gods etch a sketch!

  17. Stan Scobie Says:

    Folks,

    I watched the movie a couple of days ago;

    The interview clips were very carefully developed to show a clearly stated point of view; that frackin/shale gas drilling is “perfectly safe.”

    This is a conclusion that strains credibility to the limit.

    Interestingly the movie was preceeded by a presentation by John Hanger, the former environmental commisioner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

    In his presentation he made clear that shale gas drilling certainly did have risks, possibly the largest one being methane migration due to faulty well construction.

    It is of interest that in Dimock, PA, the poisioned the private water wells continue to have methane levels wayyy above any reasonable safe limits;

    The industry and its apologists assert that EPA concluded that the Dimock water is safe.

    Nonsense; the EPA reported these still very dangerously high methane levels were still there, but they were not regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act because, although the methane in the Dimock wells is dangerous (explosion and asphyxiation), methane is not a federally regulated toxic substance.

    In other words, OK to drink, but dont light a match.

    “Truthland” isnt very truthy.

    Stanley R Scobie, Ph.D., Binghamton, NY

  18. Lesley Adams Says:

    Great work. Thanks for putting this together in a simple, straight forward format. Excellent piece to put in the hands of those who might otherwise be taken in by Big Gas Goes Hollywood.

  19. Dory Hippauf Says:

    READ: Energy-in-Depth (EID): The “GAS”roots
    Connecting the Dots: The Marcellus Natural Gas Play Players – Part 3
    By Dory Hippauf
    http://commonsense2.com/2012/02/naturalgasdrilling/connecting-the-dots-the-marcellus-natural-gas-play-players-part-3/

  20. John Kesich Says:

    Isabella C has some questions she’d like answered.
    Well, so do I; in http://cleanupgas.org/_files/q4i-2.html

    Isabella, when someone from industry finally answers mine, I’ll be happy to answer yours.
    In the meantime, you might learn something from, to name just a few:

    The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture
    http://www.pasafarming.org/files/PressReleaseonGasDrilling.PASA.61412.pdf

    Canada’s National Farmers Union
    http://www.nfu.ca/press_releases/2012/02-23.pdf

    Jessica Ernst
    http://shaleshockmedia.org/2012/06/10/truth-and-consequences-of-fracking/
    http://www.ernstversusencana.ca/

    Carolyn Knapp & Carol French
    http://shaleshockmedia.org/2011/10/01/marcellus-shale-play-carolyn-knapp-carol-french-
    pennsylvania-landowner-group-for-awareness-and-solutions/

    and, believe it or not, this pro-fracking presentation by Penn State geologist Terry Engelder; the highlight of which occurs about 7 minutes in when he admits that Cabot is lying about contamination in Dimock and that this “is just part of the process”
    http://shaleshockmedia.org/2011/01/30/2-engelder-cumulative-environmental-effects-of-gas-drilling/

  21. The Sky is Pink and the water smells like gas « No Fracking Way Says:

    […] http://blog.littlesis.org/2012/06/13/fracking-industrys-answer-to-gasland-devised-by-astroturf-lobby… […]

  22. dana Says:

    https://vimeo.com/44247121
    debunking truthland in one afternoon in just one place in good ol SW PA. Shelly has a standing invitation from the Headley’s to come on down any time and see for herself.

  23. The Blog of Jason "Jayce" Olshefsky » Blog Archive » The Fraud that is Truthland Says:

    […] I Googled it and a few links down is Fracking Industry’s Answer to “Gasland”: Devised by Astroturf Lobbying Group and Political Ad …. And that pretty much puts a lock on it. I don’t mean to just make an ad hominem fallacy of […]

  24. Erwin Brown Says:

    There is a point in every meeting during the creation of propaganda when the truth about the criminal act is discussed openly including an admission of the facts in evidence to be hidden by the use of one or several propaganda techniques. When this effects the health or well being of humans or the quality of food and or natural resources it is a crime. Gasland brings things to light. Truthland is an intentional effort to propagandise and decieve, to cover to hide to lie. There should be no need for Truthland to exist so why is it there? Carbon is nolonger the favorite child in the room. Natural gas is actually taking a beating. Billions of dollars are being spent by angry people who have their fortunes invested in the business of getting the gas out of the ground and getting it shipped to the other side of the earth to Japan and China. To keep their momentum and stay on schedule with their shipments to japan and China they need to keep the people and the government setting on top of that gas confused and plyable. Truthland is that propaganda created for that purpose. If the lie is the only thing the people hear, that will be all they can use to make critical choices about the safety and health of their families and especially their children. Is the sky pink in Truthland?

  25. Carrie Says:

    There is a slide in the movie that shows water consumption from various energy industries, so I decided to check the source. Turns out, no surprise of course, that they cherry picked all their data to make it look like fracking used the least amount of water and solar used the most! For me, this is the most blatant lie and one that can easily be dis-proven.

  26. AntiFracker Says:

    They’re trying very hard to push back as they know the truth. Fracking is a disaster waiting to happen and in fact has happened in many places. They’re relying on the apathy of citizens to learn the truth and offering a little flash like this fairy tale movie in order to try to bolster their sinking ship. If this is so safe, why don’t they show us by voluntarily agreeing to abide by all the clean air and water act laws that they were waived from complying with? Why would they have been granted a waiver by the federal government to these laws? It’s simple…because they and the government know this process creates disastrous levels of pollution that cannot be cleaned up…ever.

    It’s all lies in an attempt to make money. The love of money *is* the root of all evil.

  27. Kerry Says:

    Another interesting tactic by the industry: try running a web search on “Truthland” to get more information on it. You’ll quickly note that the first 20 pages of links returned look eerily similar, all positive (even glowing) reports on the movie and that most of the sites are industry related or poorly camouflaged shills for them. I have no doubt they paid some hack to manipulate the alogrithms so that the search results brought in the hierarchy that favored their infomercial and made it look like there is a public groundswell of acceptance for this transparently phony “rebuttal” of “Gasland” and any other alarms raised about the industry.

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  32. Shelly DePue’s Famous Bubbling Annulus Says:

    […] out Truthland, The Truth Behind Shelly’s Bubbling Annulus  when she brings her brand of truthiness to your town. If she is on the panel of camp followers that tours with the mockumentary, ask her […]

  33. “Has your annulus stopped bubbling?” Says:

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  34. Mike Knapp, frackette, road hazard Says:

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  37. Brendan Says:

    Where are the images for this piece? The ones that show the screenshots of the domain registration are especially important.

  38. Rob Galbraith Says:

    Brendan,

    The images should be working now.

    Robert Galbraith
    Research Analyst
    Public Accountability Initiative

  39. Truthyland: Fracks, Lies and Videotape Says:

    […] that was made by an industry PR group, Energy in Depth, as being anything other than gas industry propaganda.  None of the panelist – who were there to promote the truthiness of Truthyland – could […]

  40. mm Says:

    This is perhaps old news at this point, but I’m a media scholar who was contacted by Strategic Perception, Inc. in April 2011. They were looking for a media historian to appear on camera in this film to help debunk Gasland by comparing it to Reefer Madness. I suggested that it would be more compelling to instead talk about the funding of the film, to explore the motivations of its creators — and that I would expect we should be able to have the same conversation about their own film.

    Little surprise that they never wrote back.

    Feel free to send me a note if you’d like a follow-up.

  41. The Pennsylvania “Environmental” Council - Eyes on the Ties Says:

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  42. “By polluting clear water with slime you will never find good drinking water.” – Aeschylus (approx. 500 BC.) | Guy Deakins in the Garden Says:

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  43. Keystone XL Influence Peddling Web » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names Says:

    […] John Hanger – a key character in “Gasland” – has increasingly become a fracking apologist since leaving the DEP when Corbett won the 2010 election. So much so, in fact, he was interviewed for the Energy In Depth-produced propaganda film, “Truthland.” […]

  44. Keystone XL Influence Peddling Web Says:

    […] John Hanger – a key character in “Gasland” – has increasingly become a fracking apologist since leaving the DEP when Corbett won the 2010 election. So much so, in fact, he was interviewed for the Energy In Depth-produced propaganda film, “Truthland.” […]

  45. Forbidden News » Keystone XL Influence Peddling Web Extends into PA Governor’s Race Via Katie McGinty Says:

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  46. Keystone XL Influence Peddling Web Extends into PA Governor’s Race Via Katie McGinty Says:

    […] John Hanger – a key character in “Gasland” – has increasingly become a fracking apologist since leaving the DEP when Corbett won the 2010 election. So much so, in fact, he was interviewed for the Energy In Depth-produced propaganda film, “Truthland.” […]

  47. Chapter one | A gentle breeze coming in from the South. Says:

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