Natural Gas Industry Introduces A Fake Grassroots Group

A June 12, 2017, article in the Huffington Post describes how the natural gas Industry has introduced Your Energy, a fake grassroots group, to pipeline fights in the east.  “Amid intensifying fights over new natural gas pipelines in Virginia, New Jersey and New England, the gas industry is ramping up its defense with a new front group meant to appeal to East Coasters, who have mostly avoided the fights over oil and gas development that have rocked Western states. Your Energy launched quietly in Virginia last month, ahead of a November gubernatorial election that is shaping up to be a ‘referendum on pipelines,’ as one local newspaper put it. The group, which is funded by the American Gas Association [Dominion is a member], debuted as a co-sponsor of a conference at the Virginia Chamber of Commerce on May 24…. As the name implies, Your Energy paints itself as a grassroots organization, something akin to the Sierra Club or the American Civil Liberties Union, but for folks who support natural gas. Its Virginia chapter’s website features promotional materials about the economic and environmental benefits of natural gas and prompts visitors to join by submitting their names, email addresses and ZIP codes. The only indication that Your Energy is a public relations campaign paid for by a major industry association appears on the privacy policy page.”

Your Energy wants to position itself as representing the mainstream and paint opponents to pipelines as extreme candidates trying to inflame a small base in order to get publicity, or as radical outsiders and out-of-state extremists bent of spreading misinformation.  Jesse Coleman, a researcher on fracked gas for Greenpeace, points out that, “It’s crucial for the companies behind these front groups to portray normal community activism as somehow abhorrent or portray it as something other than what it is. You can’t really win when your opposition just wants to keep their kids healthy, so you have to make them into some sort of bogeyman.”

Friends of Nelson’s Ernie Reed, also quoted in the article,  says that if Your Energy wants to paint him as an extremist outsider, he wishes them luck. “I’ve been paying taxes in Virginia since 1979. Any claim that the people opposing these pipelines are uninformed is as far off the mark as it could possibly be.” And he suggests that the amount of time and energy Dominion and other companies are spending to promote pipelines indicates they have the weaker case.

The Washington Post also wrote about the front group, noting that Jim Cheng, Virginia’s secretary of commerce and industry under former governor Robert F. McDonnell, spoke about “these radical and uninformed elements within your communities that try to intimidate or shut down pro-energy supporters.”  The Post comments, “The emergence of the group and Cheng’s comments are especially curious given that the ‘radical and uniformed elements’ are, in many cases, landowners whose property is targeted by pipeline firms and electric utilities for surveying and perhaps takeover by eminent domain. In some cases, the property has been in the owners’ families for decades if not centuries. Some are working farms; others are retirement havens for older residents.  But in these days of faux news and alternative facts, up is often down and left is often right.  Peaceful homeowners are ‘radicals’ and ‘outsiders’ who need to have ‘their energy IQ’ score raised.”

So be aware: industry-funded Your Energy Virginia is trying to mobilize a movement to counter pipeline opposition.  Look for their telltale logo.  And follow the money: industry funded groups have only their bottom line at heart.

Read the Huffington Post full article here.

Read the Washington Post full article here.