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MLive Media Group property Bay City Times is a cheerleader for the pro-fracking companies

September 20, 2012

Yesterday, the editorial board of Bay City Times (part of the MLive Media Group conglomerate), posted an editorial opinion piece in favor of the expansion of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Michigan.

The opinion piece starts off by stating that hydraulic fracturing is growing in the Great Lakes Region and “we would be foolish to stop it before it even starts.

The Bay City Times opinion piece says that proponents of fracking claim it,“will extend the domestic natural gas supply by more than 100 years and help keep energy prices relatively stable.” By proponents, they mean the oil & gas and energy industry, which has been making a major push to justify the use of fracking for natural gas as a response to the growing public opposition to it.

The Bay City Times opinion piece also states that opponents, “point to the very few regulations of the chemicals injected into the ground.” While this is an important issue of concern it is not the only one. In addition to chemicals used in fracking there is also the amount of water used in the process, what happens to the contaminated water used in the drilling process, contamination of ground water, long-term impact on human health and ecosystems and that advocating for expansion of natural gas will making a serious push towards the use of renewable energy a fading reality.

The editorial board piece goes on to say:

Banning fracking completely would be a knee-jerk response. While restrictions are low, the Department of Environmental Quality frequently tests areas where fracking occurs and has not uncovered any issues. House Democrats are pushing for stricter rules for hydraulic fracturing, something we think needs to be explored without imposing unnecessary red tape that would make it impossible for energy companies to move in this direction.

The key statement here is their calling a ban on fracking a “knee-jerk response.” The editorial board at the Bay City Times should know better to use such language, without backing it up with some data and research. None of this can be found in the opinion piece, just an appeal for expanding fracking because Michigan faces the issue of energy costs.

The Bay City Times editorial board does say upfront that their opinion is based upon an 8-part series of stories they ran on the issue of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. Of those eight articles only one has a source that is critical of the expansion of natural gas exploration through the use of fracking. However, in all eight articles the Bay City Times uses industry sources such as Midland Cogeneration venture, DTE, Consumers Energy, Dow Chemical, the American Natural Gas Alliance and Friends of Natural Gas Michigan.

Of course companies like Consumers Energy, DTE and Dow would be in favor of fracking and their support seems pretty obvious. The 8-part series in the Bay City Times does not give any background information on the American Natural Gas Alliance or Friends of Natural Gas Michigan.

The American Natural Gas Alliance is a fairly recent creation, but has already spent nearly $10 million dollars lobbying the federal government since 2009. This alliance represents dozens of companies seeking to expand profits from hydraulic fracturing. The Vice President of Strategic Communications at the American Natural Gas Alliance is Dan Whitten, who also happens to be the spokesperson for Friends of Natural Gas Michigan.

The Bay City Times 8-part series on this critical issue is so biased towards the industry side that it begs the question of how much advertising money these companies spend with the news agency. The 8-part series and the editorial board opinion piece is a clear indication that the Bay City Times engages in a brand of journalism that not only avoids challenging power, it actually colludes with it.

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