Friday, June 12, 2015

Behind the Mask: North Texans for Natural Gas

It's another beautiful day here in North Texas. The skies are a soft baby blue. Tufts of puffy, white clouds hang innocent against the haze of the Dallas skyline. Moments like this, a man might forget the recent and malicious deluge and the upcoming week of predicted thunderstorms. The lakes are full and glistening, and an abundance of storks search for fish in newly formed ponds. Joggers and their dogs move slow and sure through nearby trails, taking in the verdant foliage. The air is...

(cough... hack... wheeze...)


You see, here in North Texas we live on what is known as the Barnett Shale. Underneath us is an incredibly large amount of fossil fuels in the form of oil and gas. Corporations have been drilling here as far back as 1981, and they aren't too keen on stopping anytime soon.

The recent decision by Denton's voters to restrict the possibility of future leases caught the industry off guard, mostly because it had spent a great deal of money bribing, fooling, and outright threatening the city. After the fracking ban was passed, Big O&G didn't waste more than a day before suing the city and lining the pockets of our state legislators to pass HB 40, which "gave exclusive jurisdiction over the oil and gas industry to the state government, prohibiting local oil and gas-related ordinances, initiatives and regulations."

So the story pretty much goes like this: Big O&G discovers a wealth of oil and gas under North Texans' feet and start drilling. After decades, scientists discover that the drilling is bad for the environment. The people decide they value breathing more than the pittance Big O&G gives them in royalties. Big O&G buys the legislature and the people are silenced.

But wait. There's more.

Yesterday morning, I was informed of a new website called, which posts op-eds and memes attempting to discredit the concern of the people who live on the Barnett Shale. I immediately searched for the group responsible. On it's page, FrackFeed is listed as a project of North Texans for Natural Gas. Their website states that they are a "grassroots organization" which purports to consist of more than 105,000 people across the metroplex.

In my experience, both as a political activist and as a card-carrying internet addict, no grassroots organization ever has multiple websites that look as slick as FrackFeed and NTNG. After a little more reading, I realized that on their front page, in relatively small font, was the fact that their group "is supported by four of the region’s leading energy producers – Devon Energy, EnerVest, EOG Resources, and XTO Energy."

Now, ignoring the fact that four of North Texas' largest O&G companies are funding this so-called "grassroots organization," let's hone in on the number of people they claim to have as members. 105,000 people seems to be pretty large.

Until you add up how many people live on the Barnett Shale. There are 18 counties on the Barnett, 13 of which currently have active fracking operations. Among them are Denton County, the ninth-most populous county in Texas, Tarrant County, the third-most populous, and Dallas, the second-most populous. As of the 2013 census, there were over 5.5 million people living on the Barnett Shale.

So what do you think? What bias would information have if it was provided by four of the largest fracking companies in our area? How many of the 105,000 people (less than 2% of our population) who support fracking are receiving royalties from the O&G companies? Why would they need to create a faux grassroots organization, complete with a website dedicated to attacking anyone who cares about our health and environment?

The answer to that last question is simple. The action taken by the voters of Denton has Big O&G a little worried. They know that over time, the anger that people on all parts of the political spectrum expressed when Abbott signed away a city's right to govern will unite us against the O&G-funded politicians. They hope we won't use HB 40 as an example of what Tea Party candidates are really after, the continued sacrifice of our citizens' personal property and health for the increased profits of their donors.

If we on the left are smart, we'll actively gather all of these contradictions between the Tea Party's actions and the Republican Party's ideals to demonstrate how, in November of 2016, voting for Democrats is actually the more conservative option.

Your friend,

Michael Messer
Friendly Neighborhood Democrat

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