Back 'n Frack'n

It's been a long time since I rock and rolled.  My body is back in Pittsburgh, but my head is still spinning somewhere at 36,000 feet; in the space of a month I've been thousands of miles to the West and thousands of miles to the East and back again in between and now.  Give me a week to get it together on Eastern Daylight Time - though by then I may be on the road again.  Meanwhile, there's so much going on in the Burgh that I hardly know where to start.

How about this:

Back in April I posted this little note about how the PG buried its coverage of what I thought then -- and still think -- a remarkable bit of news:  The resignation of Dan Volz from Pitt's Center for Healthy Environments and Communities.  Dan Volz was and remains a leading critic of the practices of the shale gas industry here in the Commonwealth.  Around Oakland, I heard whispered comments that he wasn't "politic" enough in expressing his views.  (Hell's bells, I thought then:  the man is in the Graduate School of Public Health.  If there's a credible danger to public health, I'd like experts on the subject to be broadcasting it from the rooftops.)

I've searched the archives of the PG for a follow-up account of the why's, wherefor's, and how's of that news item, to no avail.  Leave it to Ira Glass and his colleagues at This American Life to do the investigative dirty work, to tell a tale not only of Pitt and Dan Volz, but also of Penn State and Terry Engelder, the faculty member there who first discovered just how much gas exists in the Marcellus Shale, and who has been a fracking booster.  The program was broadcast on July 8.

Here is a link to the audio broadcast.  Here is a link to a transcript.

TAL constructs a critical tale that relies more than once on inference rather than testimony. The inferences are compelling; TAL's story is persuasive.

But the broadcast features a lot of smoke but not a lot of fire.  The weakness in this kind of investigative reporting is that the people that you most want to hear from are also the people who are the least likely to talk to the media about what happened. 
There is more work to be done here.  For the benefit of all Western Pennsylvanians, one hopes that the Pittsburgh media will step up and flesh out this story. 


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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