October 7, 2013
You may have seen the nationally released AP story
that Kevin Begos and Michael Rubinkam did on me in the newspaper today.
Wow, I'm that famous now... but I'm not impressed.
Yet Robert Donnan has "earned his stripes!"
That is the compliment paid to me by other
lead fractivists. Why? Because once you become a big
focus of pro-industry reporters, it lets you know how effective you have
become in your work on fracking issues.
So let's get to the real story, beginning with
what Begos and Rubinkam wrote about me:
Some anti-drilling activists change tone
critic leases land to Range
By Kevin Begos and Michael Rubinkam
October 6, 2013
Excerpt regarding me...
I highlighted the inaccuracies & innuendo:
had been an outspoken critic of drilling in
general and Range Resources, the company that sunk the
first Marcellus well in 2004, in particular. In
February, the McMurray man
leased his land to Range,
according to public documents obtained by The Associated
Donnan didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did
members of the
group to which he belongs, Marcellus Protest,
whose stated goal is to “stop the destruction of our
environment and communities caused by Marcellus
one of Donnan’s cousins said family members felt they
had little real choice, considering their 296-acre
property southwest of Pittsburgh is already surrounded
choice is either sign the lease and have some control,
or don’t sign and have no control” over what happens in
the area, said Geoffrey Smith, adding the family will
still keep an eye on everything the drillers do.
“We’re watching for any spills, any violation of the
lease, for any hanky-panky with the money,” said Smith,
who praised his cousin for keeping the industry’s “feet
to the fire” on environmental issues.
Donnan is still speaking out, too. In the spring, he
published a letter to the editor saying “gas production
is filthy business.” He also
drilling at a public forum in Pittsburgh — though
without telling the audience he had signed a lease.
spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the company views
Donnan’s decision to sign a lease after years of
criticizing the industry “as
of drilling, since he’s clearly aware of the
Complete AP Story
(A correction was made 3 days later on the error of a
membership in Marcellus Protest)
Where Kevin Begos blew it:
Begos said: "lucrative gas leases"
Correction: "modest gas leases"
Begos said: "had been" & "change tone"
Correction: "still is" & "tone hasn't changed"
(I am still an outspoken critic with the same tone)
Begos said: "leased his land"
Correction: "leased his gas rights"
(I don't own any land out there)
Begos said: "nor did members of the group to which he
belongs, Marcellus Protest"
Correction: "nor did members of Marcellus Protest"
(I don't belong to that quality group)
Begos said: "without telling the audience he signed a
Correction: "most of the small audience already knew he had
signed a lease, since those on his email list have been
kept abreast of his entire lease situation from the
(NOTE: If I had been promoting drilling,
or recommending a financial investment in same, this might have
been relevant. This was an oversight, not a deception, as Begos implies)
Begos quoted Pitzarella: " 'an endorsement' of drilling"
Correction: Both Begos & Pitzarella realize this was
ridiculous spin, so it should have been left out, since
it is tasteless journalism.
According to my cousin who is quoted in the
story, Begos used deception to get
interview. So just where did Begos
get my cousin's name
and both telephone numbers, especially when his cell
phone is unlisted? From Range Resources? His AP boss
Karen Testa admitted later that Begos "did not go
digging around looking it up."
to the Editor
Printed in the
Observer-Reporter 10/11/13 and similar to what was sent to nearly 20
Monday (Oct 7) the O-R ran a half-baked story by Kevin Begos of the
AP (‘Some anti-drilling activists change tone’) with several
inaccuracies and half-truths about me. In Kevin Begos’ attempt to
take a swipe at the Pittsburgh environmental group Marcellus
Protest, he incorrectly stated that I was a member of that group.
The website version of this story also included a ridiculous quote
from Range Resources’ Matt Pitzarella suggesting that I might
somehow now “endorse drilling” but that could not be farther from
the truth, especially after getting to know Range Resources even
better. Fact of the matter is that we discovered Range Resources was
already drilling into our family heirs’ gas rights without any of
our family members ever having signed a lease. Instead of suing
Range Resources, family members who own some of the surface rights
elected to sign a protective lease to prevent surface activities on
their land. If I didn’t sign a lease at that point, Range Resources
threatened to keep all the money from my gas, without paying me a
dime. Was I to get ripped-off or make the second least desirable
choice and sign a lease with them? I’m happy to report that we
recently donated $1,000.00 of Range Resources’ money to support
Clean Water Action, one group that has played a major role in
reducing frack wastewater dumping into our streams and rivers. You
are invited to read my blog (with Link shown to this webpage).
On Sunday October 13, after finally finding the correct contact
person, I filed an Ethics Complaint about Kevin Begos'
hatchet job on me with
Pennsylvania's Associated Press office. Read the results here:
tactics, tone defended by AP brass
Here's the story Kevin Begos really missed:
surprise in late-2012 when I learned during a Pa DEP file review
that 74 acres of gas rights, a small portion of that parcel owned by myself
(1.5 acres) and the rest (72.5 acres) by a
couple dozen other family heirs, was in the process of being drilled
into by Range Resources! Imagine my greater surprise, when I
learned through a cousin, who still owns much of that surface land,
that no family heirs had signed a drilling lease!
Good, or so I thought.
Before that, I
had been very pleased thinking that we had blocked Range from any
drilling into our gas rights from a drilling pad situated inside a
county park. For years I had fought to stop that very drilling in
the park, but
failed in my earnest and dedicated efforts, partly due to public
WALKING MY TALK:
Go to the 5:30 mark of this
video for my comments:
In that same spirit
of stopping drilling in the park, I had already refused
to sign the lease a Range landman presented to me earlier in the
year. He suddenly appeared in our driveway one afternoon, and I sent
him packing, "No thanks, especially not with Range. I have too many
friends from Hickory that have been adversely affected by their
drilling, but I realize you are just doing your job."
You see, I had become good friends
with Ron Gulla and Stephanie & Chris Hallowich over the previous 4
years. You may recall the shock expressed by everyone when they
found out that Range Resources, Williams and MarkWest not only gagged them, but
also gagged their two young children, in a lawsuit the Hallowiches filed
so they could move their children to safety.
Stephanie's story here.
Hallowich house in the midst of Gasland
Ron Gulla has been one of the
strongest and most forthright people I know in his attempts to
educate others about fracking. Range is actually afraid of Ron, as
well they should be, how could they afford to have any more of his
story about Range Resources out there?
Proverbial words 'spot on' by Ron Gulla:
Back to my
by family members revealed that Range had proceeded with drilling into our gas rights
since they said they had signed two family heirs to a lease, and
that 2% heirship interest was enough for them to proceed with drilling.
(Attorneys had been telling me they felt they would not drill with
any less than 50%. So much for that theory). Only
one problem, well actually two problems, neither person who signed a
Range Resources lease for our gas rights was even related to
At that point I was ready to move forward with a
lawsuit, but no attorney I approached would proceed on a contingency
basis, without being
paid a high hourly fee.
In the meantime,
these latest developments were enough to make my cousin who owns
that surface property above part of our gas rights, very, very nervous, and rightly so. What if one
or two heirs signed a ‘bad lease’ giving Range the right to install
roads, impoundments, pipelines and drilling pads on her property?
That was the last thing she wanted. So at
that point she knew she had to protect her property and hired a
skilled attorney to craft an extremely protective lease, one that
would prevent any surface activity on her land. A couple other
heirs, including Geoffrey Smith who is mentioned in the AP story, signed
a lease at the same time.
Is this the right thing to do?
Cut a big chunk out of a public park for a drilling pad
to profit private stakeholders outside the park
It was time for
the rest of the heirs in our family to make a decision. By
now it was too late for any heir who decided not to sign to
change what had already happened, since the drilling was completed and the
wells would be producing by March. A senior
land agent at Range told the heirs representing the rest of our family that any heir
who did not sign a lease by May 31st would not get any
royalties, not even the minimum payment required by law.
gas and not pay us??
It was time for
me to make a big decision, even though I only own a small portion of
the 74 acres, equivalent to less than 1.5 acres. By not signing a lease,
I would forfeit money that would go back into Range’s purse. By
signing, I would have some additional funds to continue my fractivist efforts.
My decision came down to the lesser of two evils,
since I could not bear the thought of Range ripping me off by
keeping my money. So I signed.
regards to staying true to my purpose of protecting
land inside the park, my cousin later offered this
“Considering that a No Surface Rights Lease was
negotiated, your signing of same is actually helping to
protect a sizeable acreage of the Park land (over 70
acres) as well as privately owned properties.
Fundamentally, this result is consistent with what you
have been trying to accomplish all along.”
So what makes my
story worth putting in the national news? I have been a lead
activist in the fight for our air and water. It began when our
tapwater became contaminated by the dumping of drilling waste into
the Monongahela River, the source of our tapwater. (See
my earlier posts on this topic). My efforts in
that fight were very effective and I accomplished most of my goals,
even stepping forward to be a standing witness in two lawsuits directed
against facilities that were, or soon would be, dumping drilling waste
upstream from our tapwater intake on the Mon River. Neither case
went to trial.
My focus has always
been on water issues with fracking, but other fractivists began educating me
more on the serious air quality issues related to gas drilling and
processing. Keep in mind that most of the counties around
Pittsburgh, including our own, are non-attainment counties with
quality problems. So I began splitting my efforts between
water and air quality issues.
believing that one picture is worth a thousand words, I knew
aerial photos would be extremely valuable in the fight against fracking, since most
drilling facilities in our area are elevated and
can’t be seen from the ground. I purchased an expensive
camera and lens which even helped with photos on the ground, but it still took me over a year to
get into the air. Since 2009, I have flown 23 times, taking thousands
of photos of the widespread destruction caused by hydraulic fracturing. These
photos have been published and shared around the globe. I also
continue to attend (boring) meetings on drilling issues at townships in our area, in
an attempt to hold local drillers’ feet to the fire.
Now to the
'hatchet job' part of the AP story… I declined an interview with Kevin Begos because of the pro-industry slant of his
earlier writings. He is widely known for this, everyone has noticed, not just me. Besides
that fact, there are family matters and relationships that need to be
preserved and protected, ones that are none of Begos' fracking business. I was
sure that whatever I would give him as quotes would be twisted and slanted in
an effort to smear me. So with very few facts, at least one bald
faced lie, and an idiotic quote from Pitzarella at Range, he ran
hatchet job story on me.
So as the old
saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. My long time opposition
to the dastardly effects of gas drilling and fracking has not changed
a single bit. Now, I will have a few more dollars to support my fractivist efforts. We
gave $1,000 of Range’s money to
Clean Water Action at their
Pittsburgh fundraiser Friday night. There are others who use their
royalty payments against them, often times to help the victims of
drilling with drinkable water and other things.
And for the
record, I am not an active member of any groups (like Marcellus
Protest) other than groups
related to veterans. I am the proud Founder of a Vietnam artillery
reunion group that has swelled its ranks to 700 veterans, as well as being a life member of the Veterans of
Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America. Begos wanted to take a
swipe at Marcellus Protest, so he painted me as a member of that
group and then
tried to use it to discredit them in some twisted fashion. As Steelers coach Chuck Noll once
said, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
Ha... Kevin didn’t
write anything even close to a good story, just a poorly researched
hatchet job. Nice try Kevin, but you and Rubinkam blew it, big time!
I'm sure Range isn't at all happy about you forcing the true story
of their dealings with my family out there for all to see.