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Industry Attacks Institute Credibility, Undermines It's Own

Industry attacks institute credibility, undermines it's own

December 1, 1997 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

The Michigan Oil and Gas Association has launched a coordinated attack on the credibility of the Institute and its partners in the Michigan Energy Reform Coalition. Led by chairman Martin Lagina, senior industry executives are publicly accusing the Institute of making misleading statements, of outright lies, of twisting facts, and of secretly planning to put the industry out of business.

MOGA's public relations strategy isn't working, because it's so obviously untrue.

Since the earliest days of the Institute's project to gain greater oversight of energy development in Michigan, we have steadfastly supported oil and gas drilling. MERC has sought management practices that preserve local economies without causing unnecessary damage to communities and the environment. To support our position, we have uncovered and widely disseminated the industry's own economic and scientific studies that indicate these goals are compatible.

Our message of economic gain and environmental protection has attracted support from citizens, townships, business leaders, conservation organizations, property owner groups, and environmental organizations across the state. This why the Michigan Energy Reform Coalition now has 21 member organizations, representing more than 200,000 state residents.

The Institute's policy is to conduct ourselves with the highest journalistic standards. We check and double check our facts. We clearly label editorials. We take seriously our responsibility to inform our readers about events of importance.

The Institute has published a torrent of facts about energy development in Michigan. Mistakes are inevitable. As responsible publishers, we correct our mistakes when they are brought to our attention. But when we asked industry executives for specifics to back up their attacks on our credibility, they were unable to do so. Rather, they have resorted to off the wall criticism:

• For instance, during a public meeting in Montmorency County last August, one executive accused us of a grave factual error. He said that a well his company drilled in Oakland County was on a "parcel," not on a "lot," as we had reported.

• Another executive speaking at the same meeting said our integrity must be questioned, because the Institute's published materials were filled with "misrepresentations."To back up those claims, he gave just one example -- that his name was included on a list we published in the Great Lakes Bulletin to thank our members and supporters.

How, he asked, could anyone trust a group that can't even keep track of its contributors? The executive then asserted that he never was a member, never had made a contribution, and did not know how his name appeared on the list.

However, the Institute does have on record a membership form from the executive dated September 1994, which came with a $10 donation.

These are just two of the empty charges MOGA representatives have made against the Institute. They are emblematic of the industry's attempt to divert attention from the real issues.

Credibility is the coin of the realm in any public debate, especially one as contentious as how to best manage energy development in Michigan. Such groundless attacks, while unpleasant, will not dissuade us from continuing to engage in this debate professionally, with decorum, with thoroughly researched data, and with facts well-presented and well-argued. We expect no less from the leadership of the oil and gas industry.u


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