First, the March 1 edition of Rolling Stone, a liberal magazine with a circulation of 1.5 million, had a huge story under the headline, "The scam behind the gas boom."
It focused on Pennsylvania and on Chesapeake Energy, one of the Harrisburg crowd's favorite industries, reporting that Chesapeake and other drilling companies in the state "resemble a Ponzi scheme" with financing through junk bonds.
"Fracking," the story said of hydraulic fracturing, an intensely polluting process used in gas drilling, "is about producing cheap energy the same way the mortgage crisis was about helping realize the dreams of middle-class homeowners."
On Sunday, The Associated Press, a rather less liberal news organization, had a story on the latest clash over gas drilling between the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"The state says EPA is meddling. EPA says it is doing its job," the AP said of new efforts by the feds to check the drinking water in northeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania to see how badly it has been contaminated by fracking, which forces water laden with toxic chemicals into the ground to break up rocks containing gas reserves.
"There's no question that EPA is overstepping," said Katherine Gresh, spokeswoman for Michael Krancer, Corbett's top environmental regulator — if that's the right term in an administration that believes in little or no regulation when it comes to an industry that gave the governor huge "political campaign contributions." The AP, however, said EPA meddlers found "alarming levels of manganese and cancer-causing arsenic" in water near the gas wells.
The most significant news in recent days was the announcement of details for a two-day "Marcellus Shale Exposed" symposium on gas drilling, planned for next week at Northampton Community College.
The free symposium will include a showing of the Oscar-nominated "Gasland," a film that paints a horrifying picture of the gas-drilling industry, and the featured speaker will be Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University, a nationally recognized expert on fracking.
Ingraffea, a Lehigh Valley native, has a doctorate in civil engineering, has won national research awards and has worked with NASA and dozens of other agencies, colleges and industries.
The symposium is indeed one-sided, but that is understandable in view of the millions of dollars spent by the gas-drilling industry to lobby politicians and bamboozle the public with television advertising.
"We were sold a bill of goods by the gas industry and by the politicians," said Karen Feridun of Kutztown, founder of Berks Gas Truth, one of three groups sponsoring the symposium. The other two are the Lehigh Valley and state branches of the Sierra Club.
"We want [the public] to hear the other side of the story. We want them to get the facts," she said. "In addition to informing people, we want to call them to action."
The shindig starts at 7 p.m. Friday, March 16, with the showing of "Gasland" at NCC's Kopecek Hall. That will be followed by a panel discussion, including victims of fracking whose well water is contaminated, and who say they have been threatened with arrest if they keep bothering Gov. Corbett about it. Ingraffea's segment is Saturday, March 17, at 9 a.m.
For those who wish to stick around, that will be followed by various sessions featuring people like Jeff Schmidt, state director of the Sierra Club; Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeep Network, a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting the Delaware River from pollution and other assaults; and Feridun.
More details and a registration form are available at marcellus-shale-exposed.org, or by calling Feridun at 610-678-7726.
On Tuesday, Feridun insisted the gas industry created only 5,669 jobs in Pennsylvania over the past three years (state claims are that Marcellus could generate tens of thousands of jobs) but there are negative things being created as well.
"When we're trading off our clean water, our open space, human health, infrastructure, I don't think there is any amount of job creation that makes up for all that," she said.
"We're all downstream, so what happens upstream affects all of us," Feridun said of the instances of water contamination in northeastern Pennsylvania. "It's everybody's issue, in a very big way."
Paul Carpenter's commentary appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.