Energy. Environment. Economy.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. calls natural gas a “catastrophe”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of the nation's biggest opponents of coal as an energy source. He believes natural gas is just as bad.

Marie Cusick/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of the nation's biggest opponents of coal as an energy source. He believes natural gas is just as damaging to the environment.

As an environmental activist, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is one of the nation’s most vocal opponents of coal, but he thinks natural gas is just as bad.

Speaking to a crowded auditorium today at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Kennedy says it’s a “false choice” to weigh economic concerns against environmental protection.

Although his speech mainly focused on reducing the nation’s reliance on coal and shifting to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, he sat down with StateImpact Pennsylvania to talk about his views on natural gas development.

Note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity

Q: It’s been widely reported you’ve had a lot of discussions about gas drilling with your former brother-in-law Governor Andrew Cuomo (D- New York). Would you say you’ve been a big influence keeping fracking out of New York?

A: No. There’s 50,000 anti-fracking activists in New York. Those are the people. And Governor Cuomo so far, has kept fracking out. Not me.

Q: What are your concerns with it? You’ve said you were an early champion of natural gas.

A: From what I now understand about natural gas—it’s a catastrophe.

Q: How is the gas industry doing here in Pennsylvania?

A: I’ve been to Dimock and I’ve seen the impacts on the local communities. I think it’s a disaster for Pennsylvania and I think [the industry] has subverted democracy in the state. They promised they would pay for their own regulations. The fracking tax was meant to pay for that. [Governor Corbett] is giving a huge subsidy to the gas companies that the Pennsylvania public will have to pay for. He’s stealing from the commons, which the Pennsylvania public owns.

Q: One of the things you’ve cited are the potential public health impacts of gas drilling. You’ve pointed to the Geisinger Health studies as something New York should look to. Those efforts are just getting underway, and there may not be conclusive results for years or decades. Do you still feel like New York should wait?

A: I think we should wait until we have the information, if it’s going to be damaging to public health. This is what Governor Cuomo has said.

The fracking industry should pay its own costs–if it’s allowed to happen [in New York}– which means they should be removing 100 percent of the methane. They should have regulatory supervision to make sure that there’s no leakage of any damaging chemicals into the water table. They should properly dispose of their waste.  They should not be allowed to use fresh water without replacing it. And they should pay for the road damage, which costs hundreds of millions of dollars per year. And if they did that, there’s no way they could compete with renewables.

Q: You’ve been a vocal opponent of coal. Despite the risks of gas, do you think it’s better than coal?

A: I think they’re pretty even in terms of their culpability for public injury.

Q: From a climate change perspective, scientists say more data needed to understand methane leakage to see if gas is indeed a net benefit to the climate. The latest study, funded largely by the industry said the leakage rates are low. Do you feel like, even if the rates were high, it’s a solvable problem?

A: The University of Texas study studied only the wells that were being highly supervised. So it studied wells that were experimenting with new technologies that are not industry-wide and not required for the industry to see if they could reduce methane rates, and indeed the rates were lower.

But what that says is if you’re going to reduce methane, you need to have supervision of every well.

Q: But if leaks are a solvable problem, isn’t gas better for the climate than coal?

A: It depends. If that is widely adapted and it is enforced, and then you can say, “It’s less damaging to the climate.” But it still leaves a lot of other problems that make the industry pretty untenable.



  • marinemec

    RFK! I was involved with the river keeper and you were always a nut case who followed the rhetoric not unlike the Al Sharptons of the world. Get paid to make an appearance where ever you can make some money and keep people up in arms. Bottom line is, none of your claims are scientific based and your ex brother in law Cuomo is becoming irrelevent as a governor, partially due to your influence. It’s not his or your decision, HF decisions must be made only with truthful scientific studies, not self proclaimed experts without credentials. Thirty two states are doing fine with NG and NY’s only problem is Far Left Liberals like yourself who could not make it politically so you feel the need for negative attension no matter who you bring down to your level and destroy. Shame on you and your false claims.

    • Ban Fracking

      hello marinemec, It is clear from your comment you have not watched either Gasland One or Two as you would understand 4 trillion Gallons of the Peoples fresh safe drinking water has been poisoned so far by the extreme hydraulic method referred to as FRACKING. All Conscious Life on Earth depends on fresh non TOXIC Water, Land and Air resources to sustain future and present generations. We will continue to build Green Renewable Energy Systems Worldwide despite the last opposition of the Military Industrial Corporate Complex.

      • marinemec

        Gasland 1 with the faucets on fire was filmed from an area where no drilling occurred and Josh Fox admitted it was a spoof and the problem is that low information people believed it as truth and ran with it. I’m serious, archive the early speeches and the court case minutes from Fox himself. I live in upstate NY and I have methane migrating naturally in my back yard and my neighbor has a methane diverter installed for her well. Methane is oozing out of the ground into the air by itself. It is proven that when they drill and HF relieves the pressure underground which stops the natural migration. Yes it’s better to drill and stop what is occurring naturally which will actually drop the amount of methane’s natural leakage. Gasland 1&2 promoted believable rhetoric with no science to back it up. Watch Truthland, the movie which gives a simple but scientific answer to HF. Many people are making a lot of money and getting recognition by falsely promoting NG drilling dooms day rhetoric. RFK, Josh Fox, Yoko Ono, all should be ashamed of themselves for jumping on the band wagon without checking the science first. RFK actually knows better which should be a chargeable crime. Cuomo is just a follower to a good BS story, which should also be a crime!

        • guest

          Marinemec, what in the hell were you a riverkeeper for if you think RFK is but rhetoric- like how appreciative can you get- amateur-

          • marinemec

            I worked with the River Keeper for two years and yes, this Kennedy is a hack! Do what I say, not what I do.

        • Carin Ansen

          this link will show you that this teacher- mom admits herself that her travel expenses and’choice of experts’ that she interviewed were all funded and arranged by
          the PA Independent Oil and Gas Association who also paid for the production and distribution of the film. She also admits she is getting royalty checks and that she and her family are desperate

          See eight minutes into this film of a panel afterwards. Further, 57 minutes into the film

          Of particular interest are the comments section at this link,

        • Damien Luzzo

          Truthland ??? Scientific ??? You clearly are a climate denier… and you clearly have not been to the Gasland website — GO TO FAQs —> Read… Rationalize… Then React!

          Knowledge is power…

          But, regarding that methane in your backyard–it has clearly gone to your head. “Insane From The Methane” —Trust me, that’s not natural… O_o

    • Livingingashell

      You sir are the nut case and poorly informed
      And I suspect you work for the industry
      Has destroyed my state of Colorado
      It’s poison our water fouled the air and put roads in every area and wilderness area we have

      • marinemec

        I follow all the states and have one thing to say, “BS” !

        • guest

          more like that’s all you can say marinemec – amatuer

        • Damien Luzzo

          BS? The Bahamas aren’t a state.


      • marinemec

        Personal attacks is all anti’s are good for.

        • Damien Luzzo

          Well, duh. But personal attacks are needed when ignorant people spew nonsense without evidence.

          We are good at other things too! e.g. Keeping the facts straight, preventing apathy, highlighting hypocrisy, etc.

          • marinemec

            Evidence! One point three million wells have been drilled across the US and all of you harp on less than one percent which is a great track record for any industry. Better check your sources from Pa., Dimock is a flourishing place since NG, not the doom and gloom you advertise.

  • frackfree

    I think we need to “Occupy RFK, Jr. in White Plains.” At this time, I don’t mean for masses of people to invade RFK’s physical space as been done everywhere in the past year. Maybe later. I mean we need to inundate Bobby’s office with phone calls and emails telling him, “NO FRACKING WAY!”

  • Kim Triolo Feil

    Got my first $85 royalty check-but would have never signed had I not been told minus well take the money it will happen anyway…so the bonus money partially paid for my husbands cancer bills 7 years later. Oh did I mention I missed my second annual Neighborhood Night Out? I used to be president of our neighborhood association, but am at odds with the very folks who were silent in helping me stop the drill site two blocks from our home…now my teen has had the rashes and yesterday my jar was so tight like a neuro toxin was in the air…oh my teen…he has endocrine disruption-has an adrenal tumor biomarker…yep shale hell R we.

    • cjmjr


      • Just guessing

        Kim, let me guess, you dont support Obama Care, but you do support the Affordable Care act #jimmykimmel

        • Susan

          Just guessing – I hope that’s sarcasm, since they are one in the same. Also if Kim is even for real, I would expect compassion when you read such a post of someone uninformed whose family is sick, not mocking.

  • Glennis

    Data manipulation, half truths and outright lies are the stock in trade for Kennedy and his anti fracking friends. Do a little investigation on your own into some of the allegations in Gasland and reports like the radioactive water nonsense in recent news that was based on events years past and no long a problem. Listening to people whose minds are already made up and who have absolutely no skin in the game while disrupting the lives of others will get you nowhere fast.

    • Carin Ansen

      lol Glennis, are you trying to say the Earth’s core does not off gas radioactivity? lol Another hack award goes to you! Its called geothermal heat, and it moves the plates, no – not those at the country diner you wait tables on.

    • Damien Luzzo

      Minds already made up?

      Springsville, PA — In March 2012, an explosion at a compressor station blew a hole in the roof of the complex holding the engines. The explosion shook homes as far as a half-mile away and drew emergency responders from multiple nearby counties. Damage was contained to the site but black smoke billowed for several hours and necessitated an emergency shutdown of the site. The station, which pressurizes and dehydrates natural gas from the Marcellus Shale wells in the county, moved 364 million cubic feet of gas per day before being shut down.

      Springville, PA — In June 2008, several hundred gallons of diesel fuel leaked from a natural gas well site and flowed into a Springville wetland.

      Dimock, PA — Dimock is perhaps the town hardest hit by hydraulic fracturing accidents. A series of spills at a natural gas site run by Cabot Oil and Gas leaked an estimated 8,000 gallons of dangerous drilling fluids. At least one incident caused fluid to spill into a creek, where a fish kill was reported. And in 2008, two separate 800-gallon diesel spills occurred in the town in June and July. Other oddities that have occurred since fracking began include: water in parts of the town turned brown and sickened residents, a creek turned red, a woman’s water well exploded, and some pets and horses mysteriously lost their hair.

      Asylum Township, PA — In February 2009, 295 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled at a drill site operated by Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC in Aslyum Township, Pennsylvania. The incident occurred after workers put the hydrochloric acid in a storage tank not designed to hold acidic contents.

      Troy Township, PA — On June 30, 2009, a worker for Fortuna Energy (now Talisman Energy) drove a tanker truck 2.5 miles on public roads between two of the company’s well sites in Troy Township, Pennsylvania—all the while leaking hydrochloric acid. The tanker lost 100 to 200 gallons of acid. The contaminated soil was later removed from both sites. The driver was taken by helicopter to the hospital after inhaling fumes trying to put a catch pan under the leak. Also, in July and August 2009, there were four drilling wastewater spills on the same two well pads.

      Granville Township, PA — In March 2009, 420 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled at a drill site operated by Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC in Granville Township, Pennsylvania. The acid flowed into a pond and may have caused a 30-foot area of dead or stressed vegetation, including several evergreen trees.

      Ward Township, PA — Talisman Energy’s gas well experienced a blowout in January of 2011, causing an uncontrolled discharge of sand and fracking fluids onto state forest lands in Ward Township, Pennsylvania. The well where the blowout occurred is on Pennsylvania State Forest lands in the Tioga State Forest in Ward Township, about nine miles southeast of Mansfield.
      During the blowout, 21,000 gallons of fracking fluids and sand discharged from the well into the air and the well was successfully shut down later that day.

      Hamilton Township, PA — In June 2006, Jim Hughes Sr. and his neighbor Leonard Nelson’s water was contaminated after Seneca Resources, Inc. drilled a natural gas well with 660 feet of each of their properties. Hughes says that his water turned “blood red” and his pond turned pink.
      The Pennsylvania DEP found that the Hughes’ and Nelson’s wells were contaminated with unsafe levels of methane and ordered Seneca to drill new wells for them. When Hughes’ replacement well was dug, there was so much gas collected that the well caught fire, sending flames 5–7 feet into the air. Seneca put a burn-off pipe in the well to release the gas, which burned steadily for 3–4 months. Hughes has filed a lawsuit against Seneca.

      How’s that for making up you mind… There are hundreds of these… And you really don’t have to spend any time “researching” these facts — Google is your friend… Google: Fracking Accidents… and remember, knowledge is power.

      • Carin Ansen

        And the San Bruno incident just south of San Francisco, and lets not forget that train through Canada that vaporized about 100 people.

        • Frank Chernega

          In the U.S., 90 people per day DIE in auto accidents. This forum is rife with enviro – hypocrites. Let’s all see if your photovoltaic array is a large as mine – Kennedy, like his female version, Yoko Ono, is simply living off the fabulous wealth of his predecessors who are long dead and gone. Parasites R Us…..

  • Mike Knapp

    It’s sad to see just how far Mr. Kennedy has detached himself from reality on this issue. As this article mentions, Mr. Kennedy used to be a champion of natural gas, and nothing about the process has changed (except for the better) when it comes to environmental protections.

    “The fracking industry should pay its own costs–if it’s allowed to happen
    [in New York}– which means they should be removing 100 percent of the
    methane. They should have regulatory supervision to make sure that
    there’s no leakage of any damaging chemicals into the water table. They
    should properly dispose of their waste. They should not be allowed to
    use fresh water without replacing it. And they should pay for the road
    damage, which costs hundreds of millions of dollars per year. And if
    they did that, there’s no way they could compete with renewables.”

    We already do all of the above here in Pennsylvania. This is verifiable fact. And the renewables that he mentions? He vehemently opposed the building of a wind farm off the coast of his summer home. So he was for natural gas until it came to his backyard. He is for wind, except in his back yard. By all outward appearances, it seems like Mr. Kennedy is more concerned with keeping ANY kind of development out of his backyard, and is inventing false reasons to validate his position.

    • Damien Luzzo

      He has Solar Panels on his roof… and he probably has some IN HIS BACKYARD. That’s development! Is it not? Solar panels are developed like anything else… Your argument is futile… And Fracking companies DO NOT remove 100% of the methane… Your verifiable “fact” is verifiable bullsh*t.

  • KMH

    Its great to have a leader who cares enough to continue on his path despite the constant attacks and those whose minds are not agile enough to change their position, and who has the luxury to do so, as many on this message board do not.

    • marinemec

      This Kennedy is another failed political hack who could not make it in today’s politics so he took up fear mongering as a platform.

      • Carin Ansen

        sure marinemec- you’d sell your children’s health and well being for your big dick brain and ego at any chance.

      • Damien Luzzo

        Are you kidding me? Look what he has done with Environmental policy: Waterkeeper, the Hudson River, fighting the Keystone XL Pipeline (incl. being arrested as part of the demonstrations in front of the white house), active against mountain-top removal, actively opposes fracking (and humbly changed his mind from earlier views when many environmentalists, including himself, held Natural gas in high accord for it’s cleaner burning properties when compared to coal). He is not a “failed” political hack. He has never officially ran for a position. He backed out of many considerations for very very humble reasons.

        If environmental activism isn’t “political” enough for you and you think it’s just “fear mongering”… then you don’t understand the breadth of policy, you are ignorant of the implications that climate change has on our futures and the sustainability of our planet, and you have no idea what “political” even means–If you think it’s only something that people are voted into, to go on C-SPAN with suits and ties, then you have rendered people powerless in you view of democracy. Policy is shaped by the people. RFK Jr. has tirelessly fought to help people realize who has the real power in a Democracy–we the people–and it’t people like you who keep the apathetic contagion spreading. Wake up and try trolling people where your argument actually pivots on a substantive claim.

        It’s not fear mongering; it’s an inconvenient truth that you would rather be ignorant of. What he says is supposed to impose fear because, like it or not, it’s true. It’s fear–it is anxiety–and you are choosing flight over fight while a true democracy calls for what RFK Jr. is trying to inspire; a true democracy call for people to stand up and fight for what is right.

        • Carin Ansen

          Now- this is the accurate depiction we have been waiting for the clutzes on this message board to get their arms around. Thank you Damien.

        • Susan

          Thanks Damien. Someone with a brain.

  • workingmansdem

    I quickly read this headline as:”Robert Kennedy a catastrophe”… and my heart soared. This intellectual cipher would be waiting tables if his name was Smith.

    • Carin Ansen

      If Kennedy’s name was Smith- you’d be all about him, fraudulent ‘workingmans dem’- so this tells your character as a partisan hack.

      • workingmansdem

        Nope. An environmentalist who is guided by data.

        • Carin Ansen

          Hack- whose data, the oil and gas company’s? if you were guided by data you bloated ego, you would not have made the ad hominen attacks.

          • workingmansdem

            My, my you handle disagreement maturely, don’t you? Try Environmental Defense Fund study. Lotta big words though

          • Carin Ansen


            You made the egregious personal attack on one of America’s most beloved environmental leaders and families.

            And by EDF- you mean the now astroturf group that appeared in the propaganda Truthland?

            Steve Horn told us all about you

          • workingmansdem

            “most beloved environmental leaders…”??? You aren’t serious. He who opposed Cape Wind because it would mar his view? The last generation of his family is beloved, and he is a blotch on that memory, Solid environmental arguments are weakened because many average folks see the face of the environmental movement as RFK and Yoko, and yes Steven Horn, and there goes the argument. Have you noticed that the polling shows a decline in the belief in climate change, and an increased distrust in environmental organizations. This ain’t working, so let’s do more of it.

          • Carin Ansen

            Yes, RFK has done a lot for getting your fat ass its dough by helping get the country off coal and nuclear, and a true environmentalist is not a one issue game. He has done much to fight the factory farmed meat your fat ass enjoys, and many many more. The fact that you do not own this information and have no appreciation for it, can only certainly lead to your being no judge of what an environmentalist is, and the environmental defense fund being no place I’ll ever contribute to again. Your just a shill trying to make the next round of investments and you don’t even have the class to thank him for switching the market off coal so you can exploit the natural gas market that appeared by both default and Dick Cheney’s fracking loop hole.

            And Cape Wind- -its being compared to your Solyndra, which was run by Republicans, including the 2nd largest recipient of George Bush Jr funding being Wal-mart

          • workingmansdem

            Carin, dear, take a deep breath. You are hyperventilating here. It’s not good for you to work yourself up so. The world is just full of evil, stupid fat assed factory-farmed meat-eaters (with a side of GM veggies, thank you very much). And you just can’t make us all see the Clarity and Righteousness of your Correct Environmental Vision. There are too many of us. Some day you will be an adult and understand that.

            Well, gotta go call the Koch Bros. They are late with their check to me for being their hack again. Not like the Club for Growth. Those boys pay on time.

          • Carin Ansen

            Ugly jerk. And I don’t think that the ‘environmental’ defense fund is gaining any support with you as a spokesperson. Anyone who follows the environment knows the Kennedy’s have sacrificed much to get the earth into a condition whereby peoples can all enjoy the planet as intended. Fondle your Kochs carefully.

          • Damien Luzzo

            Lots of BIG corporations too! Nice paycheck for a load of crap.

            EDF is not an Environmental group in the slightest. You might be the biggest Greenwashers of all time, but the real environmental groups are opposed to Fracking. Take a page from the Sierra Club (Maybe you’ve hear of them)…

            “The Sierra Club has launched a “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign that calls for an end to hydraulic fracturing.”

            EDF — Environmental Dumb F**ks

          • Damien Luzzo


            EDF is tripping on itself. Some of them are outraged that people like you draw conclusions in their name. Some of them are people like you starting battles of he-said-she-said because you are greenwashing Fracking and picking fights with the REAL activists like JFK Jr.

            There is no such thing as safe fracking. And faulty studies will never change that.

          • Carin Ansen

            Lol- you mean as covered by that right wing hack who writes at Forbes?- the ‘journal’ covering the Fukushima waste as that of bananas? lol HACKS

            Try a university academic data base, where the studies are coming out, inconsistent with the oil and gas funded astro turf ‘environmental’ defense fund.

          • workingmansdem

            Let me give you a little writing tip: There are some synonyms for “hack”, you know. People you disagree with don’t always have to be hacks. They can also be “lackeys” or “stooges” or “mouthpieces”. If you mix up you language a bit, people might think you are a brighter bulb than you are. “Ugly jerk” wasn’t your best either. Come on, work at it!!

          • Carin Ansen

            Got under your skin, huh Mr Spokesperson for the astro turf EDF.

          • workingmansdem

            No, actually not. You were kinda fun to play with. So simple.

          • Catharine

            Carin, workingmansdem, is so brainwashed, and obviously not terribly intelligent and in denial, as so many of his responses are condescending and state lies, so why bother responding to this person who thinks he sounds clever, but sounds like an *ss? This is a very angry guy using insults than most people could write, but who are smart enough to know it makes them look emotional and terribly angry instead of informed and educated. He’s not worth anyone’s time. He thinks he sounds clever, but his lack of self control as he keeps trying to appear superior says it all. That’s a dead giveaway of anger and feelings of inferiority.

          • workingmansdem

            Yup. You nailed it. The insight is blinding, even if the English is tortured.

        • Susan

          The study wasn’t done by Scientific Americna or the EPA or so I guess it’s not true. All those kids with nosebleeds and inhalers, people with rashes, high rates of cancer around drilling sites and on and on, including early death. I know… prove it right? Soon enough it will so undeniable even the major media won’t be blacking out the facts they are being paid to forget to mention.

          “The Environment America
          Research & Policy Center report, “Fracking by the Numbers,” is the first
          to measure the damaging footprint of fracking to date.”

          • 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012
          • 450,000 tons of air pollution produced in one year
          • 250 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005 – How much is radioactive?
          • 360,000 acres of land degraded since 2005
          • 100 million metric tons of global warming pollution since 2005

          • workingmansdem

            You are correct. It’s not true.

    • Damien Luzzo

      “Robert Kennedy a catastrophe” —— That’s not an intelligible title… it’s sad that your heart would soar from something with no grammatical meaning. Is this the whole “ignorance is bliss” thing caught in action? *smh*

      • workingmansdem

        Go back and reread carefully – without moving your lips.

        • Carin Ansen

          Sure, we trust the Environmental defense fund that appears in ‘Truthland’ – who takes advantage of a family in poverty who had to take the money out of desperation; only to find after the film, one of their own wells had become contaminated.

  • workingmansdem

    Don’t let data get in the way of your beliefs, Junior.

    Look, it’s been fun. Really. But it’s Saturday night and I actually have something today. Why don’t you and Carin keep the chatter going among yourselves, OK?

    • Damien Luzzo

      Defeated too easily. You were just about to make a real argument, I know it!

    • Carin Ansen

      Sure buddy, we’ll be looking at the donation sheet to the Environmental Defense Fund pal.

  • marinemec

    All of these anti’s writing here are only worried about their self expression ! None of you look at today’s real energy issues, only your shallow worlds! NG has been the cleanest fuel for consumption, hands down! Solar, wind and bio fuels have been proved to NOT be a viable source to power everyone and NG is the cleanest fuel against coal and oil and all of you low information people do not have any viable replacement energy sources that will work. Get with current events and scientific data from the sources which does NOT include this Kennedy! Fear mongering is his ongoing platform, ONLY! By the way, go to Dimock and see the truth, I have. You will look at people like Kennedy in a new light, I guarantee it!

  • SusannaDanna

    Find a Global Frackdown Event near you on Oct 19th and fight fracking with people across the world! We must stop this scourge or we are toast!

  • marinemec

    !.3 million NG wells have been drilled across the US and less than one percent have had any issues which have been corrected. That is a great track record for any industry. As I wrote back to one person here, Check all of Pa yourselves, especially Dimock, It’s not the doom and gloom all the anti’s claim, in fact, they are flourishing and it is a nice area to live compared to, before any gas exploration was done.

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