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Second Response to Mr. Kennedy’s Huff Post

October 27, 2011

This is the response to Bullet Point number 2 in Robert F. Kennedy’s Huff Post article brought to my attention by Citizens for Water.

In my opinion, Robert Kennedy’s second claim is as perplexing as the first.It is like the Jeffersonian Bible. Kennedy decided to go through articles and cut what he doesn’t like and rearrange it for the sake of his own conscience.

Kennedy says:

“The human health impacts of gas extraction on local communities may rival those associated with coal. A new study by Centers for Disease Control finds that breast cancer rates have dropped in every county in Texas, but have increased in the six counties with the heaviest natural gas emissions.”

Then he moves on to his next point as if this “new study” by the Centers for Disease Control proves the point he just sought to make.

Do yourself a favor and click on this link and explain to me what motivation Kennedy would have for omitting much of what that article actually said and the considerations it brings to light.

The article says that breast cancer cases in the six counties mentioned rose “from 58.7 cases per 100,000 people in 2005 to about 60.7 per 100,000 in 2008, according to the Texas Cancer Registry.”

This is an increase of 2 people on average in a three year period. If you know anything about statistical variability, this increase doesn’t definitively determine anything. It does not include the countless variables that could contribute to any observed increase.

Statistical variability allows for such an adjustment.

The article says

While local breast cancer rates are up, they are still below the national average. In Texas, historically, breast cancer rates have been below the national average, experts say.”

How much below?

According to the article, the national average is 127 cases per 100,000 people. Texas’s ratio was 60.7 per 100,000 people in 2008. Yet they are the largest producing Oil and Gas state in the union.

Based on RFK’s logic and info, one could make a case that “the human health impacts of gas extraction in local communities” includes a reduction of breast cancer cases considering that Texas’ rate of occurrence is less than half the national average.

“The region’s high rates have been noted by cancer researchers who are studying it, but who are also unsure of the cause, according to Dr. Keith Argenbright, medical director of Moncrief Cancer Institute at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.”

We’re not entirely sure why that is happening,’ Argenbright said, adding that it could be a mix of a number of factors.

The medical school has secured funds to conduct screenings, since those rates, too, are lower than the national average. For about every 1,000 screenings the medical school provides, they find about six new cases of breast cancer, Argenbright said, in part because the group targets low-income and underserved areas.

“Screening doesn’t help the incident rate, but it can help lower the mortality rate,” Argenbright said.

This means that the increased amount of breast cancer recorded could be a result of more cancer screenings. This is true of anywhere on earth. People walk around with undiagnosed illnesses because doctors fail to diagnose or people don’t go to doctors.

RFK Jr. also forgot to mention this…from the article he referenced:

Finding cancer clusters has a very limited application in understanding environmental exposure, since statistical research methods work better when studying things that are big,” said Julia Brody, executive director of the Silent Spring Institute, a Massachusetts nonprofit research group examining environmental causes of breast cancer. The institute’s website includes a database of studies that have found links between breast cancers and toxic compounds, including studies of fuel- and combustion-related compounds as well as solvents.”

Why did RFK Jr. forgo quoting lines from an article he references? Because it helps him make his point.

Again, he goes where the community he uses as expert witnesses does not and hopes that those who read his article will not read his sources or that they will not be able to more clearly interpret the article than he.

He has a history of doing this when choosing causes related to human health as his exclamation point.

Read the “Media word and public activism” section from his page on Wikipedia. That section is well cited and points to RFK Jr. standing by his guns on autism long after his position has been rendered ridiculous.

On July 26th, 2009 RFK Jr. wrote in the Huffington Post:

Natural gas comes with its own set of environmental caveats. It is a carbon-based fuel and is extraction from shale, the most significant new source, if not managed carefully, can cause serious water, land use, and wildlife impacts, especially in the hands of irresponsible producers and lax regulators. But those impacts are dwarfed by the disastrous holocaust of coal and can be mitigated by careful regulation.

The giant advantage of a quick conversion from coal to gas is the quickest route for jumpstarting our economy and saving our planet.

This means that at one point, RFK Jr. believed that natural gas’s potential problems could be mitigated by careful regulation. He believed it to be cleaner than coal. He believed it capable of jump-starting our economy. He believed all this possible with careful regulation.

Why not continue to push for careful regulation and disclosure instead of seeking to undermine what you’ve already said by blasting natural gas altogether with weak criticisms?

I have already dealt with his support of the Howarth study and claim that methane emissions could counterbalance “virtually all the benefits of CO2 reductions projected to result from substituting gas power for coal.”

If that study is the support for his “gas is not cleaner than coal” argument and it has been debunked, then how can he progress with his argument? Because it is par for the course for Kennedy.

By the way, the Kennedy family owns three Oil companies that drill in Texas.

Arctic Oil


Mokeen Oil

Before standing behind RFK Jr. when asking Chesapeake for more accountability, maybe Greens should ask to see the books on the royalty payouts one of their figureheads receives and ask him about the emissions of those companies.

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