Exposed: New Documentary About Gas Drilling Hailed as Indie and Balanced, But Here's Why It's Neither
This weekend, the Texas Tribune will play host to the Texas Tribune Festival. According to the festival's website, the convening is designed "to bring together the state's most prominent thinkers, politicians and public servants for a weekend of debate, discussion and dialogue on the subjects that matter most to all Texans."
Near the top of the agenda will be a slate of policy discussions pertaining to energy and the environment, include the screening of a documentary about natural gas drilling (no, not Gasland). Texas is home to both the Eagle Ford and Barnett Shale basins, as well as a sliver of the Haynesville Shale, under all of which sits vast amounts of natural gas. The Haynesville Shale, mostly located in the northwest corner of Louisiana, as well as bit of southwest Arkansas and east Texas, underlies an area of about 9,000 square miles and possesses some 250 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. It is the largest natural gas field in the United States.
The festival's sponsors include some of the most powerful players in the natural gas arena: Apache Corporation, BP, El Paso Corp, Energy Future Holdings Corp, and America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) -- the largest natural gas industry lobbying consortium in the United States. ANGA spent over $3 million lobbying the U.S. Congress in 2010 and has already spent over $1 million lobbying Congress in 2011, according to OpenSecrets.org.
The speakers at the Energy and Environment forum are also among the friendliest promoters (and defenders) of the gas industry, including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who raised nearly $1 million from the oil and gas industry in the run-up to his 2008 election, according to OpenSecrets.org; and T. Boone Pickens, creator of Pickens Plan and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as well as the main orchestrator behind U.S. House Bill 1380, the NAT GAS Act.
Gregory Kallenberg, a less well-known but increasingly influential figure in the natural gas "golden age," will also be there. He's currently best known for his role as director of the documentary film that's being shown: Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for an Energy Future.
According to the film's website, Haynesville "follows the momentous discovery of the largest natural gas field in the United States (and maybe the world). The film examines the historic find (a formation called the 'Haynesville Shale') from the personal level as well as from the higher perspective of the current energy picture and pending energy future."
Kallenberg's film will be featured at the Texas Tribune Festival, followed by a panel featuring Kallenberg and others, including Justin Furnace, a lobbyist from the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association; David Blackmon, who simultaneously serves on the government affairs committee for America's Natural Gas Alliance and the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, sits on the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association and the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, and is the chief lobbyist for El Paso Corporation; and Ian Duncan, a professor of economic geology at the University of Texas at Austin.
While Haynesville was recently described in a story on Minnesota Public Radio as portraying "both sides" of the natural gas battle royale, the film is actually much more one-sided than most people believe.
A months-long investigation into the film has revealed that the film's director, Gregory Kallenberg, is actually a well-connected oil and natural gas man, with both a direct and familial financial stake in the ongoing domestic natural gas boom.
In fact, the film, produced by Three Penny Productions, has served as a prolonged public relations and advertising campaign for the gas industry, cleverly disguised as a tour for a small up-and-coming independent film.
It all began in November 2009 at the Sheffield Film Festival in England.
From England to Denmark to Texas -- an "Independent" Film Hits Prestigious Venues
Haynesville started off with a splash unseen by most small, independent films.
In November 2009, the film premiered at the prestigious Sheffield Film Festival in England. In a press release announcing the global premiere, director Gregory Kallenberg stated, "I was floored when I found out...The head programmer from the festival personally called to tell me how much he liked the film, and that Sheffield wanted it to premiere in their festival. In the film fest world, that kind of thing just doesn't happen."
At the Sheffield Film Festival, Haynesville was one of the nominees for the prestigious Green Doc Award. (It did not win, but it's a bit ironic to think that a dirty gas industry propaganda film was even considered a candidate in a green documentary competition.)
It was shortly thereafter featured at the December 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. In conjunction with the COP-15 conference itself, the U.N. sponsored the Indigenous Voices on Climate Change Film Festival. Haynesville was one of the 22 films screened, even though it has nothing to do with indigenous voices on climate change.
Haynesville has also played in front of other influential audiences, ranging from the New Orleans Film Festival, the Aspen Ideas Festival this past summer and TEDx Austin, among others.
The film made its national television premier in November 2010 on CNBC, a television channel owned by NBC/Universal, which is owned in part by General Electric (GE) -- GE, lo and behold, is a big player in the natural gas industry.
GE created a device for recycling the water used during the controversial and toxic hydraulic fracturing (fracking) process. Furthermore, it maintains natural gas fueled power plants, and manufactures natural gas-powered turbines, having sold more than $1 billion worth of them in 2011 in the United States, according to Reuters. GE also recently made a deal with Russia to sell between $10 and $15 billion worth of turbines.
"We're a massive player in gas exploration," GE's Mark Vachon stated in a July 2011 story.
Since GE has a "massive" stake in the future of gas development, its NBC/Universal division is an ideal outlet for a national cable television premiere of a film highly favorable to increased natural gas production, to say the least.
The Truth About Three Penny Productions
The Contact Us section of the Haynesville website lists a Three Penny Productions studio. The name "Three Penny Productions" might evoke a small "mom and pop" independent movie studio to many folks, but the reality is to the contrary.
The first red flag: Three Penny Productions is located in the heart of Shreveport's petroleum district. A Google Maps search of businesses and trade associations located in a two-block radius of Three Penny Productions includes the likes of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, Chesapeake Energy, Caddo Management, Inc., Phillips Energy Partners, the Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, Petrohawk Energy, the Petroleum Club of Shreveport, Goodrich Petroleum Corporation, and C.H. Fenstermaker and Associates.
Red flag number two: Three Penny Productions is not listed on the directory of the building it is said to sit in on the Haynesville website, the American Tower, according to a YouTube video produced by a source who lives in the Shreveport area. Those listed include Caddo Management and the influential lobbying firm, C.H. Fenstermaker and Associates, but no Three Penny Productions in sight. Furthermore, a photo of the production studio taken by the same source shows an empty office in the listed Suite 1007.
C.H. Fenstermaker is a lobbying firm and the bulk of its clients are natural gas corporations.
Red flag three: The YouTube video taken by the Shreveport source lists Haynesville director and producer, Gregory Kallenberg, as the vice president of investments and real estate for a company called Caddo Management, Inc. Also listed are his brothers, Jeffrey and Randolph Kallenberg, who serve as the vice president of exploration and the vice president of finance, respectively. Caddo is also listed as a registered corporation on the Louisiana Secretary of State website.
The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources website lists Gregory Kallenberg as the vice president of business development for Caddo Management, Inc.
So, what is Caddo Management, Inc.?
Caddo is an oil and gas drilling corporation. It's listed as an active operator in Arksansas on the Arksansas Oil and Gas Commission website. It is also listed as the primary driller for Western Oil and Gas, JV Inc and a Louisiana Department of Natural Resources document shows that Caddo has applied for a drilling permit. Pipeline Association for Public Awareness lists Caddo as an excavator in a 2010 document.
Lastly, the Louisiana Office of Conservation, in a February 2011 document, lists Caddo as a Louisiana oil and gas operator, having recently purchased a land mass in Arnaudville, Louisiana, underneath which sits 197 barrels of oil.
In short, Kallenberg is an oil and gas man through and through, though this goes undisclosed when he goes on tour with his movie, Haynesville.
Deep Familial History of Involvement in Oil and Gas Industry
Another vital tie exists between the Kallenberg family and the natural gas industry -- Phillips Energy Partners, currently owned by Chris Phillips.
The Betty and Leonard Phillips Deaf Action Center website reveals that Gregory Kallenberg's grandmother is Betty Phillips, wife of Leonard Phillips, both of whom are the grandparents of Chris Phillips and his brother Collin, who also works for Phillips Energy Partners. Chris and Collin Phillips, and the Kallenbergs, are cousins and all oil and gas men.
The Phillips family has been involved in the oil and gas industry for over 80 years, according to the Phillips Energy Partners' website and according to Betty Phillips' November 2010 obituary.
The obituary also reveals that Betty Phillips' father, Sam Sklar, "was a pioneer in the early Shreveport oil and gas industry." Sklar Exploration Company, LLC, still exists to this very day and is run by CEO Howard Sklar.
The company history page reveals that what is now called Sklar Exploration Company formerly went by the name Sklar & Phillips Oil Co.
"Sklar's exploration and production activities center on the hydrocarbon-rich Lower Gulf Coast basins, primarily in South Texas, and in the Interior Gulf Coast basins of East Texas, North Louisiana, South Arkansas, South Mississippi and South Alabama," states the Sklar website.
Howard Sklar and Gregory Kallenberg both formerly sat on the Board of Directors of B'nai Zion Congregation, which is located in Shreveport, according to a June 2008 Congregation newsletter.
According to the Phillips website, "Phillips Energy Partners was founded in 2006 in partnership with Encap Investments to grow a royalty portfolio of long life oil and gas assets...PEP's Acquisition Profile focuses primarily on Royalties, Overriding Royalty Interests and Non-Producing Mineral Interests throughout the United States. PEP presently has mineral holdings in 11 states and is actively acquiring each day."
Phillips is focused primarily on buying up the mineral rights in shale plays throughout the United States, and then selling them to natural gas corporations that make the highest bid.
Its website says Phillips possesses "mineral holdings in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Mexico, California, Montana, North Dakota, and Michigan," and that it is "actively seeking interests in New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado."
Phillips, according to the Company Overview, maintains a partnership with EnCap Investments, L.P. EnCap, according to its website, is the "leading provider of private equity to the independent sector of the U.S. oil & gas industry. The firm has raised 15 institutional oil and gas investment funds totaling approximately $11 billion and currently manages capital on behalf of over 200 U.S. and International investors."
Both Phillips Energy Partners website and Haynesville's website were created by the same man, David Eleuterius.
Phillips Energy Partners' office and the Caddo Management, Inc. office sit roughly two blocks apart from one another.
The Movie's Promotional and "Educational" Tour
When Gregory Kallenberg goes on tour with the film, he does not reveal that he is an oil and natural gas man, and that he comes from a family with deep historical industry roots. Instead, he portrays himself as an "independent filmmaker" who cannot believe the success his film has had thus far.
A June 2009 article in the Shreveport Times about Haynesville describes the film as "lean-and-mean," "locally funded," and an "indie" documentary.
Producer Mark Bullard described the film as "a small, independently produced documentary with big aspirations," in a press release.
That press release also stated that Three Penny Productions "is an independent production company specializing in small to medium budget documentary and narrative works with extraordinarily high production value and amazing content." It said that Three Penny Productions maintains studios in Texas and New York, in addition to their Louisiana office.
A December 2009 Houston Chronicle interview of Gregory Kallenberg introduces the interview by saying, "Gregory Kallenberg was sitting in a Shreveport diner early last year the first time he heard about the massive Haynesville natural gas find from a fellow patron. 'It was like the crazy miner who comes in from the hills saying he has found gold,' said Kallenberg."
In that same interview, he said, "My background is journalism, and being a journalist I was always taught to present things in a balanced way and let the reader pick through the facts and decide what they thought about the story. I approached this film in the very same way."
He also said in that interview, "I was very careful to do this as an independent project with no industry money."
The quotes in this Houston Chronicle interview, based on his oil and natural gas industry ties, could not be further from the truth. He did not need to hunt for "industry money" because he is in the industry; nor was the Haynesville Shale something he randomly stumbled upon one day while sitting in a cafe.
Kallenberg Promotes His Own Natural Gas Interests Through the Film Tour
The main premise of Haynesville is double-tiered.
First, it portrays, through the tale of three individuals, how the people living in the Haynesville Shale region have been economically uplifted thanks to the sale of their mineral rights to natural gas corporations. "60 Minutes" referred to this process as people becoming "Shaleionaires," while a more critical documentary referred to it as citizens possessing a "split estate."
Second, it talks about shale gas utilization as a "bridge fuel" toward greener alternative energy sources.
Important to note is the primary focus on the film, not on how many jobs the natural gas industry has created, but instead, how much money it has earned the citizens on whose land natural gas drilling has occurred, with regards to their minerals being purchased by natural gas corporations -- think Phillips Energy Partners, a mineral rights' purchasing organization.
Also, the film does not touch on the ecological hazards inherent in the natural gas drilling process, which start with the sand mining for fracking sand process, continue with leasing of mineral rights process, proceed with toxic hydraulic fracturing for natural gas process, and eventually end with the final product of a dirty fossil fuel.
The "bridge fuel" theory, to date, has been thoroughly debunked in meticulous studies by both the Post Carbon Institute and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Both studies showed that switching from coal to natural gas will do very little, if anything, to put a damper on global warming.
To date, not a single journalist has connected any of these dots -- particularly ironic, since the next pit stop for Haynesville is a newspaper's festival.
The Jig's Up on Haynesville
Gregory Kallenberg, on the insert for "Updated Extended Version" of Haynesville wrote, "Haynesville still proudly stands as the only independly produced, balanced film that looks at the challenges of our current energy sources and attempt sto sort out a pathway to a clean energy future...Unfortunately, the current energy discussion ahs been polarized and, we believe, been taken over by the extreme sides of the issue...Haynesville as created to speak to the 'rational middle,' those people who don't stand on the extreme ends."
Kallenberg has gotten away with touring the country, pretending as if he and his film represents this "vast rational middle" on the natural gas debate.