When issuing an official press release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources—or pretending to—it's wise to include the agency secretary's name.
That was among the tells when the Indy received a "press release" alleging that DENR has apologized for its controversial draft report on fracking, in which the agency said it could be done safely in North Carolina if the right protections were in place. The release also falsely stated that DENR had reversed its position.
More reasons to doubt the release's legitimacy:
A) That's too good to be true.
B) The email came from firstname.lastname@example.org (DENR addresses have a .gov suffix) and the "Office of Environmental Education and Public Affairs" (which does exist).
C) I sent the email to DENR for verification; an agency spokesperson said that the email is fake.
I then plugged the originating IP address into to several databases that trace these addresses, but the results were inconclusive; the email could have been sent from several computers or mobile devices, or the databases could be wrong. Nonetheless, the cities of origin came back as Clayton, Rocky Mount and Elizabeth City, so the best guess is "east of Raleigh."
As the Indy reported last week, the draft report contained 444 pages of scientific research that cast doubt on fracking—research that contradicted the report's political conclusion that it could be done safely.
A public hearing about the report is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. today at East Chapel Hill High School, 500 Weaver Dairy Road. DENR is also taking public comment via email until April 1: email@example.com
The Indy has long reported on the potential environmental and socio-economic damages from fracking. Readers could rightfully argue that we've been skeptical of fracking to the point of advocating against it.
But even if we agree with the underlying argument that fracking is a bad idea—issuing a fake press release? It's not a very convincing way to get your point across. Very 2008. Yawn.
And the name of the DENR Secretary is Dee Freeman.