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Turnpike billboards slam gas drilling critics

Associated Press Modified: September 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm •  Published: September 12, 2012

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A new series of billboards on the Pennsylvania Turnpike describes critics of natural gas drilling as "Green Slime" who use "Lies" to discredit the industry.

The billboards and a related website don't disclose who funded them, and several companies involved in the design process at first refused to identify their client. But after The Associated Press began making inquiries, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association took credit.

"It was my idea," said association President Louis D'Amico, who added that PIOGA has gotten "some great responses" and plans to expand the campaign. "We feel we need to get people's attention."

D'Amico said he believes much of the criticism directed against the industry is unfair. He said the campaign wasn't meant to be "anonymous."

The billboards and website didn't break any laws, but some people inside and outside the industry say that transparency should be part of any debate over Marcellus Shale drilling.

"It is the first incident that I recall of anonymous advertising being used in the environmental context," said George Jugovic, president of the environmental group PennFuture and a former state environmental regulator.

Jugovic said the billboards and the website are examples of free speech, but he questioned the secrecy.

Penneco Outdoor Advertising, which owns the billboards, first declined to say who its customer was.

The website is registered through DomainsByProxy, an Arizona company that shields the owner of a site. The company that designed the website also declined to disclose its customer.

Jugovic said it was ironic that a campaign that uses phrases such as "Facts Matter" and "Get The Truth" was started in secrecy.

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