An advertising power play

Natural gas company behind anti-coal media blitz

? An extensive anti-coal campaign in Kansas makes no mention on its statewide ads or Web site of who is behind the media blitz.

But the sponsor is Chesapeake Energy, a natural gas company headquartered in Oklahoma City that could stand to benefit by the recent rejection of coal-fired plants in western Kansas. The company is the third-largest producer of natural gas in the U.S.

“We believe that coal is on the wrong side of history,” Jim Gipson, director of media relations for Chesapeake Energy, said Monday.

Last week, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ administration rejected two 700-megawatt power plants near Holcomb, citing concerns with coal-burning emissions of carbon dioxide.

Hays-based Sunflower Electric Power Corp. has said it might file a lawsuit challenging the decision.

Meanwhile, Chesapeake has launched a multimedia campaign denouncing coal-produced energy. Gipson declined to say how much the company was spending, but it had run full-page ads in numerous newspapers and planned a series of television ads.

Asked about the ads, Sunflower spokesman Steve Miller said, “We’re like a wounded deer laying in the middle of the highway now. So you can imagine everyone who wants to finish us off is throwing money in the pot right now.”

Miller said one thing the ads don’t mention is that natural gas is more expensive than coal.

Contacted by the Lawrence Journal-World, Gipson was forthcoming about Chesapeake’s sponsorship of the ad campaign, but on the ads themselves there is no mention of Chesapeake.

Its Web site – – also fails to mention the company’s involvement. It does display the state of Kansas seal, and has commentary disparaging coal and links to media reports about the proposed plants near Holcomb. It also invites people to donate.

“We don’t hesitate as a leading producer of American natural gas to get on the bandwagon for natural gas,” Gipson said.

He said Chesapeake has a financial interest in 1,600 producing wells in Kansas and more than 200,000 net acres of mineral interest in 39 Kansas counties.

But Chesapeake’s ad campaign has soured some.

The Kansas Rural Center opposed the coal-burning plants, but its executive director, Dan Nagengast of Lawrence, wasn’t happy with the ads.

“We should be in a bridge-building mode and not continue to fight,” Nagengast said.

Bob Eye, an attorney representing the Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club, said the ads were “understandable although unfortunate.” Coal interests and natural gas interests are in a “zero-sum” battle, he said.

Days before the Sebelius administration issued its ruling on the Sunflower project, the Sierra Club commissioned full-page ads that touted the benefits of wind and natural gas.

Eye said the campaigns of both the environmentalists and Chesapeake helped each other but were not coordinated.

Chesapeake also paid for a statewide poll in which it said most Kansans preferred energy produced by a combination of wind and natural gas as opposed to coal.