Fed up with misinformation being spread about hydraulic fracturing, it looks like an oil and gas association in Pennsylvania has decided to fight fire with fire. The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) has put up billboards along highways slamming gas drilling critics. One sign reads “You've Been Slimed! Distortions, Half-Truths, Lies,” while another states “Pa. Republicans: Stop DEP Regulatory Abuse.” It is commendable that an association is sticking up for the industry it represents by taking such bold steps to call attention to a problematic situation. However, the move in this case had a major misstep: the billboards and a related website, nogreenslime.com, didn’t disclose who funded them. The Associated Press pointed this out in an article, noting the PIOGA took credit after the news agency made some inquiries. The association’s president, Louis D’Amico, told the AP that the campaign wasn’t meant to be anonymous. He said it was his idea, and the association has received some great responses and plans to expand the campaign. However, the initial lack of disclosure by the association caused some people to question the association’s secrecy and others to reiterate the need for transparency. The AP article stated the owners of the website were shielded, and the billboard owner and the company that designed the website wouldn’t identify their customer. This cannot be stated enough: transparency is key to gaining public trust. Fully explaining processes and quickly dispelling rumors are needed, especially during a time when the public’s perception of the oil and gas industry isn’t at its best. (A Gallup poll in September showed the oil and gas sector was voted the most hated.) Without such disclosures, people are left guessing and making assumptions about who paid for what, who’s benefiting, and at the cost of who or what cause. And most of us know what happens when we assume. Steve Forde, spokesman for an industry group called the Marcellus Shale Coalition, told the AP that transparency is “absolutely necessary in advancing a serious and important conversation about Marcellus Shale development across the region” and that “we understand fully that legitimate questions exist about safe American natural gas production.” Associations should do whatever they can, within reason, to capture the public’s attention to spread accurate information about hydraulic fracturing. If it takes a flashy website and billboards to do the trick, go for it. But don’t become part of the problem, or give individuals spreading misinformation ammunition to cast doubt on industry practices without just cause. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at vaddison@hartenergy.com.