Natural gas fracking companies are treating the campaign to expand drilling in Pennsylvania like a military campaign, using “psy ops” to quell the “insurgency” of environmental, economic, and health concerns. Audio tapes recorded by the Oil & Gas Accountability Project at a Houston oil industry conference reveal the wartime mindset of the frackers, a CNBC report reveals:
In a session entitled “Designing a Media Relations Strategy To Overcome Concerns Surrounding Hydraulic Fracturing,” Range Resources communications director Matt Pitzarella spoke about “overcoming stakeholder concerns” about the fracking process.
“We have several former psy ops folks that work for us at Range because they’re very comfortable in dealing with localized issues and local governments,” Pitzarella said. “Really all they do is spend most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances and things like that. But very much having that understanding of psy ops in the Army and in the Middle East has applied very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania.”
At another session, Matt Carmichael, the manager of external affairs for Anadarko Petroleum, spoke on the topic of “Understanding How Unconventional Oil & Gas Operators are Developing a Comprehensive Media Relations Strategy to Engage Stakeholders and Educate the Public.”
He said he had several recommendations for the oil industry media professionals at the event, one of which, he said, involved the military.
“Download the U.S. Army-slash-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, because we are dealing with an insurgency,” Carmichael said. “There’s a lot of good lessons in there and coming from a military background, I found the insight in that extremely remarkable.”
Dairy farmers in Pennsylvania have grown concerned by the unregulated boom in fracking, with problems including “questionable leases favoring gas companies, liens on property, mortgage conflicts, heavy truck traffic, social disintegration, loss of agricultural land, ground water contamination, increased community and farming costs, loss of tourism.” Families in Dimock, PA, are still dealing with contaminated water from fracking damages two years ago.
While it is a very good thing that drilling companies are hiring U.S. veterans, they need to remember that Pennsylvania is not actually a battlefield. Even though he is using “psy ops,” Range’s Pitzarella does seem to understand that. “You’re not dealing with insurgents, you’re dealing with regular people who live in towns and want to know what you’re doing,” he told CNBC.