On Tuesday, we reported on a story first published by CNBC, where several Pennsylvania gas drilling executives recorded on tape say their companies use military tactics to counter drilling opponents. Speaking at an industry conference in Houston, Texas, the men encouraged their colleagues to look to counter-insurgency techniques.
“Download the U.S. Army Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, because we are dealing with an insurgency here. There’s a lot of good lessons in there and coming from a military background I found the insight in that extremely remarkable.”
And here’s Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella telling the audience that his company has hired ex-military personnel who specialize in “psy-ops” – that’s the military slang for “psychological operations.”
“Really all they do is spend most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances. But really having that understanding they learned in the Army and in the Middle East has applied here in Pennsylvania.”
Pitzarella says that quote alone can be taken out of context and that what he really advocates is community engagement.
“And the context of that remark was having technical experts finding themselves trying to answer emotionally charged questions.”
Pitzarella says the technical experts are often poor communicators. So it’s important to employ people who can remain calm in the face of fierce opposition.
But activists say the comments point to an already established pattern of trying to control the message that gas drilling is safe. Delaware Riverkeeper Maya von Rossum says drilling opponents bring informed opinions to the table.
“And that the gas drillers would be using military tactics to try to shut these people up…is really a sign of the times, of what the drillers are willing to stoop to in order to get what they want no matter the ramifications.”
A spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum said in an email that the statements do not reflect the company’s core values.
“Our community efforts are based upon open communication,” said John Christiansen. “Active engagement and transparency, which are all essential in building fact-based knowledge and earning public trust.”
Sharon Wilson, an organizer with Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project attended the conference and recorded the audio.