Energy. Environment. Economy.

‘We’re Dealing with an Insurgency,’ says Energy Company Exec of Fracking Foes

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.

An environmental activist attending the conference recorded the talks on a hand-held recorder, and released the tape to the media. Here’s Anadarko Petroleum executive Matt Carmichael giving advice.

“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.


  • Julieann Wozniak

    If Mr. Pitzarella and the big-money crowd are trying to earn the public trust, he’s certainly going about it in the wrong way. Pennsylvania is not a right-wing banana republic dictatorship wherein citizens can be disappeared at random and without question, and we resent even the slightest whiff of some corporate goon desiring to treat us that way. If this was meant as satire, or a joke, no one who has family memories of Coal and Iron Police is sniggering behind their hands. If, as Mr. Pitzarella claim, his company and other involved in the shale gas industry are employing “active duty military” in his scheme for domination, this is illegal, and unconstitutional, and I, for one, demand a federal investigation of this blatant overreach. One of the instigators of the Abu Ghraib obscenity was, after all, a Pennsylvanian who once worked as a guard at SCI Greene: hardly an object of pride. Further, if Mr. Pitzarella and his ilk are employing goon squads like Blackwater, or Xie, or whatever they’re calling themselves now, that’s just creepy and the victim pool deserves to know it all, now.

    • Susan Phillips

      Hi Julieann, it’s my understanding that Range Resources employs former military, not active duty.

  • Willa Hart

    Sign and share the online petition to let Range Resources management know we don’t want military “psy ops” in our towns. We’re Americans, not insurgents!

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