At last week's oil industry conference in Houston, North Texas fracking opponent Sharon Wilson, director of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project for the nonprofit environmental group Earthworks, received some startling insights into how some in the oil and gas industry view — and respond to — grassroots resistance to their work.
A recommendation made in a media relations session by one presenter included using counterinsurgency manuals from the U.S. Army and Marine Corp to respond to opponents. According to CNBC, which has reviewed the recordings of the event made by Wilson, a speaker from Range Resources “told attendees that his company has several former military psychological operations, or 'psy ops' specialists on staff, applying their skills in Pennsylvania.”
Another speaker compared grassroots resistance to oil and gas development to an "insurgency."
Writes CNBC (audio embedded):
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.”
Arguing his proposal Tuesday to allow oil and gas regulators to carry firearms in Texas (approved unanimously), Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman didn't cite any o&g psy-ops operators (should they exist in the Eagle Ford shale of South Texas) or any grassroots “insurgency,” however. Instead, he'd like to see regulatory agents armed in case they stumble upon dangerous wild animals or wayward criminals, according to the Associated Press.
Of course, that could still include elements of either camp, we assume.