Leaked Talking Points Show Oil Companies Dont Give A Frack About The Truth

Thu, 2011-04-14 01:00Emma Pullman
Emma Pullman's picture

Leaked Talking Points Show Oil Companies Dont Give A Frack About The Truth

An industry executive accidentally dropped a talking points memo [PDF] in an Ohio woman’s driveway after coming to her home to talk about leasing her land for hydraulic fracturing. The memo reveals the extreme lengths that oil and gas companies will go to in order to ensure that people lease their land for hydraulic fracturing.

Called “Talking Points for Selling Oil and Gas Lease Rights,” it is designed for Field Agents to outline how to respond to commonly asked questions, and more importantly, how to avoid answering the hard ones.

What it amounts is essentially trickery on the part of oil and gas companies. The memo suggests that companies are well aware of the dangers of hydraulic fracking, and have found ways to spin the facts around people’s concerns in the name of profit. It also implies that these companies are perfectly willing to intentionally misinform, deliberately omit facts, and categorically deceive people on issues that effect their homes, their families and their health.

By using these tactics, oil and gas companies can sign 5 year leases on land that can legally be extended for up to 40 years if the well continues to produce. As people begin to clue in to the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, oil and gas companies understand the immediacy by which they must sign leases.

Some of the key points in the memo encourage crafty techniques to pressure homeowners into signing leases. For example:

  • “Tell the landowner that all their neighbors have signed. Even if the neighbors have not, this often will push an undecided landowner in favor of signing.”
  • “Stress to the landowner that we are primarily looking for oil resources. Searching for oil is less environmentally damaging than the claims against fracing.”… “While it is true that we will be able to evaluate the well in the shale layer for suitability for fracing and gas development, stress the initial hope of finding oil. Any distinction may be enough to finalize the lease.”
  • “Well Spacing- This rarely comes up. Landowners do not realize that multiple wells will be necessary. Wells are most effective if spaced 40 acres or further apart. This sounds like a large number, use it.  Some might ask how many wells will he in a square mile. Don’t answer that question. Most landowners will not realize that 10-20 wells can be placed in a square mile. Landowners normally own less than 5 acres, unless it is a farm. 40 acres will be a large enough number that wells will seem to be far apart in their mind.”

They also rely on people’s lack of knowledge to misinform them:

  • “Most landowners will not know the difference between hydraulic fracturing and the process of Slick Water Hydraulic Fracturing. Use this to your advantage.   If anyone knows about slick water fracturing, avoid the topic. DO not discuss the chemicals and other material used during slick water fracturing … Reassure landowners that no well contamination has ever been documented.”

They also employ underhanded tactics to target men who are more likely to sign leases: 

  • “Men are more likely to sign than women. Men don’t like to believe that you know more than they do, so they are also less likely to ask questions. In the state of Ohio the husband can sign the lease without spousal permission. Go that route if required. Tell them it is their decision. Write the lease agreement with only the husband’s name on the paperwork. This will make it more likely that they will sign alone. Men are also more conservative, and more likely to want oil and energy independence. Women will have more concern for the environment and will challenge you more often.” 

The report closes with a note to intentionally deceive people about the reported radioactivity of groundwater due to hydraulic fracturing. According to the memo, employees are to:

  • ENSURE you tell the landowner that we use NO RADIOACTIVE materials. The radioactivity comes from natural sources in the ground and is released by the process, but don’t tell them this. Most landowners will not know.”

These talking points are chilling. Treehugger, who first broke the story,  has yet to confirm the authenticity of the document, or which oil company it came from. If it is real, which it appears to be, it proves the industry is willing to go to almost any length to secure as many rights as quickly as possible. For that, we should be very afraid. 

Photo Credit: LT Mayers

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OIL_TalkingPoints[1].pdf310.06 KB

Comments

Interesting memo.

The FUD:

‘…make certain you lead with this selling point. CHINA
bought more oil than the United States last year.’

which is emphasised and repeated.

The deception,

WRT radon release from fracturing:

‘Tell them we are RADIOACTIVE FREE,-.. and that should alleviate those fears. If pressed, tell them it is natural radiation that is always there, we will not increase it by adding anything.’

Not increase the total of radon present maybe but is very likely to increase the amount released into the local environment.

Would the exec’s and lawyers who put this together allow the procedure in their neighbourhood, probably not especially if they have kids.

While I would like to believe that this document is authentic, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the fossil companies use these tactics, when I read the full PDF, I’m less than convinced. I don’t think an authentic talking points memo would have so many instances saying “here’s something we do that’s bad, here are the details of how we do it, now don’t talk about it”. That’s just the wrong way to prep your sales staff.

Agreed - This memo is almost certainly a fraud. In addition to the points highlighted above, every single page says “Proprietary - Do not disclose” without specifying a company. It is rather like saying “Property of Anonymous”.

There is nowhere in the memo where we read, ‘here’s something we do that’s bad…’. So having raised the strawman you proceed to attack it. How clever!

Have either of you BillW or Rob ever been involved in door to door canvasing? I have during two different periods and for very different products and I know all to well the modus operandi, that is why I broke out of both of them - I could not stomach the exploitation and the deception.

As for the ‘Proprietary - Do Not Disclose’ bit, is any company going to put their name up in lights on every page of such a document. I doubt it very much. However such a document as this is very likely drawn up at a more local level following guidance from above and is just the sort of thing one would expect to find passed out to quickly trained and poorly briefed canvasers. After all training costs money and we all know how profit drives this industry at the expense of safety and good practice.

No, you don’t read “here’s something we do that’s bad”, literally. But there are many instances where practices are described in detail and then the reader is told not to discuss them, to wit:

“Enhanced Oil Recovery - The overall plan is to drill exploratory wells, and then use more advanced techniques to get at the small oil pockets we find. This will require multiple well heads, where we pump in high volume of water and chemicals, much the same manner as in the fracing process. DO NOT DISCUSS this point. We want no correlation between fracing and enhanced oil recovery processes. We do not want landowners aware that we may have to drill many well heads in a single area.”

 
Come on Lionel!  Be at least a little critical here.  A mystery memo, allegedly found by an unnamed woman (does she even exist?) on her driveway, allegedly written by an unnamed company at an unknown point in time?  If you don’t require at least some minimal level of verification for such a thing, how exactly do you distinguish between fact and fiction?
 
It’s not even a good fake.  Take the Radon issue that you’ve already commented on.  The memo suggests fracking results in a huge amount of radioactive radon gas and that the salesperson should hide this fact.  Don’t you think if these were actual talking points they would note that radon gas is only an issue in confined spaces where air circulation is poor, and that radon is wastewater runoff is not likely to be an issue since even the most stable isotope has a half-life of less than 4 days?  These are purported to be “Talking Points” … correct?  Do you really think the radon talking point is likely to be “We don’t use radioactive materials!”  And even if fracking resulted in radioactive contamination of groundwater, do you really think the company is going to tell that to the guy they send door-to-door … and then say “but don’t tell them this”?
 
My God Lionel!  Bat Boy doesn’t exist either, despite what’s printed in the Weekly World News!  

Having many years of exposure to energy companies and their internal documents, this looks like a (bad) fake. Like Bill, I don’t doubt that landmen working landowners for lease rights are thoroughly briefed and trained to secure lease rights, and that those tactics are likely as savoury as your local car salemen (no disrespect to car salesmen intended).

The BP oil leak situation is one of the ugliest episodes in history. The sad part is the people behind this problem don’t give a darn about what they have caused.

Of course the people give a darn. Companies with incredible safety and environmental records in the Gulf made a monumental screwup. They know it and will be paying billions to repair the damage and pay affected parties.

And the BP oil leak has fortunately turned out to be much less worse then originally feared.

Paul s said:

“Companies with terrible safety and environmental records in the Gulf made a monumental screwup”.

There I have corrected it for you. Also in typical Paul s denier mode he offers a completely unsubstantiated opinion on the long term effects of the spill. Those oil smeared checks must mean a lot to you Paul s that you are willing to dirty your hands (and your brain) by accepting them.

“Not every housewife is aware of the environmental consequences of the use of shale gas…I don’t know who would take the risk of endangering drinking water reservoirs.”—Alexander Medvedev, Director-General of Russia’s Gazprom Export (Suspected former KGB official)

http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/02/gazprom-goes-green.html

I know that a suspected former KGB officer who now works for Gazprom has been making environmental arguments against fracking in the US. Really, he wants to sell Gazprom’s liquified natural gas to the US, so he wants the EPA to come out against fracking.

I want our country to develop renewables, but I am wondering why nobody posting articles on this site ever discusses Russian companies and their political operatives.

Perhaps if we outlaw fracking, we will just end up buying Russian LNG, not renewables.

“Not every housewife is aware of the environmental consequences of the use of shale gas…I don’t know who would take the risk of endangering drinking water reservoirs.”—Alexander Medvedev, Director-General of Russia’s Gazprom Export (Suspected former KGB official)

http://legendofpineridge.blogspot.com/2010/02/gazprom-goes-green.html

I know that a suspected former KGB officer who now works for Gazprom has been making environmental arguments against fracking in the US. Really, he wants to sell Gazprom’s liquified natural gas to the US, so he wants the EPA to come out against fracking.

I want our country to develop renewables, but I am wondering why nobody posting articles on this site ever discusses Russian companies and their political operatives.

Perhaps if we outlaw fracking, we will just end up buying Russian LNG, not renewables.

The famous astonomer once wrote: “It seems to me what is called for is an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs: the most skeptical scrutiny of all hypotheses that are served up to us and at the same time a great openness to new ideas … If you are only skeptical, then no new ideas make it through to you … On the other hand, if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones.” If the authors of this talking points was not a PR person for the natural gas industry but rather an environmental activist then he/she certainly did their homework! So the end results of the documents authorship might be summed up is it the truth? Irregardless–what are the probable consequences if the content is the truth?

[x]

New York's highest state court ruled today that local governments have the legal authority to use zoning to bar oil and gas drilling, fracking and other heavy industrial sites within their borders. In a 5-2 decision, affirming the rulings of three lower courts, the justices dismissed challenges to fracking bans created by two towns, Middlefield and Dryden.

The case has been closely watched by the oil and gas industry in the Marcellus region and nationwide. Over 170 towns, villages and cities...

read more