The latest weird, in not entirely unexpected, twist in the hugely contentious debate about expanding fracking in Pennsylvania and New York: According to tapes obtained by CNBC, recorded by a member of Earthworks, one natural gas industry insider promoting fracking in the Marcellus and Utica Shale suggested that anti-fracking activists constitute an "insurgency", with another one proposing hiring former military psy ops personnel to combat it.
Range Resources communication director Matt Pitzarella said, at an industry conference in Houston:
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. Really all they do is send most of their time helping folks developing local ordinances and things like that. But very much having that understanding of psy ops in the Army and the Middle East has applied very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania.Anadarko Petroleum's Matt Carmichael:
Download the US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, because we're dealing with an insurgency...I found the insight in that extremely remarkable.
Pitzarella later told CNBC that he didn't support the insurgency view and Carmichael downplayed his previous comments:
The comment was simply suggesting industry embrace a broader move toward more active community engagement and increased transparency, as it's very important to build fact-based knowledge to maintain public trust amidst special interests that often use misinformation to create fear.
Which frankly just sounds like spinning his remarks after the fact.
None of this should come as a shock to anyone following the fracking debate.
In September 2010, ProPublica unearthed the fact that the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security characterized anti-fracking activists as "environmental extremists" that are a threat to the energy sector and "try to intimidate companies into making policy decisions deemed appropriate by extremists."