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The contentious debate over hydrofracking has led to harsh words from both sides, and anti-fracking groups often compare the presence of natural gas companies to outside forces occupying their land. New information reveals that the industry representatives also consider the hydrofracking fight similar to a war — in which those opposing them are insurgents.

Hydraulic fracturing releases natural gas by pumping massive quantities of water and chemicals into the ground to crack the shale. Many people have called for stricter regulations or state-by-state bans on hydrofracking because of environmental and safety concerns, but the industry has pushed back.

CNBC, which was given an audio recording from an environmental activist who attended an oil industry conference last week, reports:

It was a gathering of professionals to discuss “media and stakeholder relations” in the hydraulic fracturing industry — companies using the often-controversial oil and gas extraction technique known as “fracking.”

But things took an unexpected twist.

CNBC has obtained audiotapes of the event, on which one presenter can be heard recommending that his colleagues download a copy of the Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual. That’s because, he said, the opposition facing the industry is an “insurgency.”

Another told attendees that his company has several former military psychological operations, or “psy ops” specialists on staff, applying their skills in Pennsylvania.

The quotes reveal industry representatives’ troubling, combative attitudes toward people who are simply trying to make sure their water supplies and land — in addition to their health — are not irreparably damaged by a largely unregulated drilling method. Kate Sheppard of Mother Jones wrote: “It’s one thing to say that Pennsylvania has become a battleground in the debate over natural gas extraction. But it’s quite another to actually endorse and employ counterinsurgency tactics to fight opponents of hydraulic fracturing, the controversial process used to extract the gas from the ground.”

Although the industry representatives later tried to contextualize their comments to make them seem less sinister, the characterization of anti-fracking activists — average citizens who are skeptical of the controversial natural gas drilling method — as insurgents nonetheless suggests the extent to which companies are looking out for their own interests instead of legitimately listening to and considering other people’s concerns.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star.