Evidence of the “endless war” the oil and gas industry is fighting against local communities

Over the last several months we’ve looked at evidence that demonstrates how the oil and gas industry operates in secret to keep the public from understanding the dangers inherent in the Shale Revolution. As new technologies and techniques bring those risks closer and closer to where people live, it has become increasingly clear that the industry is fighting an “endless war” to keep the public confused about the impact of oil and gas drilling on local communities.

Health impactsToday we have a rare opportunity to get an inside look at the scheming that goes on behind this war. In a secretly recorded presentation to oil and gas industry leaders reported in the New York Times, we learn some of the inside workings of the industry:

If the oil and gas industry wants to prevent its opponents from slowing its efforts to drill in more places, it must be prepared to employ tactics like digging up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, a veteran Washington political consultant told a room full of industry executives in a speech that was secretly recorded.

The blunt advice from the consultant, Richard Berman, the founder and chief executive of the Washington-based Berman & Company consulting firm, came as Mr. Berman solicited up to $3 million from oil and gas industry executives to finance an advertising and public relations campaign called Big Green Radicals.

The company executives, Mr. Berman said in his speech, must be willing to exploit emotions like fear, greed and anger and turn them against the environmental groups. And major corporations secretly financing such a campaign should not worry about offending the general public because “you can either win ugly or lose pretty,” he said.

Rick Berman. Photo: Daniel Rosenbaum, New York Times

Rick Berman. Photo: Daniel Rosenbaum, New York Times

We’ve heard from Berman, aka “Dr. Evil,  before.

“Big Green Radicals”
Under the umbrella of the Center for Organizational Research, his organization, Big Green Radicals, has launched advertising efforts aimed at discrediting the EPA, challenging the validity of the US Green Building Council’s rating system for sustainability and efficiency of buildings, and mocking local residents who seek to control oil and gas drilling in their communities.

One of the key tactics of the group is to manufacture doubt about scientific issues by creating confusion through the media. In the case of oil and gas drilling, that means citing as sources such groups as two well-known climate change-denying organizations, the Heartland Institute and the George C. Marshall Institute.

John Mork. Click to enlarge.

John Mork. Click to enlarge.

What is particularly troubling about this speech is that somebody with Berman’s pedigree would be brought in by an oil industry advocacy group like the Western Energy Alliance. The group lists many major oil companies among its members, board of directors and advisors. It is the same group that co-sponsored a speech by Energy Corporation of America CEO John Mork on the changing economics and science of energy. Mork, of course, is the guy who promised to bring “a little bit of the Bakken” to the Beartooth Front.

“There is total anonymity”
Mr. Berman boasted in his talk about how he could get six-figure checks from oil executives in the room and then make those people invisible in the campaign.

“People always ask me one question all the time: ‘How do I know that I won’t be found out as a supporter of what you’re doing?’ ” Mr. Berman told the crowd. “We run all of this stuff through nonprofit organizations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us.”

Opposition research on their opponents
According to a colleague of Berman’s quoted in the New York Times:

There is nothing the public likes more than tearing down celebrities and playing up the hypocrisy angle,” his colleague Mr. Hubbard said, citing billboard advertisements planned for Pennsylvania that featured Robert Redford. “Demands green living,” they read. “Flies on private jets.”

Mr. Hubbard also discussed how he had done detailed research on the personal histories of members of the boards of the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to try to find information that could be used to embarrass them.

This ad mocking the intelligence of those who challenge the oil and gas industry is an example of the kind of disinformation spread by Berman’s organization:

You can download a transcript of Berman’s remarks with links to ads, as well as a list of attendees at the meeting, by clicking here.

How the oil and gas industry keep local citizens out
Over the last several months we’ve looked at a lot of evidence that this kind of secret power play is typical of the oil and gas industry. Here are some of the things we’ve discussed. Together they paint a compelling picture of what Berman describes as an “endless war.”

At the federal level:

At the state level:

At the local level:

“Endless War”
As Rick Berman told the oil and gas executives, “Think of this as an endless war.” As local residents, it’s good to know what we’re up against. The oil and gas industry is waging war against us, the goofy people in the ad above. We need to understand what we’re up against, and recognize we need to work together as a community to protect our land, our water, and our way of life from a well-funded and relentless adversary.


About davidjkatz

The Moses family has lived on the Stillwater River since 1974, when George and Lucile Moses retired and moved to the Beehive from the Twin Cities. They’re gone now, but their four daughters (pictured at left, on the Beehive) and their families continue to spend time there, and have grown to love the area. This blog started as an email chain to keep the family informed about the threat of increased fracking activity in the area, but the desire to inform and get involved led to the creation of this blog.
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3 Responses to Evidence of the “endless war” the oil and gas industry is fighting against local communities

  1. Becky Grey says:

    Thanks again. I really appreciate all of your excellent research and posting.

  2. davidjkatz says:

    Thanks Becky. Happy to make a contribution.

  3. Dennis Hoyem says:

    Thanks, David. I, along with hundreds (thousands?) of others, echo Becky’s sentiments. You and your efforts are clearly taking us to a time when we reach a critical mass of reasonable souls who will demand and achieve health, safety, transparency, and equity. It seems so sad that in the 21st century in this great country, profit motive is so inextricably linked to greed, selfishness, conspiracy, abandoned ethics, and blatant disregard for the intention of the “rule of law.”

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