Gas Execs: 'We're Dealing with an Insurgency'

It's no secret that drilling natural gas in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale is controversial. Now, several Pennsylvania gas drilling executives say their companies use military tactics to counter drilling opponents. Speaking at an industry conference in Houston, Texas, the men encouraged their colleagues to look to counter-insurgency techniques.

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HOST OPEN: It's no secret that drilling natural gas in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale is controversial. Now, several Pennsylvania gas drilling executives say their companies use military tactics to counter drilling opponents. Speaking at an industry conference in Houston, Texas, the men encouraged their colleagues to look to counter-insurgency techniques. State Impact Pennsylvania's Susan Phillips reports.

PHILLIPS: An environmental activist attending the conference captured the talks on a hand-held recorder, and released the tape to the media. Here's Anadarko Petroleum executive Matt Carmichael giving advice.

CARMICHAEL: Download the U.S. Army Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, because we are dealing with an insurgency here. There's a lot of good lessons in there and coming from a military background I found the insight in that extremely remarkable.

PHILLIPS: And here's Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella telling the audience that his company has hired ex-military personnel who specialize in "psy-ops" ñ that's the military slang for "psychological operations."

PITZARELLA: Really all they do is helping folks develop local ordinances. But really having that understanding they learned in the Army and in the Middle East has applied here in Pennsylvania.

PHILLIPS: Pitzarella says that quote alone can be taken out of context and that what he really advocates is community engagement.

PITZARELLA: And the context of that remark was having technical experts finding themselves trying to answer emotionally charged questions.

PHILLIPS: Pitzarella says the technical experts are often poor communicators.

But activists say the comments point to an already established pattern of trying to control the message that gas drilling is safe. Delaware Riverkeeper Maya von Rossum says drilling opponents bring informedopinions to the table.

VON ROSSUM: And that the gas drillers would be using military tactics to try to shut these people upÖis really a sign of the times, of what the drillers are willing to stoop in order to get what they want no matter the ramifications.

A spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum released an email that says the comments do not reflect the company's core values.

I'm Susan Phillips for State Impact Pennsylvania.