Deceive, Dupe, Cheat…it’s all the same to these guys

Posted: January 12, 2012 in Uncategorized
Berry Petroleum’s PR website, www.commongroundgardendale.com, contains an update from the latest Common Ground Committee meeting. In the update the disaster plan for Gardendale was laid out: in a nutshell call 911. At that point local first responders will swing into action. If things get bad they will go door to door and tell the residents to evacuate. At some point, we assume, Berry executives and most importantly, their lawyers will be notified in the safety of their upscale Denver homes and offices of any disaster that occurs in Gardendale. After the smoke clears and bodies are removed their lawyers will be seeking quick ‘equitable settlements’ with the victim’s families. Of course the victims will be required to keep their mouths shut as part of the perfunctory non-disclosure agreement. Most telling of all are the following comments:
• A meeting was held on Nov. 1, 2011 with Berry employees and Berry contractors/service providers to review the upcoming drilling activity and the expectations for all personnel
• Protocols were reviewed with an emphasis on safety and sensitivity/respect for the community and individual land owners
• All personnel are instructed to refer questions to the appropriate respondents and continue with their work.
• Onsite security personnel at each rig. Rig personnel are not authorized to engage in resident conversation on the worksite due to safety concerns
• Unauthorized personnel will be asked to leave the site due to safety

In addition the following e-mail response was received by a Gardap member when a request was made for Berry protocols for contractors operating in Gardendale.
“…Berry representatives and members of local law enforcement have expressed concerns that the distribution of contractor protocols could lead to local residents, who don’t have professional training in these areas, taking on law enforcement and environmental, health and safety enforcement responsibilities, thus putting those residents and their neighbors at risk…. Accordingly, at this time, we do not feel it is prudent to release publicly Berry’s employee, contractor and subcontractor protocols.”
Over time a clear picture has emerged of Berry’s ‘protocol’ in dealing with the residents of Gardendale as they implement their massive drilling plan for our small community. It is as follows:

1) Hire a PR company to interface with Gardendale residents. Berry has hired a company called KGB, Texas of San Antonio to serve as intermediaries between their employees and the residents of Gardendale. The stated goal of the KGB, from www.commongroundgardendale.com, is “… to provide accurate information and develop mutual understanding so that property owners and mineral rights holders can coexist in a way that benefits the entire community.” Gardap thinks the secret mission of the KGB is to let Gardendale residents ‘vent’ without doing anything substantive. In other words, let the residents express themselves while showing appropriate concern and caring. This tactic potentially has four benefits for a company like Berry:

a. It is hoped to make the residents feel better about having their land taken and community destroyed.
b. It is designed to insulate local Berry employees from interfacing with Gardendale residents. Having a website we could send our questions to and receive thoughtful, considerate answers (the theory) from a friendly public relations expert would keep us away from the Midland office and Berry’s field employees. If the Berry employees were exposed to the full impact of their activities in Gardendale it is possible their consciences would be disturbed. A disturbed conscience could interfere with profitability.
c. A professional PR company and regular meetings gives the illusion to Berry investors, board members and senior executives that residents concerns ‘are taken seriously’.
d. It will buy time for Berry. In Texas there is a time limit of two years to file a civil suit in most cases. Soothing folks with a potential claim in order to run out the two year clock is a technique used by clever companies. This technique was used by PG&E in an attempt to ‘wait out’ the residents of Hinckley, California. See the movie ‘Erin Brokovich’.

2) Hire an out of state drilling company to drill the 300 – 600 wells. An outside company, Keen Energy Services, formerly Goober Drilling (yes, Goober Drilling) , has begun the process of ‘drilling up’ Gardendale (www.keenenergyservices.com). This helps Berry in two ways:

a. The employees of Keen Energy Services, (formerly Goober Drilling) don’t have to face Gardendale residents. They will do their job and go back home. They won’t have to be around the people whose community they are helping destroy.
b. By following the injunction to not converse with us and refer our comments/questions to ‘appropriate respondents’ for the sake of ‘safety’ they will be able to rapidly move ahead on drilling as many wells as fast as possible. Keen Energy Services (formerly Goober Drilling) can rest their consciences easy, knowing Berry has provided a system for Gardendale residents to be heard and have their concerns addressed.

Berry attempted a clever ‘bait and switch’. Offer a few goodies like hospital grade muffles, a centralized gathering system and a professionally managed ‘common ground committee’ to listen to residents and come to mutual understanding…all the while planning on not backing up one whit on their massive drilling program that will destroy our community! We are not deceived by artificially concerned public relation professionals or Berry’s superficial changes to their operational plan. Berry will not foreswear 10 acre spacing. They may wind up drilling over 600 wells in our small community! Is that the action of a progressive, concerned and caring modern company? Insulating the consciences of their employees and contractors allow them to continue their ‘devil’s errand’ undeterred by any silly crisis of morality. Berry Petroleum, on its website says, “Berry Petroleum supports many worthy community, education and industry related causes through direct funding, in-kind donations and matching funds, as well as through employee participation and volunteering.” I challenge Robert Heinemann to do the following: Mr. Heinemann, the next time you are writing a philanthropic check on behalf of your company…remember the tears of Jeannie Owens and Donna Guyton, two widows in Gardendale impacted by what you are planning. Think of the community you are destroying. Your charitable contributions won’t wipe away the stain of what you are doing to us. Consider your actions carefully, They may make you wealthy and benefit your stockholders but they will also destroy the community 2200 souls live in.

www.commongroundgardendale.com

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