Articles of Accountability, Revisited

Posted: February 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

This manifesto outlines how we, GARDAP, would like Berry Petroleum, and RSP Permian to operate in our neighborhood:


Articles of Accountability

 Gardendale Accountability Project

Berry Petroleum, a Delaware Corporation doing business in Texas, having acquired the approximately 12 square miles of mineral rights underneath Gardendale, Texas, and having an ongoing plan for mineral exploitation that includes the possible drilling of 300 plus wells within the community of Gardendale, and having displayed a modest but insufficient consideration for surface owners and residents is hereby notified of these Articles of Accountability.

Basis of Articles

It has been said,

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (1)

Our American society, from its founding until the present day, has recognized that ‘no man is an island’ and embraced,  to one degree or another, the principles of contributing to the public good, care and support for those less fortunate and protection of the weak and vulnerable.  We believe amassing wealth and power brings with it a superior obligation to do good. Berry Petroleum, a multibillion dollar corporation having leased approximately 12 square miles of mineral rights in the Gardendale area and purchased 60 plus parcels of land has become the single most powerful economic entity in Gardendale. It would be safe to say that the economic worth of Berry Petroleum is likely to exceed the economic worth of all of the residents of Gardendale combined. As the most powerful landowner and economic entity in Gardendale, Berry Petroleum has incurred the corresponding greatest moral responsibility to be a ‘good neighbor’.

Berry Petroleum, in its proper role to fulfill its obligation to make money for its shareholders, has overlooked the toll its projected actions are having on the residents of Gardendale. The root cause of this oversight is simple; the employees and executives of Berry Petroleum don’t live in Gardendale; to them the development of the minerals underneath Gardendale is an economic, engineering and public relations exercise.

The public relations firm, KGB Texas, in response to a media story about the Gardendale Accountability Project, spoke recently on behalf of Berry Petroleum saying,

Please don’t misunderstand me. Berry is accountable to many parties, including regulators, surface property owners, shareholders, media and the Gardendale community at-large. The point is we’re going to do the right thing with or without GARDAP. Thanks. (2)

Members of GARDAP are surface owners, residents of Gardendale, shareholders, and (as stated by some) amateur members of the media. Accordingly, we present to Berry Petroleum the following course of actions it should take to be truly accountable.

Article 1: Berry Petroleum, on its website, states;

Accordingly, while there could be multiple stakes on a given tract of land, it is not necessarily the case that all of such locations will be drilled. We encourage landowners who have questions as to which stakes on their property are valid to contact Gray Surface Specialties with the lot and block number of their property so we can come out and determine the validity of the stakes and answer any other questions they might have. (, FAQs).

It is Berry’s responsibility to remove its own invalid stakes without being asked. Leaving invalid stakes in place is contrary to the ‘reasonable use’ principle in law. It is unreasonable to expect the surface owners to restrict normal enjoyment and use of their property in areas known, by Berry Petroleum, to have invalid stakes. Staking and restaking are immensely distressing to surface owners. Therefore, Berry Petroleum should immediately cease staking until all invalid stakes are removed and its ‘geologic interpretation’ is complete.

Article Two: Closing a reserve, or mud pit, even using ‘best industry practices’,  unreasonably restricts the surface owners normal use and enjoyment of the land over the covered pit. The Railroad Commission recommends ‘doming’ of a pit in order to keep ground water from collecting over it. This dome could permanently prevent normal building activities.  Drilling a water well on top of a closed pit would pierce the capsule allowing chemicals to leach downward towards the water table. As covered pits are not properly identified future generations will have no idea where the encapsulated pocket of toxic drilling chemicals is located.

Berry Petroleum representative Jeff Coyle tells CBS 7 that Berry hasn’t drilled one single well in Gardendale yet.  The area with the Benzene was inherited by Berry from a previous company and Coyle says it was cleaned up and that Berry has plans to rest (‘test’-author’s change) all of the remaining mud pits. (3)

Berry should immediately remove all mud pits, open or closed, in Gardendale. Berry should firmly commit to exclusively drilling all future wells using the closed loop system alone, and, post on their website, all results of mud pit samples with their locations noted on a map.

Article Three:

Berry is investing an estimated $6 million to $8 million in a centralized gathering facility and infrastructure that will greatly reduce the amount of heavy truck traffic, noise, flares and odors from Berry Petroleum’s operations in the Gardendale community. Installation of pipeline (gathering system) to the central facility began in August. We anticipate this pipeline installation process will be complete in October 2011. Construction of the central facility is scheduled to start in late August or September 2011 with November 2011 as our target date for the central facility and gathering system to be operational. (, FAQs).

A recent lightning strike in Greenwood underscored the potential danger of having tank batteries in a residential area such as Gardendale. At the completion of the centralized gathering facility Berry should remove the existing tank batteries with their associated equipment scattered throughout Gardendale and restore the locations.

Article Four

The amount of setback of a pad site from any structure is variable and highly dependent on geologic, operational and economic considerations, but, in any event, no closer than allowed by applicable regulations. Berry is still in the early stages of developing its plan for Gardendale, and every single well and every single landowner has a unique situation which we are dealing with directly. (, FAQs).

Berry Petroleum claims it won’t drill any closer than that which is allowed by ‘applicable regulations’. Berry Petroleum understands that there aren’t any regulations limiting how close it can drill to a dwelling in Gardendale and has stakes within 150 feet of some homes and a church. Berry should admit it’s only limitations are operational and accordingly, establish a voluntary setback to residences, businesses and houses of worship of 300 feet.

Article Five

It is possible that as time passes and we learn more about the area, we may determine conditions in certain areas in Gardendale may accommodate horizontal or deviated drilling. (, FAQs)

Berry Petroleum should agree to aggressively pursue horizontal and deviated drilling and begin drilling first in those areas in which it knows these drilling methods will work.

Article Six

Berry Petroleum should grant the Common Ground Committee the right to grant a limited number of humanitarian waivers. Humanitarian waivers should be granted for staked sites whose drilling will cause intolerable distress for surface owners and residents that are ill, elderly or whose health will be seriously compromised by the activity. Surface owners should be able to apply for waivers according to standards established by Berry Petroleum and the Common Ground Committee.

Article Seven

Many residents of Gardendale have negative opinions towards the land company representing Berry Petroleum. In order to improve relations Berry Petroleum should establish, publish on its website and enforce an ethical protocol to be followed by its land company representatives. In addition, Berry Petroleum should provide a complaint hotline for use by Gardendale residents manned by a senior company employee.


We the members of the Gardendale Accountability Project, have pledged ourselves to the protection and preservation of our member’s property and homes With these Articles, we charge Berry Petroleum to fulfill its obligation of due regard and accommodation under the laws of Texas and the commonly accepted moral principles given to us by God. Berry Petroleum’s actions in Gardendale will permanently alter our land, our homes, and will impact not only our lives but the lives of our heirs. Berry Petroleum will be judged by history to be a company that behaved justly, compassionately and improved our community while performing its business, or, as a heartless corporation motivated solely by profit to the detriment of the citizens of Gardendale. To date, Berry Petroleum is on its way to becoming a curse word in Gardendale. This can be changed. We urge Berry Petroleum to adopt these Articles and change the die that has been, either intentionally or unintentionally, cast.




(1)    Jesus Luke 12:48

(2)    Gardendale “Accountability” Debate Continues After CBS 7 Report 8/25/11 (CBS7 report, Beau Berman, reporter)

(3)    Controversy Over Drilling Continues in Gardendale (CBS7 Report 8/23/11 Beau Berman, reporter)


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