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Winning And Losing Hearts And Minds

Monday, December 05, 2011

Powerful plus smart equals dangerous.

The Marcellus Shale natural gas industry is all three.

Industry executives all but own the Pennsylvania governor’s office, the state Senate and the state House of Representatives. They have ingratiated themselves to the high and mighty of government, business and community. They write countless checks, smile for the camera and promise us everything. But even the most powerful people can sometimes be too smart for their own good. And that can spell disaster.

I’m not predicting doom in the gas fields but trouble already has erupted in the shape of spills, infrastructure damage, worker arrests and other dysfunction that seriously hurts people and threatens to derail the much-promised progress in economically impaired areas of Pennsylvania.

Still, the shale proponents are on the move.

They even sucked me into their massive public relations machine.

The following appeared last week on the Marcellus Shale Coalition website: “Reinforcing the natural gas industry’s commitment to growing jobs while protecting our environment and strengthening our nation’s energy security, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) took to the Scranton-area airwaves and opinion pages in the run up to the President’s visit today to highlight the fact that clean-burning American natural gas development, and the robust supply chain of small- and medium-sized businesses that supports this critical work, are a solution to our nation’s economic challenges.

“Last night, MSC President Kathryn Klaber appeared on WILK-FM’s “Corbett’s Corner” program. Host Steve Corbett notes that he’s “watched with amazement at how proficient the Marcellus Shale Coalition has been in basically winning the hearts and minds of a lot of people in Pennsylvania,” as the industry continues to help put tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians to work at a time when jobs are most needed. Following are key remarks from Klaber’s interview, which is available online here:

• “The reason we’re so excited to have [the President] come talk about jobs is that you really can’t talk about job creation and relative unemployment rate, still far too high but a couple points lower than it would be otherwise, but for the operation of this industry. The [Pa.] Department of Labor and Industry has really upped their quantitative analysis of this. There are over 200,000 jobs now that they attribute to the activities of this industry, both direct and indirect jobs. And then also those jobs that are happening in communities that are seeing benefits.”

• “[Northeast Pennsylvania’s] area of the Marcellus development is an incredibly important one given the quality of the gas and the companies who have really put down roots there and are working on not just building the next well pad right, but putting the processes and infrastructure that’s going to stand the test of time, from roads to gathering lines. I can’t say were done in any way shape or form. We have so much more to do.”

• “[The President] talked about in March equating jobs in the natural gas industry with the resource that is ‘literally underneath our feet,’ as he put it. He absolutely sees the connection, and I would say that job issues are absolutely not partisan. And some of our biggest challenges still lay ahead, regardless of who’s in the majority in the states that we operate, or in Washington, DC. We’ve got to do it right. And Republicans and Democrats should hold the industry accountable for protecting the environment. That’s not a partisan issue.” "

I purposely told Klaber that I was indeed amazed at how proficient the Marcellus people have been in winning the hearts and minds of a lot of people in Pennsylvania.

But they broke a lot of hearts as well.

The industry hustlers are as driven as any political foe I have ever encountered. That’s why the relatively small group of committed activists who want to hold shale industry executives and their political benefactors accountable must make up their minds to ramp up their protest through direct action and increasingly loud voices. That’s why an “Occupy Dimock” movement must be established if only to set up one tent on somebody’s land as a symbolic “Alamo” against the attack of deregulation and self-serving corporate interest that threatens the water, air and countryside.

As much as any industry that successfully peddles political influence and controls democracy, the shale industry exerts massive power over the electoral process. Massive campaign contributions, slick lobbyists and aggressive special interest lawyers all convene under one big business banner as they march through village after village, winning the hearts and minds of those people to whom I referred.

They comprise a global foe in the fight for clean air, water, land and good health that is tough for the locals and their allies to face. But people who endorse a safe, sound quality of rural life must face them. Sadly, national and international environmental activists come and go depending on their own special interests. They, too, will use Dimock for their own purposes. Try getting Robert F. Kennedy Jr. or even his PR person on the phone as I unsuccessfully tried to do after his one visit to Dimock a couple of years ago.

Klaber is far more accessible.

Public perception is how revolutions are won and lost.

Hearts and minds, too.

Just don’t burn the village to save it.

Tags :  
Locations : PennsylvaniaWashington, Dc
People : Kathryn KlaberRobert F. Kennedy Jr.Steve Corbett

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