Environment

Revealed: Confidential Document Shows Oil Company's Strategy to Con Landowners into Giving up Drilling Rights

Want to see a page (or 5) right out of the oil industry's playbook?

AlterNet recently received a document through a tip that appears to be right out of the playbook of an oil company. The document lays out the strategy for their field agents to convince landowners to give up drilling rights -- despite how risky this may be for the landowners. We're working on verifying its authenticity, but wanted to give our readers a chance to take a look and make your own assessment. (You can read the whole document here.) We’re not sure yet if this did indeed come from a gas company, nor which one, but if so, the information sure is damning.

Called, "Talking Points for Selling Oil and Gas Lease Rights," the document begins by saying it is designed for Field Agents to outline what to say to commonly asked questions, and more importantly, how to avoid answering the hard ones. And it cautions, "Remember, if at all possible try not to deliberately mislead the landowner, that only makes our position harder to defend at a later date." Right -- that gets a little less believable as you read on.

Here's more -- everything in quotes is straight out of the document.

Don't give them time to think: "It is critical to obtain a lease signature in the first meeting, or at least the agreement to sign and take the lease to a notary. Drive them to the notary if you have to."

Avoid talking about the environment! "At any point in the pitch if talk turns to local issues, environmental hazards, etc.. a good way to re-direct the conversation is to re-engage over the nation's energy needs and the desire to be oil self-reliant."

Whatever you do, don't let them talk about fracking: "Hydraulic Fracturing, 'Fracing" - This technique to develop gas resources is coming under scrutiny, both in the mainstream media with articles appearing in the New York Times, and even in Hollywood with the movie "Gasland." Expect questions on this topic and be ready to diffuse land owner concerns."

Really, really avoid talking about fracking: "If anyone knows about slick water fracturing, avoid the topic DO not discuss the chemicals and other material used during slick water fracturing. The best strategy is to say that the chemical mixtures used are proprietary and are highly diluted with water when injected. Reassure landowners that no well contamination has ever been documented. Do not mention water contamination in Pennsylvania."

Truck traffic is awesome: "Just tell landowners the more trucks, the more royalties. Money will normally deflect most arguments."

So what if it's noisy: "If pressed for details tell them we monitor noise to ensure it is approximately 80 db at 200 feet. They will likely not understand the details, and will not admit that the technical data means little to them. Do not compare it to anything tangible, like train noise or airplane noise. Stick with the numbers, they provide the truth but make it hard to understand the exact implication."

Denial is a river in drilling country: "Some might ask how many wells will be in a square mile. Don't answer that question. Most landowners will not realize that 10-20 wells can be placed in a square mile."

Don't worry about water: "Residential owners will not know that we pull water directly from the local aquifer.”

What radioactivity? “ENSURE you tell the landowner that we use NO RADIOACTIVE materials. The radioactivity comes from natural sources in the ground and is released by the process, but don't tell them this. Most landowners will not know."

The value of your home is not important: "Multiple studies have shown that property values decrease for land with oil and gas leases on the property. Avoid this topic. Some major banks have stopped issuing mortgages on properties with leases for mineral and oil/gas rights, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and other large financial institutions. This is a no-win discussion point. "

Did I mention to avoid fracking?"The overall plan is to drill exploratory wells, and then use more advanced techniques to get at the small oil pockets we find. This will require multiple well heads, where we pump in high volume of water and chemicals, much the same manner as in the fracing process. DO NOT DISCUSS this point. We want no correlation between fracing and enhanced oil recovery processes."

Whatever you do, don't talk to women: "Men are more likely to sign than women. Men don't like to believe that you know more than they do, so they are also less likely to ask questions. In the state of Ohio the husband can sign the lease without spousal permission. Go that route if required. Tell them it is their decision. Write the lease agreement with only the husband's name on the paperwork. This will make it more likely that they will sign alone. Men are also more conservative, and more likely to want oil and energy independence. Women will have more concern for the environment and will challenge you more often. Knowing who to approach can seal the sale."

Still not willing to sign? "Tell the landowner that all their neighbors have signed. Even if the neighbors have not, this often will push an undecided landowner in favor of signing."

Bottom line? "The most important thing is to obtain the signed lease. Modifications can be made later if necessary. A signed lease is often enough to leverage a modification at a later date."

Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet and editor of the new book Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.