How Big Oil Plans to Win Ugly in New York
Leaked Transcript from PR Maven Shows Energy Companies will be Told to Make the Fight Against Fracking Opponents Personal
Date Written: 2014-11-12
Year Published: 2014
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX16916
A PR firm well known for its hardball tactics in defense of Big Tobacco will deliver the keynote address at tonight’s Independent Oil and Gas Association conference.
A PR firm well known for its hardball tactics in defense of Big Tobacco will deliver the keynote address at tonight’s Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York’s (IOGA-NY) annual conference in Buffalo. The same talk titled, “Big Green Radicals: Exposing Environmental Groups,” was presented at the Western Energy Alliance annual meeting in Colorado this summer.
n anti-fracking rally in front of the New York State Assembly in Albany in 2013. Berman and Company’s strategy fails to recognize that long before celebrities were touring gas fields, local landowners, farmers, and activists had already started asking questions about the merits of fracking.
Anti-fracking groups in Buffalo plan to protest outside of the Hyatt Regency where the IOGA conference is being held. According to a press release from ReEnergize Buffalo, one of the organizers of the protest, “The oil and gas industry doesn’t have science behind them so companies resort to lies and innuendo invented by high-priced PR firms.”
The presentation before the Western Energy Alliance outlines a new ad campaign launched by Berman that seeks to undermine the anti-fracking movement by exposing the so-called double standards and hypocrisy of celebrities who have taken up the cause.
The campaign, funded by oil and gas companies (the presentation at these conferences is essentially a sales pitch), suggests that the anti-fracking movement takes its cues from mainstream environmental organizations in Washington and from the handful of celebrities who have gotten involved. What it fails to recognize is that long before Yoko Ono was touring the gas fields of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, local landowners, farmers, and activists had already started asking questions about the merits of fracking.
Last year, Control Risks, a British consulting firm published a report on the global anti-fracking movement and argued that the industry had misread the opposition. “The industry has underestimated the sophistication, reach and influence of the anti-fracking movement,” the authors wrote. “[It is] a diverse coalition of ideological and vested interests unlikely to be swayed by industry-funded studies or glossy public relations campaigns.”
So what makes Berman and Company think they can succeed where others have failed? Perhaps by making it personal and nastier. In other words launching a smear campaign targeting politicians and celebrities associated with the anti-fracking movement, which they hope will undermine their credibility and turn people away.
It’s unclear how such a dirty campaign would play out in New York. Fracking has been banned in the state for several years and in that time the opposition has built up a formidable network of supporters. In June the New York Court of Appeals upheld the right of municipalities in the state to ban drilling. According to the FracTracker Alliance, New York State communities have passed 80 bans, 100 moratoria, and 86 movements for fracking prohibitions. Only a handful of municipalities have passed resolutions supporting hydro fracking.
Carluccio of Delaware Riverkeeper is skeptical of Berman’s ability to change the terms of debate in New York and elsewhere. “I don’t think most people really expect celebrities to be part of the 99 percent and reject the trappings of success just because they may be philanthropists and activists. And do they really want to shine a light on double standards — how big oil and gas executives and energy CEOs live their lives? Turning the tables on corporations who cry the blues about having to pay taxes and fight any public policy that may cost them a dime, while they rake in profits, is too easy.”