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For a long time, the hydraulic fracturing-enabled drilling industry has been fighting a war to be accepted in communities around the country.

They've been losing the war.

That is, the more they've operated, the more they've polluted, and the worse name they've received.  Thanks to the good work of community groups, Josh Fox, DeSmogBlog, ProPublica, the New York Times, and many, many others, the word has gotten out that you allow the drilling industry into your community at the peril of your drinking water, clean air, and the very fabric of your community.

So industry was (and still is) faced with a choice:

  • Start acting as a good neighbor really would and behave responsibly by — keeping the community fully informed, proactively, about what you're doing; seeking to comply, not evade environmental laws that do (and should) apply to gas drilling and production, etc.,


  • Double down on fighting the war

With the Media & Stakeholder Relations Hydraulic Fracturing 2011 Initiative, held 10/31 & 11/1 in Houston, the fracking industry chose the latter.

We know this because Earthworks sent our Texas/Gulf Regional Organizer Sharon Wilson (of Bluedaze fame) to the conference as a paid attendee, openly and honestly, to listen to what they had to say.

What she learned: the fracking industry regards the fight to get access to communities as a real war, not a figurative one.  And they are acting accordingly.  As reported in today's CNBC story, Oil Executive: Military-Style 'Psy Ops' Experience Applied, industry PR heads recommend employing the tactics of the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Manual.  They also recommend (and do) employ ex-military “psy-ops” personnel on the ground within communities.  In other words, the fracking industry is using tactics developed to wage war on our nation's enemies on the communities they want to drill.

As Sharon put it, “they view this as an occupation.”

And occupiers, all protestations to the contrary, are not neighbors. Not even bad ones.  They are adversaries.

Stay tuned: There is more to this story, and to what Sharon discovered while attending the fracking industry's PR conference.

UPDATE: A reminder that communities have been experiencing these tactics on the ground for years.  The only thing new here is that they've admitted it publicly.  For example, earlier this year This American Life did an excellent piece on Pennsylvania's experience with fracking — including “divide and conquer” tactics at the community level.

UPDATE 2: On 11/9, DeSmogBlog posted a lengthy discussion of what psychological operations are how they're being used in our communities.