Your not-so-friendly neighborhood oil and gas industry

There sometimes seems to be an undercurrent here of the idea that environmental groups are rich bullies, and extractive industries are working for the common good, or at least are benign.   Here’s some evidence otherwise regarding the latter.

One of the industry tactics is SLAPPs, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, wherein corporations try to intimidate their opponents by filing truly frivolous lawsuits – that they can afford but the defendant can’t. Matthew posted about one involving a forest products company here.

But your friendly oil and gas industry seems to be a leader in this field. Meaning that when you pay for your heat and transportation you’re also paying for this; “Using lawsuits to shut people up has long been a part of the oil industry’s playbook…”  They lost a notable case recently when they sued youth groups (among others) after the groups won protections against neighborhood oil drilling in Los Angeles.

Many states have passed legislation to prevent this kind of intimidation of free speech, and a proposal is pending in Colorado, as described here, by an anti-drilling activist who has been SLAPPed:

I accept the urgency of climate change, and I am a proud advocate for our public lands. Many here agree with me, and together we have stood up to limit oil and gas development from expanding across the national forest and BLM lands.

The particulars of my case are unimportant here, although they can be easily researched. And I have already been found by a Colorado District Court to not have committed any actionable offense, and also awarded attorney fees for the “frivolous” and “vexatious” complaint made against me.

But all that is under appeal, and so I am still, over two years later, unduly burdened by and defending myself against this action.

Free speech is protected in our republic for good reason. Citizen input is grist for the mill of representational democracy. Dialogue and debate is a plus in pluralistic society. And this value is shared by Americans across the political spectrum. Free Speech allows people to participate robustly in government, speak truth to power, and to challenge the status quo.

4 thoughts on “Your not-so-friendly neighborhood oil and gas industry”

  1. Jon, that’s kind of a strange argument against an entire industry.. plenty of people say far worse things every day about that industry.. a Facebook post? That was silly and unnecessary on the company’s part but I don’t think there’s much fear of it “chilling public discourse.”

    BTW the Colorado State Legislature just voted on tightening oil and gas restrictions so…
    Similar to the Resolute case, I don’t think it’s fair to tar an entire industry by one member’s activities. Just as we would never equate say, WEG and EDF, or TU and TRCP.

    As to bullying, I am all for developing one definition that we could apply to anyone or any group’s behavior.

  2. Actually my neighborhood oil and gas industry has been freindly. My first inkling that this might be the case was when my kid brought home a very nice hard cover “learner’s dictionary” that the local company had given all the kids in the school. Later my youngest was in a program paid for by the oil company where kids walked/ran for measured distances and earned points and prizes after school. Sounds silly but then at least they were making an effort. Later I started getting emails informing me with specifics of any drilling or fracking activity within a couple miles of my home. Emails were sent before work was begun, when it was occuring, and after it was completed.

    Later I wasn’t surprised to learn the company was subsidising a large and extensive study done by our state university in cooperation with our state fish and wildlife department. The study was measuring the spatial effects of drilling and ongoing production and truck traffic on mule deer in the Piceance Basin. The study assumed there would be disruption, what they wanted to do was measure the different distances surrounding the various types of activities and to measure prenatal differences between disturbed and undisturbed populations. Unsurprisingly that oil company also allows hunters unfettered access to the extensive leased and owned lands they have in that area.

    Contrast that with the infamous groups of your links, Greenpeace (charged with piracy) and the CBD, who paid a six figure settlement for lying in court and has made a cottage industry out of frivolous lawsuits harassing the USFWS.

    It’s no wonder that dirty extraction industries enjoy as much support as they do, when environmental extremists make such an effort to be confrontational and bothersome.

  3. Som raises an interesting question. Why would you believe what people (that is people you don’t know and you have no reason to trust) tell you about the oil and gas industry over your own experience and that of your neighbors who work for them? That’s like believing what Augustine of Hippo says about God over your own observation, an argument of authority.

    If we look at the counties that voted against 112 (an anti oil and gas initiative in Colorado) that didn’t pass
    We find that where there is most drilling, there was least support for the initiative. In the media, this was expressed as …
    Venal people in those counties want the money and jobs.
    O&G spent more and those $ were effective.

    But I never saw a story that interviewed people who said “hey, we all use cars and heat our houses and we gotta get it from somewhere. Plus they are in our community and seem to be OK. And my neighbor works there and cares about the environment.”

    It’s interesting that the state legislature just passed an anti oil and gas measure (that some say goes against the spirit of the voters in rejecting the initiative,) and also voted to reduce regulations on marijuana (which in Colorado uses massive amounts of energy, provided by .. you guessed it.. fossil fuels) and is known to have health and environmental impacts.

    In Colorado it seems like we are fairly uniquely provided with a bunch of industries who have health and environmental impacts, but the powers that be go after some and not others. I don’t know how many people feel this way, but could also be a reason that people were against the initiative. Why aren’t we more consistent about regulating our industries? What’s that about?

  4. SS: I’m sure they’re friendly when it pays to be friendly, such as buying support. I don’t know a lot about Geenpeace, but a search for CBD and “frivolous” doesn’t turn up anything interesting. CBD has said “If we file a frivolous lawsuit, we do not get paid.”

    S: I think it makes a difference that the marijuana industry is not operating (legally) on public lands.


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