Range Resources Fracking Exec Reportedly Admits Targeting the Poor, Because They Don’t Have ‘The Money To Fight’

Range Resources exec apologizes for remark about drilling locations by Anya Litvak, April 23, 2016, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Terry Bossert, a Range Resources Corp. executive whose remarks at an Environmental Law Form earlier this month caused a stir and raised questions about how the company selects its well locations, has written an open letter titled “A Driller’s apology.”

A Driller’s Apology – an open letter

Apr 21, 2016

A recent news story and opinion piece raise important concerns related to natural gas development. Any concerns that a stakeholder has on responsible gas development demand our attention, our time, and our commitment to address those concerns. As a newspaper editorial remarked, a Range employee offered a “quip” at a recent meeting – as the person who made the remarks let me apologize as my attempt to interject dry sarcasm was clearly a mistake.

As someone who has dedicated my professional life to environmental law and regulation in Pennsylvania, including having had the honor of serving as Chief Counsel to Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, I and my colleagues at Range Resources are keenly aware that site location – or where we drill for gas wells – is an important issue. Topography, geology, setback and zoning regulations, where we have leases, and individual lease terms all affects where we site our facilities. As I made clear in response to a follow up question about my remarks within those factors we always work hard to create the biggest buffer between our operations and all residents. Beyond that, we aim to work closely with communities to keep them informed and to mitigate inconveniences and alleviate concerns through in-person engagement; through local township processes; and through public outreach, including engagement through Community Advisory Panels in our core operating area. Range also participates with various NGOs, our peers, and universities
on working groups that specifically and critically examine drilling location siting. Above all else, we realize that there is always room for improvement.

It is unfortunate that my poor choice of words could call into question the unwavering commitment we have at Range in working with residents regardless of their economic means. Because we strongly agree with the editorial’s position that we must “ensure — and demonstrate to the public — that fundamental decency and fairness guide our operations.”

I hope that the way I attempted to communicate what we do, does not occupy the attention of engaged stakeholders to the exclusion of the hard work that the hundreds of men and women at Range perform to be good citizens and neighbors each and every day.

Terry R. Bossert Range Resources VP, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs

In it, the vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs apologized for his “attempt to interject dry sarcasm” into a presentation on oil and gas well siting. Several attorneys in the audience said Mr. Bossert indicated the company avoids placing wells near big homes where residents have enough money to fight the process.

Patrick Grenter, an attorney at the Center for Coalfield Justice in Washington, Pa., who attended the Pennsylvania Bar Institute event in Harrisburg and said he was the first to challenge Mr. Bossert after the presentation, isn’t buying the sarcasm angle.

“There was no ambiguity to his words at all,” Mr. Grenter said after reading the apology letter. “There was no joke. This was a remarkable statement in an otherwise unremarkable presentation.”

The Center for Coalfield Justice and several other environmental groups used the occasion of Mr. Bossert’s statement on well siting to urge the state Department of Environmental Protection to examine if there is environmental injustice in oil and gas siting decisions.

Mr. Bossert, who served at DEP’s chief counsel in the 1990s, reiterated in his letter on Thursday that Texas-based Range looks at a host of factors, including topography, geology, lease terms and zoning, when deciding where to build a well pad.

“It is unfortunate that my poor choice of words could call into question the unwavering commitment we have at Range in working with residents regardless of their economic means,” it stated.

A Range spokesman declined to comment further.

Logan Welde, an attorney with the Clean Air Council who was present at Mr. Bossert’s talk on April 6, said he wasn’t surprised by the sentiment of the comments, even if hearing them out loud was jarring.

Private companies regularly weigh “potential pitfalls” in their pursuit of success, he said.

“Avoiding potential and costly conflict is one of those,” he said. “One of the criteria in the analysis is likely what sort of opposition they’re going to face and if they can minimize it.”

Nor is this unique to Range or oil and gas companies in general, Mr. Welde said.

The burden of industrial activity always tends to fall disproportionately on communities with fewer resources, he said.

“This maybe even shouldn’t be about Terry Bossert’s comments,” he said. “Maybe the bigger story should be where is the DEP and Pennsylvania Legislature in protecting these communities.” [Emphasis added]

One of the comments:

Bob Donnan12 hours ago
Several parts of his apology letter could easily be challenged, but one really stuck out: “we always work hard to create the biggest buffer between our operations and all residents.”

Range was fined over $4-million by the Pa DEP for many of their leaky football field size impoundment dams across Washington County with unresolved lawsuits relating to at least two.

But regarding his quote, there was one huge frack pit Range sited directly behind a row of houses in Buffalo, Pa.

As one resident there said it best: “the smell was terrible. It smelled like gasoline and kerosene. I was breathing in these fumes and my son and I had headaches for a year. As time went on it got worse, the smell got stronger and stronger, and one night I couldn’t breathe.” Under widespread community and legal pressure Range finally closed that stink pit. Why would they ever have put it there in the first place?

Fracking Exec Reportedly Admits Targeting the Poor, Because They Don’t Have ‘The Money To Fight’ by Jessica Kozik, April 19, 2016, In These Times

2016 In These Times Rural America Logo

On Monday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported accounts of unusually candid comments by an oil and natural gas industry executive, Terry Bossert, at a Pennsylvania Bar Institute gathering in Harrisburg this April.

“We heard Range Resources say it sites its shale gas wells away from large homes where wealthy people live and who might have the money to fight such drilling and fracking operations,” stated an attendee.

Terry Bossert is vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs at Range Resources, a natural gas exploration and production company. Range Resources was the first to tap into Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, in 2004, kicking off the state’s current fracking boom. …

According to the Post-Gazette, several attorneys at the Harrisburg event, including Joanne Kilgour, director of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club, confirmed Bossert’s statements. Several attendees say they recall him prefacing the remarks with, “To be perfectly frank…”

To be perfectly frank, it sounds like oil and gas companies are taking advantage of the vulnerable.

That’s not news, although industry executives have never made their agenda this explicit. In a 2014 investigative report for In These Times, Hannah Guzik found that oil and gas operations in California are disproportionately located in poor and minority communities. An analysis by the nonprofit FracTracker Alliance conducted for the article determined that the 5 million Californians living within a mile of an oil or gas well had a poverty rate 32.5 percent higher than that of the general population. A related analysis for the Natural Resources Defense Council found that the majority of people living near wells in California are people of color. Guzik writes:

What all this means is that low-income communities of color are bearing the brunt of California’s oil industry—including its fracking experiments, which are poorly regulated and whose health impacts are largely unknown.

“It’s a civil rights issue,” says Abre’ Conner, the staff attorney at Kern County’s Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment. “When we look at where the fracking wells are being located, when we look at the health impacts across the state of California and really across the country, we see the same types of issues and the same types of disparities that we’ve seen with education and voting rights.”

… The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Center for Coalfield Justice and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club plan to request a state Office of Environmental Justice review of Range Resource’s drilling sites to determine whether the company selected poorer areas for fracking. [Emphasis added]

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