Synergy Strikes Again: Pa landowners harmed by fracking get synergized, change tone, get bought, and work towards indoctrinating others into thinking being poisoned by fracking is good

MUST READ: Transcript: Results of ethics complaint against AP reporter Kevin Begos by TXSHARON, OCTOBER 19, 2013, Blue Daze

Some Landowners harmed by fracking n Pa. change their tone, let themselves get bought by Associated Press, October 6, 2013,
Now some critics are doing what was once unthinkable: working with the industry. Some are even signing lucrative gas leases and speaking about the environmental benefits of gas. In one northeastern Pennsylvania village that became a global flashpoint in the debate over fracking, the switch has raised more than a few eyebrows. A few weeks ago, Victoria Switzer and other activists from Dimock endorsed a candidate for governor who supports natural gas production from gigantic reserves like the Marcellus Shale, albeit with more regulation and new taxes. … “We had to work with the industry. There is no magic wand to make this go away,” said Switzer, who recently formed a group that seeks to work with drillers on improved air quality standards. “Tunnel vision isn’t good. Realism is good.”

For Switzer, the endorsement was a nod to reality; for some of her onetime allies, a betrayal. … Plenty of anti-drilling activists still want nothing to do with the industry and continue to call for a ban on fracking…. But Pennsylvania residents concerned about drilling no longer have the luxury of simply calling for a ban, Switzer said. Not with the Pennsylvania and West Virginia portions of the Marcellus already yielding more than $10 billion worth of gas annually, making it the nation’s most prolific gas field. “It’s in full swing, and it’s simplistic to think you could just tell them all to stop,” said Rebecca Roter, another Pennsylvania activist. [Emphasis added]

Some landowners harmed by fracking change tactics, tone by Kevin Begos and Michael Rubinkam, October 06, 2013, Business Week
Now some critics are doing what was once unthinkable: working with the industry. Some are even signing lucrative gas leases and speaking about the environmental benefits of gas. In one northeastern Pennsylvania village that became a global flashpoint in the debate over fracking, the switch has raised more than a few eyebrows. A few weeks ago, Victoria Switzer and other activists from Dimock endorsed a candidate for governor who supports natural gas production from gigantic reserves like the Marcellus Shale, albeit with more regulation and new taxes.

It was Gov. Peter Shumlin who, in early 2012, signed the nation’s first statewide fracking ban. But now he’s promoting the economic benefits of natural gas. Last month, Shumlin spoke out in favor of a $90 million expansion of the state’s natural gas pipeline system — which will transport fracked gas — saying the project was critical to industry, the environment and people who are struggling to pay energy bills.

Some drilling critics, meanwhile, have become reluctant partners with an industry they dislike. Robert Donnan had been an outspoken critic of drilling in general and Range Resources, the company that sunk the first Marcellus well in 2004, in particular. In February, he leased his land to Range, according to public documents obtained by The Associated Press. Donnan didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did members of the group to which he belongs, Marcellus Protest, whose stated goal is to “stop the destruction of our environment and communities caused by Marcellus drilling.” But one of Donnan’s cousins said family members felt they had little real choice, considering their 296-acre property southwest of Pittsburgh is already surrounded by drilling. “The choice is either sign the lease and have some control, or don’t sign and have no control” over what happens in the area, said Geoffrey Smith, adding the family will still keep an eye on everything the drillers do. “We’re watching for any spills, any violation of the lease, for any hanky-panky with the money,” said Smith, who praised his cousin for keeping the industry’s “feet to the fire” on environmental issues.

Donnan is still speaking out, too. In the spring, he published a letter to the editor saying “gas production is filthy business.” He also denounced drilling at a public forum in Pittsburgh — though without telling the audience he had signed a lease. Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the company views Donnan’s decision to sign a lease after years of criticizing the industry “as an endorsement” of drilling, since he’s clearly aware of the risks involved.

Some environmental groups are seeking to partner with the industry in a different way. In southwestern Pennsylvania, environmentalists recently joined charitable foundations and major oil and gas companies to form the Center for Sustainable Shale Development, which aims to protect air and water from pollution in the Appalachian region. And in Illinois, industry and environmental groups worked together to support a bill on fracking that both sides could support. That’s similar to what Switzer is trying to accomplish in Dimock, the tiny crossroads where pro- and anti-drilling forces descended after state regulators held a gas driller responsible for contaminating residential water supplies with methane. More than a year after Switzer and other residents settled their lawsuit against Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., the rancor has mostly subsided. And Switzer settled on a new approach to the industry that she calls her “landlord.” “You have to sit down and not be the enemy,” she said. This year, Switzer and Roter co-founded Breathe Easy Susquehanna County, an organization that seeks to persuade companies to use advanced technologies to limit emissions. The group has won plaudits for its non-confrontational style. It’s a small, quiet effort to set aside philosophical differences over the wisdom of natural gas production and focus on how the negative impacts can be minimized. The group has even attracted pro-drilling residents who had clashed with Switzer and others who spoke out against the industry. Switzer and Roter said it’s time to move past the pro-gas, anti-gas dichotomy. The reality, they point out, is that thousands of wells have already been drilled, new compressor stations are going up and pipelines are being laid. At Breathe Easy, Roter said, “we decided our first goal was to make concern about air quality mainstream as mainstream as going to church in this rural county.” [Emphasis added]

Synergy Transforms Regulatory Foes Into Friends – When It Works by Oil and Gas Inquirer, November 2006

2013 10 07 screen capture Synergy Alberta 2006 article

The Tay River Advisory Committee – a recently-formed synergy group in the foothills — aims at easing potential frictions in the development of a sour gas discovery. Near Caroline, however, the Butte Action Committee has failed to staunch a dispute over a shallow gas well along the Medicine River. Judy Winter, a farmer, retired teacher and synergy pioneer, says the two cases illustrate the goals as well as the limits of co-operation and neighbourly compromise.

At its core, synergy refers to people from various sides of an issue voluntarily working out a mutually acceptable solution. More than 60 local groups are active in Alberta, including Calgary and Edmonton, and the number continues to grow. At the end of October, Winter (shown here, on the left) was mistress of ceremonies for the three-day founding conference of Synergy Alberta. The non-profit organization, incorporated this summer, will provide training and other support to the province-wide movement.

Although sparked initially by local activism, synergy has acquired heavyweight backing. In particular, this approach is endorsed by the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB), which provides funding for Synergy Alberta. So do the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Landmen. “For synergy to succeed, everyone must recognize that the others have a right to participate in the decision-making process,” Winter explains. “We try to think as a community, to move away from an ‘us versus them’ attitude. For example, the individuals involved in a discussion should sit at a round table. And I always insist that we eat together.”

Human details are important, says the mother of four, who has spent a lifetime coping with hormone-riddled junior high students and obstreperous cattle. In 1999, she co-founded the Butte Action Committee, triggered by a Petro-Canada application to withdraw groundwater for oilfield injection. “The earlier synergy groups, like ours, grew out of conflicts with oil and gas producers,” Winter says. “Now some committees are forming to address problems before they become confrontations.”

The Tay River committee is taking that pro-active approach. Off-road vehicle enthusiasts and green lobby groups – two factions prone to mutual loathing — discuss minimizing the human footprint in the district. Shell Canada and other producers are learning from trappers how to best avoid disrupting their livelihoods. Similarly, hunting guides let energy operators know when and where their high-paying clients will be looking for that prize buck. Other insights come from the Sunchild First Nation and provincial regulatory representatives.
“Shell, Talisman, Husky and other producers hope to be active in this area for at least 30 years,” Winter comments. As majors, they can afford to invest time and money to avoid the delay and expense of potential regulatory battles. The farmer concedes that smaller producers have fewer resources for synergistic work but she maintains that failure to co-operate will often mean higher costs in the long run.
After drilling an appraisal well, Shell recently reduced its estimate of the gas in place in the Tay River structure to 250 billion cu. ft. from its original assessment of 500-800 bcf. Even so, the company continues to explore for other Leduc reef opportunities in the central Alberta region.

Further east, groundwater has sparked a regulatory showdown between Intrepid Energy Corporation and two families backed by the Butte Action Committee. Intrepid, a privately-held junior, is applying to the EUB for a license to drill a sweet shallow gas target (13-18-36-1W5M) in the Tindastoll field. If the first probe proves successful, two more wells could follow on an adjacent property, with spacing of four wells per section.

Winter says the sweet gas well would penetrate an ample shallow aquifer which flows into the Medicine River, a tributary of the Red Deer River. “A frac could damage the aquifer by creating communication with other zones. We don’t want to risk losing that water,” the action group leader comments. Intrepid refused to participate in the synergy process. Matters weren’t helped when Winter received an email from the Calgary-based company complete with cursing.
Bernie Goruk, Intrepid’s senior vice-president of engineering and operations, acknowledges that a rude email, unacceptable even as an internal corporate memo, was accidentally forwarded to Judy Winter. “We’ve apologized to her and internal discipline has been applied,” he says. The EUB reviewed the incident; Neil McCrank, the board’s chairman, wrote that “it is important not to assume this indiscretion by an individual translates into corporate policy or indifference to the public or regulation by the company.”

From: “Paul Mortensen” <email hidden; JavaScript is required>
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2006 7:26 AM
Subject: RE: Objection 13227 Intrepid Tinda 13-18-36-1 W5 Well Licence Application # 1451992

Frankly, the Butte (fu….) Action committee can go fuck themselves. I am
not wasting any time on this response since I do not have time. I am not
meeting with them.

Goruk stresses that his firm believes in the concept of social co-operation. “For instance, we belong to the Pembina-Nisku Operators Group. And we would be more than willing to participate in any Caroline area forum if it includes all producers. Naturally, the Butte Action Committee should participate in any discussion that addresses the intensity of development across the area.”

However, the company views its application to drill three shallow Tindastoll wells as a small-scale matter which should involve specific landowners only. If this was an application for a sour gas well with a number of families living inside the Emergency Planning Zone, Goruk comments, then involving a synergy group would make more sense.

“We don’t think the Butte Action Committee qualifies in this case as an affected party under the EUB guidelines,” he argues. The EUB itself has not granted intervenor status to the committee. Intrepid offered to go through an alternative dispute resolution process recommended by the EUB but it became clear that one landowner would oppose drilling under any circumstances whatever. With all other options exhausted, the EUB will schedule a public hearing early next year to consider the Intrepid application.

Goruk himself, working with his father and brother, happens to raise canola and barley along the Medicine River. The family’s land is located around six miles upstream of the proposed Tindastoll wellsite. By rural standards, the disputants are neighbours. “When ConocoPhillips applied to drill a well on our property, we had the same concerns as any farmer about noise, smell and water,” the Intrepid operations chief says. In its Tindastoll application, the company has attempted to address those “valid and serious” questions.

Goruk believes the following points are relevant to this drilling application:

  • The shallow well will be drilled with tried and true precautions to protect and seal off the aquifer.
  • Any frac will be small and, at 350 metres or deeper, safely below the depth of the aquifer.
  • A well has already been drilled by another company about one mile to the west. Similar aquifers and wells are common in the area.

Higher density shallow gas drilling has occurred for decades in water-poor southeastern Alberta with no ill effects to aquifers. While acreage owners and farmers in west central Alberta may be less familiar with the practice, they have no special reason for concern. Goruk is sympathetic to landowner concerns about cumulative environmental and social effects in a district like Caroline or Tay River. He suggests that assessments of those impacts are best addressed by industry associations, not an individual producer like Intrepid. Further, he says that consistent standards and stewardship must apply to forestry, agriculture, tourism, construction and all other activities, not just to energy development.

Winter, a realist (as any cow-calf operator must be to survive), recognizes that some disputes will have to be settled through the EUB’s quasi-judicial authority. But wherever possible, she prefers the gentler technique of mutual influence and voluntary agreement. “The synergy process is really rewarding at an individual level,” the former teacher says. “Instead of crossing the street to avoid someone, you find yourself becoming friends.”

[Refer also to:

Jessica Ernst on Synergy Alberta, at Whitehorse, Yukon, September 22, 2013 1:18 Min. by ZET Group, January 25, 2013
Jessica Ernst clarifies that synergy consultations have the purpose of brainwashing everybody all the while gas [and oil] fracking proceeds like crazy until its too late for people to do something about it.

Source of above screen capture: Synergy Alberta

Above two slides from Ernst presentation September 22, 2012, Whitehorse, Yukon

Slide from Chapter on Synergy Alberta Ernst Presentation to Eagle Hill Alberta, March 15, 2012

2013 10 07 Synergy Alberta Board of Directors Industry Reps Only Encana Shell and CAPP

Industry representation on Synergy Alberta’s Board of Directors is only Encana, Shell and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). CAPP is largely controlled by Shell and Encana; the Alberta Energy Regulator’s current Chair, Gerard Protti, founded and chaired CAPP for years, handed over the reins to Shell, and was VP of Encana.

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