The Daily Review, a Towanda, Pennsylvania newspaper, printed a truly regrettable editorial in their April 12 edition. It was titled, astonishingly, “Give gas firms a decent chance to do right thing.” I didn’t know such naivete was still possible. And I can’t say I can remember ever seeing such smarmy pathos in an editorial.
The people of Bradford County, fortunately, are way smarter than their newspaper’s editorial board. You can read their comments, as well as the editorial, here: http://www.thedailyreview.com/articles/2009/04/12/editorial/tw_review.20090412.a.pg4.tw12edit_s1.2440910_edi.txt
This comment stood out:
“Finally, this editorial has opened up a topic of interest to me. Trust. I do not trust Chesapeake Energy. Its less than stellar corporate reputation is reported on regularly by local and national news media, and CHK has done several things to reinforce this reputation since they’ve been in Bradford County. CHK, as a company, is a warrior which uses its well-honed public relations as a shield, and lawyers as its legal gun-wielding army. Every contract presented has legal wording which are the equivalent of burdocks and oil. The burdocks are there so that the contract sticks to you if they want it to, but the oil is there so that CHK can slip out at their discretion. How many people last year thought they had a lease with CHK, just to find that they didn’t? In how many cases did independent landmen (not CHK, of course) lie, evade, or misrepresent facts in order to get a signed lease for CHK’s benefit?
“I went to the March 5th CHK presentation in Athens and was impressed by the people I met.
One of the reasons that I was impressed by the CHK people was that from my corporate training of many years, I recognize consummate professionals upon sight, and the group fit the bill perfectly.
“When I came home I did a little research, and found out why the image had been so impressive. Two of the individuals were media professionals, having worked until just a few years ago for the prestigious Charles Ryan Associates in Charleston. One of these individuals plus another who will be coming to Towanda as the Central Bradford Progress Authority dinner speaker on April 16th are registered lobbyists in the state of West Virginia representing Chesapeake. These are people who are both media and law savvy. Nothing wrong with this, but the average resident in Bradford County needs to know the level of skill and experience of the persons he is working with.
“I found the third individual truly humorous and likeable. He explained that he had previously worked for Columbia Natural Resources and was absorbed into Chesapeake along with the office furniture. After my research, I learned that he, along with Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon, spoke at the glitzy, WV governor-attended 8/23/07 Chesapeake announcement of its planned Charleston WV Eastern Regional HQ building which was an investment of 40 million dollars in Charleston WV. But something bad happened. On May 22nd, 2008, the full verdict including financial damages were announced for Chesapeake’s loss of a WV Supreme Court Case over cheating landowners out of royalties (which it took liability for when it bought out CNR). On May 29th, only seven days later, the true nature of CHK was apparent when its CEO Aubrey McClendon announced that CHK axed the plans for the eastern regional headquarters as a result of the outcome of the state Supreme Court case. Vindictive behavior, no apologies, true reason revealed. CHK knows that the money it has can buy justice, and if it doesn’t, it will retaliate. No big surprise, then, that on 3/2/09, just a few days before the Athens CHK public meeting, CHK announced cutting out 215 jobs in Charleston and demoting the Charleston regional corporate headquarters to a regional field office. Further retaliation against a state government that was clearly not influenced by money.
“On 3/5/09 in Athens, the professional faces of the CHK trio showed no hint of emotion at the CHK Charleston job cuts which must have been troubling them. Even the humorous fellow, a Charleston native who had been inherited by CHK along with the CNR landowner royalty-cheating liability and the office furniture, who had been involved in proudly announcing the Eastern Regional HQ building in his hometown, who had lived through the axing of the building and now was surviving the axing of the jobs, kept his mask on securely. Only 3 days after the public announcement, any pain he or the others must have felt masked by professionalism, the CHK media show at Athens went on flawlessly. Good corporate soldiers doing battle on the front line for a flawed Napoleonic leader.
“Just axing the building plans and jobs isn’t enough for a vindictive CHK CEO. In 2007, a CHK cheap shot against WV had been made in the early days of the lawsuit, this one against hopeful royalty owners. Here’s a quote I picked up from the net.
“’We’re just finishing up the first large three-dimension seismic survey ever shot in West Virginia which, ironically is in Roane County (the county where the lawsuit was filed originally),’ McClendon said. ‘So we’re kind of scratching our heads about what to do with it. We own most of this acreage already — it’s called ‘held by production by shallower wells,’ he said. ‘So in terms of timing, if we want to sit on this for the next 20 or 30 years, we can certainly do that. I’m not willing at this point to commit to a big new exploration program in the state of West Virginia when I don’t know how the leases that I’ve inherited are going to be interpreted by judges across the state.’
“A comment on a fourth fellow at the 3/5/09 meeting, who presented himself as the new CHK local Tunkhannock recruit. A former Chief of Staff to Lisa Baker, he has a long resume of PA state government experiences. CHK has a desire to manage its relationship with state governments productively. I am sure his contacts will be useful to CHK. The only PA lobbyist I could find listed for Chesapeake in PA is a Robert J. Wilson of the Sandstone Group out of Kansas. I have to wonder whether Chesapeake has some new local lobbyists in mind? Now that same local fellow is recommending that we don’t post and bond. I am left wondering why. What is in it for CHK? I only know, I cannot recognize the burdocks and oil in a legal document. The army of CHK lawyers, armed with their legal guns, will insure that you don’t win. I’ve come to the conclusion that it almost doesn’t matter what the document you sign with CHK says. Their army of lawyers can twist and spin words and meanings, and CHK will win in any case brought against them. And if they don’t, they’ll be hell to pay.
“The plans for the prestigious Charleston Eastern Regional Headquarters are probably still available on their award winning architect’s shelf. If Bradford County cozies up to CHK enough, and the state of PA does likewise, maybe someone can convince CHK to plunk the building down in Towanda on Main Street in the borough-owned lot next to C&N. What a feather in our cap that would be! Maybe that’s what the Central Bradford Progress Authority has in mind as it cozies up to CHK at Thursday night’s annual dinner. Only time will tell.
“Chesapeake’s ethical position is self-expressed in great detail on its website. CHK gives money to good community causes and uses lots of media savvy and more money to shore up its reputation. It’s true reputation, however, leaves much to be desired. And I will not be so trusting as to lower my guard.”