(I was going to write a Light Up The Delaware River Party wrap-up today but seeing as how photos and stories are still coming in, I’ll wait a few days.)
Dear Drilling Companies That Are Eying Sullivan County (Part 2):
I promised yesterday to provide you with a short primer on “How to organize a 330-mile party in under five weeks for less than $1,000” so, gather round.
(Oh good! Mobil-Exxon’s with us today. Welcome, welcome!)
1. The first thing you need when trying to organize a community is a good idea. It should be easily explained and understood and it should include a component of fun. (Your idea for filling the shale bed with toxic chemicals and consequently polluting the land and water is easily enough understood and explained but honestly, the “fun” piece is missing.) For instance, my idea for Lighting Up The Delaware River Party came from Gandhi leading the Indian people to the sea to make salt. He wanted them to reclaim their resources and the strength that comes from working shoulder-to-shoulder in an act of solidarity. So we started with that idea and added puppets, songs, movies, dance, poetry, a canoe regatta, campfires, kayaking. It was a blast!
What’s the genesis of your idea? This is important! When I asked one of your spokespeople outside the July 15, 2009 DRBC hearing if he’d be willing to put your toxic chemicals in an impermeable container and then place them in his child’s glass of water, he said, “No!” without hesitation. It’s just not a good way to garner trust and support. And more important, it’s just not fun.
2. You have to meet people where they live. Seriously, the way you’re going about selling fracking fluids and contaminated wells needs some honing. It’s no good sitting in a meeting room hoping we’ll find you. (Many of us are hanging on by a thread and what with working 2 or 3 jobs, we don’t have a lot of time or energy for your little soirees.)
And for sure, it doesn’t help your case to simply deny there’s a problem. Granted, most of us who’ve been living in The Basin or rural New York, Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, Texas, Louisiana and Ohio for decades or centuries don’t have a lot of financial resources but we’re not stupid for Pete’s sake. We can read a local newspaper! We know about Dimock, PA, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming, Ohio… It doesn’t help your cause if people think you’re hiding a bunch of garbage in a closet. So in your interest, I urge you to come clean.
3. The best way to promote an idea in a tight-knit community is to be vested in that community and to have a ton of good-hearted friends: join the local fire company; become a well-known agitator whom people trust whether or not they like you and help bolster your local resources — rivers, land, schools, local production & distribution of food and goods. The list is long and varied so step right up. Here are a couple PR beauts you could jump on in a split instant:
- Vest yourself in the community. I know it’s not a tact you’re familiar with so it bears some explanation. For instance, you can volunteer to help farmers get the hay in during the season. You can deliver cups of coffee to our volunteer firemen who work long hours all day and then roll out of bed when the fire alarm peals. If that sounds like overkill, at least provide jobs for local people. They’ll remember you fondly, I promise!
- Support the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 so all the nervous Nellies out there feel appeased and safe. If history’s a clue, you probably won’t have to fix any of the problems you create but at least you’ll look responsible.
- Stop funding Congress. It makes you look bad and detracts from the wonderful product you’re promoting. (People end up thinking you couldn’t sell gas drilling to a tribe of orangutans without having most of them in your pocket. You can see how unwholesome it makes you appear.)
- Pay the damned severance tax you convinced Pennsylvania Governer Rendell to pull. Are you nuts? (I’m asking as one organizer to another so don’t get in a huff.) The tax will cost you barely anything in the billion dollar scheme of things and it’s great publicity. Pay the tax and look like a regular guy. You can’t buy that kind of good press.
- The next time you convince a major American university like Penn State to write a bogus “economic impact study” for you, at least fess up that you funded it. (Again, we’re not stupid and it makes you and your university stooges look sleazy. Sorry. I can’t help you if we can’t be forthright with each other.)
- If you aren’t vested in the community and you can’t distinguish Sullivan County from Wayne or Orange, or if we look like numbers on a geologic plat map to you, here’s a great idea: recruit a local organization to front for you. (I’ve gotta’ tell ya’, this is a really important piece and the whole Sullivan County Partnership thing? You blew it. True or not, most of us don’t think they could find the teats on a hog. (Let’s try this: give me a call and we’ll see if we can’t find you someone less…forgettable.)
Another big help is to know your local media and be trusted by them. I’ve got to hand it to you on that point. The work you’ve done with the media in Wayne County, PA has been inspirational! Almost as impressive as the national silence on some of the “ooops” factors you’ve precipitated in Dimock, Fort Worth and elsewhere.
And that’s where I think we can collaborate. I’ll introduce you to the crackerjack local media who’ve remained beyond your reach and you can get me 10 minutes on Lou Dobbs.