As reported by Brian Merchant at Treehugger, a tipster has offered up an internal oil and natural gas company document called "Talking Points for Selling Oil and Gas Lease Rights." If this is genuine, it’s basically a “How To Lie To Get Drilling Rights For Fun and Profit” guide.
One thing the document tells us is that apparently the best way to manipulate naive landowners into endangering the quality of their land and water is to appeal to their patriotism. (Hmmm, where have we seen that tactic before?)
Most landowners will be patriotic Americans, and will desire to free our nation from foreign oil dependence. Make certain you lead with this selling point: CHINA bought more oil than the United States last year. Fear of foreign encroachment is the biggest asset we have in selling our development strategy.
… So if this were a flow chart, the first question would be, "Is the mark ignorant about the relationship between domestic drilling and the price of energy? If yes … "
Here's the good news: The talking points acknowledge that people are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas. All the more reason to close that sale now:
Oil and Gas exploration and drilling is meeting increasing resistance from local community groups, so it is essential to contact land holders and acquire signatures before sentiment by environmental and other public organizations limits our ability to obtain access to private land for oil and gas development. Remember, if at all possible try not to deliberately mislead the landowner, that only makes our position harder to defend at a later date … Do not discuss the detracting points of view in a manner that gives them any credibility.
Predictably, the document includes at least one passage encouraging agents to lie to the landowner directly.
Tell the landowner that all their neighbors have signed. Even if the neighbors have not, this often will push an undecided landowner in favor of signing. Remember, the first visit is the most crucial. They will not know if their neighbors have signed, and even if they do they will want to sign so they do not lose out on the potential profits. Once they have signed, then you can show those leases to undecided neighbors for added pressure.
The entire account by Merchant is well worth a read. It shows that, if this memo is real, at least this one company is just as slimy as you'd think. It also shows that consciousness-raising, the act you're engaging in simply by reading this and telling your friends and family about it, has these companies on the run.
Oil Company Document Instructs Agents to Mislead Landowners About Drilling Dangers, Treehugger.