When a Chevron hydraulic fracturing — fracking — well blew up in Dunkard Township, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, the gas and oil company knew just how to placate residents. Give them a free pizza and a Coke.
The fires that lit up the night sky around the Marcellus Shale natural gas well were so hot that a nearby tanker truck carrying propane exploded. First responders on the scene had to drop back to avoid injury due to the heat. Burning for four days before firefighters were able to get it under control, the local fire department had four tanker trucks on standby, just incase it went up in flames again. Twenty workers were on the well when it blew. One is missing and presumed dead.
Just before the fracking well blew its top, John Kuis, 57 was in his home about half-mile away. Kuis felt the ground rumble beneath his feet and then he heard the explosion. “Then the house just shook and there was a big, loud bang,”Kuis said.
Kuis and his neighbors though will be enjoying a large pizza and a two liter bottle of soda. Chevron’s treat. The Chevron “Community Outreach” team sent out $12 pizza coupons to Bobtown residents. Along with the coupon came a note that said, “Chevron recognizes the effect this had on the community.”
Kent Robertson, a public affairs officer for Chevron, told the media that the “…pizza was a token of appreciation for their [resident’s] patience.” Not everyone in town was happy with Chevron’s response. One resident said he had opened the mail, found a pizza coupon and note and is still waiting to hear from Chevron. “It felt like a huge slap in the face,” the resident said.
William Kuis, 61, is a retired coal miner living several miles away from the explosion and did not get a coupon. Kuis says he is familiar with the risks of drilling. Despite the explosion, Kuis says he’s happy to see drilling in the Marcellus Shale region again. Feeling that the wells are “mostly” safe, he still doesn’t drink the water furnished by several natural wells on his property.
An email to the pizza parlor revealed that about 100 coupons were delivered. Last year, Chevron made $21 billion dollars in profits. The reader can do the math as a wave of backlash online begins. One source in Pennsylvania called the coupons “chintzy.” Others however feel it is far worse with the word “condescending” coming up the most often in news reports.
Social media has been filled with comments about giant corporations who “…don’t care about the environment, the people who work for them or the community.”
Fracking has brought oil companies into towns all over America. It’s also brought the production, and dangers, closer to the public than ever before. Many in Pennsylvania feel that the dismissive attitude shown by the offer of free pizzas has been around for so long that it should not be accepted any more.
One source in the town feels that if Chevron is sincere in what its note said about being an “incident free operation,” it would have been better to confront the accident head on and meet with the residents. Many feel that, as a minimum, a press conference should have been called to keep the public updated on the investigation.
Chevron has recently inked a deal with Argentina to start drilling for natural gas in the wilds of Patagonia. The company might find it interesting that in Argentina there is a very popular pizza chain that could compare to Pizza Hut in America. The name of the chain, right now, may be more appropriate for pizza-selling-franchises in Pennsylvania. The name of the pizza chain in South America’s second largest country? Pizza Boom.
By Jerry Nelson