At an industry public relations conference last year, Michael Kehs of Chesapeake Energy described a Wall Street Journal op-ed to gathered oil and gas officials, saying it pointed out the industry's “credibility problem.”
“And I’m sure some of it relates to defensiveness,” Kehs added. (MP3 Audio)
For years, the oil and gas industry has adopted a war-like mentality towards its critics. When confronted with problems caused by drilling and fracking, instead of acknowledging them and working to prevent more, their approach has too often been to cover up the issues while attacking any critics who make problems known publicly.
This pattern has sharply accelerated in recent months.
Earlier this month, Al Armendariz, the EPA's regional administrator for the oil-and-gas rich states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, sent his letter of resignation to Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA. Mr. Armendariz had come under heavy fire over comments he made two years ago at a local government meeting in Texas.
In explaining his law enforcement philosophy, he analogized his agency's strategy to the early Romans, who he said would “crucify” law-breakers to make examples of them. After a video of these remarks was circulated last week by Sen. James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, who counts the oil and gas industry as one of his largest donors, a firestorm of controversy broke out.
As Media Matters pointed out, when Mr. Armendariz said he intended to make an example of offenders, he was referring only to companies that actually broke the law – but this was not enough to save his career.