by Walter Brasch
Royal Dutch Shell, which owns
or leases about 900,000 acres in the Marcellus Shale, had a great idea.
It wanted to frack the
Ukraine. But, there was opposition. So, Royal Dutch Shell decided to create a
junket for some of the Ukrainians opposed to fracking to show them just how
wonderful fracking is.
They were going to bring the Ukrainians
to northeastern Pennsylvania, and give them an all-expenses-paid four day tour.
The tour was to begin at the end of July. Other shale gas corporations have
created press junkets, where they lay out a nice day or two of activities,
complete with handouts, trinkets, meals, and lodging. Members of the
establishment press often go on these junkets. Some take what they're told,
rework it, and put it into print or on the air.
Now, the people of the Ukraine anti-fracking
movement aren't idiots. They weren't just going to take whatever they were
shown and told. So, they contacted the state's leading fractivists and
anti-fracking organizations. They wanted to learn all the facts--not just what
was spoon-fed to them. They were willing to talk to anti-fracking activists when
there were no other scheduled activities.
But Royal Dutch Shell was monitoring FaceBook
and the Internet, and saw that the Ukrainians were trying to talk to the
grassroots movement in Pennsylvania to get all sides of the issue.
What a company with solid PR
would do would be to just deal with it--and hope that its side could be
presented, and the people would make reasonable decisions. But, Royal Dutch
Shell, apparently, has some rather lame six-figure income PR people and
Royal Dutch Shell decided it
didn't want to deal with having any opposition to its PR tour. So, the company
that has about $360 billion in assets--and made about a $27 billion profit last
year, placing it No. 1 on the Fortune 500 list--cancelled the tour less than a
week before it was to begin.
But the story doesn't end
with a cancelled press junket. Royal Dutch Shell is embedded into Pennsylvania
The foreign-owned company was thinking about building an ethane cracker plant
about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. A cracker plant takes natural gas and breaks it up to create ethylene, primarily used in
plastics. Royal Dutch Shell considered placing the plant beside the Ohio
River in Pennsylvania, Ohio, or West Virginia. All three states were
interested, but Pennsylvania held out the most lucrative corporate welfare
check for the company, which had spent
$14.5 million in lobbying during 2012, about 10 percent of all lobbying costs
for all gas and oil corporations.
The Pennsylvania legislature handed over a 15 year
exemption from local and state taxes, apparently without
consulting local officials in Beaver County's Potter and Center townships.
Tom Corbett, who never met a gas driller he didn't like, then approved a $1.65
billion tax credit over 25 years, tweeting,
"A crackerplant would create up to 20,000 permanent jobs in Southwest PA." The
reality is considerably lower.
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