Sustained Outrage

‘Talking points’ for gas company land agents?

In this May 27, 2011 photo, Laura Skidmore stands in her yard holding a memo that outlines talking points for selling oil and gas leases, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The origin of the memo is a matter of debate between an energy exploration company and local activists. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Over the weekend, The Associated Press put out an interesting story about a memo that’s been circulating for months on the Internet, addressing the mystery of whether the memo is a set of “talking points” for oil and gas company land agents.

We’ve posted the story here, along with our other articles about oil and gas drilling. The story reports:

A memo that appears to coach buyers of oil and gas drilling leases to use deceptive tactics on unsuspecting landowners has provoked a state investigation and spirited debate in rural Ohio, the latest frontier in America’s quest for new energy resources.

The tale of the found memo – unauthenticated but with language similar to that used by a seller familiar to Greene County residents – features aggressive marketers, zealous environmentalists, and vulnerable residents.

So high are the stakes in the rush to lock up leases of fuel-rich Marcellus and Utica shale lands that Ohio’s top law enforcement official investigated the notebook one resident found near her driveway in April. Was it really a playbook for a “landman,” one of the door-to-door energy company representatives who’ve blanketed shale regions in the Northeast for months, coaxing landowners to lease in hopes that drillers strike it rich in their backyards?

Attorney General Mike DeWine could find no evidence it belonged to Jim Bucher, a landman for West Bay Exploration Co., based in Traverse City, Mich., or that it was used to mislead area residents. Yet his investigation also stopped short of identifying an alternative owner, leaving the memo’s true origins a mystery.

This memo, photographed Friday, May 27, 2011, in Yellow Springs, Ohio, outlining talking points for selling oil and gas leases, was discovered in April near Yellow Springs, Ohio. The origin of the memo is a matter of debate between an energy exploration company and local activists. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

We’ve also posted a copy of the memo here, and it’s important to remember that this isn’t the first media report about this document.

Ohio’s Yellow Spring News did a story about the talking points back in late April, reporting:

Last week a Miami Township resident found a binder on her property containing what appeared to be a field guide for agents looking to lease private property for the purpose of oil and gas production. The unmarked document could not be linked to any particular organization, but it included a training manual advising field agents to use misleading and, if necessary, duplicitous arguments to obtain a lease agreement from a landowner for drilling rights.

West Virginians who are considering deals with oil and gas companies, or who face problems with companies drilling on their property, should remember to consult with Surface Owners Rights Organization, and especially to download a copy of Dave McMahon’s West Virginia Surface Owners’ Guide to Oil and Gas.

In this May 27, 2011 photo, T.J. Turner stands in his yard in Yellow Springs, Ohio, near a sign protesting the practice of fracking, a process used to extract oil or natural gas from hard rock formations. Turner is a local resident who was approached by a salesman for an energy exploration company to lease rights for drilling on his property. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)