Damage Control

Well I have to hand it to the folks at Antero, after months and months of meetings they have really nailed down this whole public meeting process. First off, announce the meeting in an article in The Paper 2 days before the meeting. Everybody reads the paper in Silt, especially since there’s no home delivery anymore. That flashing sign at the roundabout a full day in advance was also a big help.

Although at the actual meeting on Wednesday night (2/9) the Antero guys seemed sort of surprised at the turnout. It looked like more than one hundred people showed up. But I’m sure people sort of knew this meeting was coming anyway so they freed up the week in advance. The public seemed ready for Antero and Antero was ready for them. In the spirit of get-to-know-your-enemies, there was a sign-up sheet. I have no clue what I signed up for. Plus they offered plenty of handouts. But no snacks. The folks at Antero seem to have learned that offering snacks looks like a bribe. It only makes the public suspicious about your motives. Withholding snacks evens out the playing field, so to speak. It places everyone in the same frame of mind – hungry, thirsty, dying for a cup of coffee, and eager to get the hell out of there.

The usual Antero suspects were present – Kevin Kilstrom (VP Production), Jon Black (Operations Manager), Rick Blankenship, Gil Craney, Jerry Alberts, Lars Inman – not sure I have all the names right. Kilstrom started off on the right foot presenting the Draft Draft Draft Memorandum of Understanding between GVCA, RSPN, and Antero (which you can – and should – read if you click on it). I have to say, I love that wording, “memorandum of understanding”. It’s so much more warm and personal than say, contract with the public. There’s only one small problem. Nobody knows who is supposed to sign the agreement. But I’m sure they’ll figure that out, too. The public doesn’t need to worry about anything anymore. We have an understanding with Antero now.

And so, for the foreseeable future we understand that Antero is apparently committed to 40-acre maximum down-hole well density and they propose quarterly meetings with a list of “Possible Topics on Natural Gas Development” they would consider discussing, which was included in the handouts. Impressive. Seeming to address the public outcry over 10-acre spacing by putting it out 2 years, then in the meantime taking control of the discussion is certainly effective strategy.

And control the discussion he did. Kilstrom presented the other two handouts on the big screen in front of us. There was a map of drilling activity in the region, including pipelines and water wells they had tested. He said they hire a company to test wells before the drilling process begins and afterward. But he didn’t bore us with the specifics of those test results. We also looked at a diagram of the layers of rock formation, comparing the depth of gas wells to water wells. The diagram left out stuff like aquifers and fault lines because that gets way too technical for the general public.

They saved the big surprise for last. Kilstrom said they would not be taking questions from the whole group. Instead they wanted to do something different. He wanted us to divide ourselves up into smaller groups and ask the other Antero guys questions. A few people managed to temporarily disrupt the plan to ask their questions publicly. But Kilstrom was ready with simplistic answers and skillfully quelled any further discussion.

Presenting divide and conquer as “something different” is just plain brilliant strategy. When you stop and think about it, it makes perfect sense. Tell the public you won’t take any questions from the public in front of the public and questions will only be answered in smaller groups where there are fewer members of the public, withhold food and drink, then watch the crowd disperse – right out the back door.

Shortest meeting ever. I was out of there at 7:20 p.m. I can’t wait for the next one. Which should be sometime around the end of March. Mark your calendars.

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