Time to pull the plug on CRED newspeak

There is something so satisfying about oil & gas industry types eating their own.

This week The Colorado Independent published an exposé on the sins of Anadarko. After it was determined that Anadarko’s uncapped flowline was the cause of last year’s tragic Firestone home explosion, shareholders filed a lawsuit accusing Anadarko of withholding vital information about conditions in the Wattenberg gasfield in order to inflate its stock price.

Here’s a link and excerpt — a must read:

Former Anadarko brass slam company for safety risks, callousness

Post-Firestone, the energy giant’s former chief lobbyist and spokeswoman are helping shareholders expose its failure to fix old wells. One says an Anadarko exec told her to “keep quiet” and “shovel shit” about safety problems.

Six former Anadarko employees have come forward on behalf of investors to describe a culture of corporate callousness that puts profits before safety. The six include the oil and gas giant’s one-time chief lobbyist and spokeswoman, both of whom say Anadarko can’t be trusted to maintain deteriorating wells like the one that caused last year’s fatal home explosion in Firestone.

An amended complaint in a shareholders’ lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Houston likens Anadarko’s operations in Colorado to “a ticking time bomb” …

… The complaint includes previously unreported interviews with Chris Castilian, Anadarko’s former longtime government relations chief in Colorado, and Robin Olsen, its former spokeswoman in the state. Castilian — who created Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) — says that when it comes to safety and corporate responsibility, his former employer has lost its credibility …

The article focuses on Castilian’s and Olsen’s involvement with Anadarko prior to the home explosion in April 2017. In their complaint they described a deteriorating corporate climate that put profits over safety, cutting corners at every turn.

According to Castilian’s deposition in the lawsuit: “A well’s potential safety risks, and whether it was located in a residential area or near a school, played no part in whether it was chosen for remediation.”

For her part, “Olsen said Christiansen [Anadarko VP for Corporate Communications John Christiansen] told her to ‘keep quiet’ and that her job ‘was to shovel shit, and to clean up the messes the company’s employees made.”

She also stated that after a January 2017 spill, Anadarko didn’t disclose safety issues to state regulators.

But here’s the rub — neither did she or Castiliano, even though both of them were well aware of serious safety issues in violation of state regs. Neither of them took their concerns to the agency that could have done something about it, the COGCC.

Castiliano, who now heads Great Outdoors Colorado and still owns stock in Anadarko, said in an interview with The Colorado Independent: “I don’t know that I fell on my sword.”

He certainly did not. To put it bluntly both Castiliano and Olsen covered their asses and moved on to greener pastures in the nick of time before holy hell broke loose.

That is not to say the lapse in flowline inspections and remediation leading up to the Firestone explosion rests solely at their feet.

As Castiliano told The Colorado Independent: “It wasn’t just me. There were a number of people who knew what the right answer was on safety, but were told it’s not a priority right now. It was a precarious situation for all of us. You may be telling your boss or the person who manages your budget or the person who [gives] you day-to-day direction that you don’t agree with him or that the decisions being made are not the right decisions. We all expressed our opinions. We made our concerns known. And then we sort of lived with the outcome.”

So it was a catastrophic team effort.

What the article, and the complaint by the six former Anadarko employees, reveals is that they all knew about serious safety issues that put the lives of workers and the public in serious danger and they did nothing.

A former Anadarko safety manager who confessed his anger and guilt in the article cautioned the reporter: “Don’t make it sound like all these companies are like Anadarko.”

He works for a different company now and claims, “Things are better here, very much so.”

But the company does business with Anadarko.

So while he doesn’t want us to think all companies are like Anadarko, the fact that his company still does business with them proves exactly the opposite. Operators and subcontractors prop up each other. In this instance the subcontractor he works for knows Anadarko’s reputation but they’re perfectly willing to look the other way and put their own profits over public safety.

Maybe all companies aren’t like Anadarko but, like the former Anadarko employees, they aren’t willing to fall on their swords and stop doing business with corporate tightwads who “couldn’t give a shit about the guys who worked on those wells or the people who lived near them.”

Any company that continues to do with business with a company like Anadarko that places profits over people is putting its own workers at risk.

The oil & gas industry, from operators to subcontractors, is so deeply entrenched in the culture of cover-up that individuals within the system are as unable as they are unwilling to break free of Orwellian newspeak.

And the biggest purveyor of industry newspeak is  Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development — aka CRED.

In fact Castiliano, who was so concerned about safety issues at Anadarko that he quit in disgust rather than call in state regulators, was the founder of CRED.

CRED was hatched by Anadarko and Noble Energy and rolled out in the midst of the rains and floods of September 2013, as millions of people watched videos of floating tanks and flooded well pads on the evening news. It was PR hell.

WELD COUNTY, CO. – SEPTEMBER 16: A drilling derrick near Greeley stands in land flooded by the South Platte River. Aerial photographs of the Platte River flooding cities and farms in Weld County Colorado. [Photo By Tim Rasmussen/The Denver Post]

Undaunted, they cranked up the propaganda machine and for the past four years Coloradans have been forced to endure a seemingly endless stream of TV ads featuring regular folks who work in the oil & gas industry and want the rest of us commoners to know that drilling is good for our air and water and most of all good for the economy.

Except it’s all BS. Castiliano said as much in his lawsuit complaint and his interview in the article. He denounced Anadarko’s business practices. Anadarko is CRED.

As Coloradans there is little we can do to bring down a behemoth like Anadarko. But we can certainly call or email TV stations that air CRED propaganda videos. Send them a link to The Colorado Independent article. Tell them you’re sick of Anadarko’s lies. Tell them it’s time to pull the plug on CRED newspeak.

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