No Fracking Way

INERGY BLACKLISTING BUSINESSES IN NEW YORK

by Dory Hippauf on November 9, 2013

hamfistedThe results of the November 5, 2013 ballot measures regarding the natural gas industry is cause for concern by a number of investors.    The Motley Fool, an investment/stock market website lamented over how fracking is losing the PR Battle.

Per Sarah Murphy article: “Seriously, these guys have got to step up their game if they want to survive. At last week’s SRI Conference on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing, I talked with countless fund managers, investors, financial advisors, and academics, all of whom agreed that while fracking is controversial from a sustainability perspective, the industry’s ham-fisted approach to public engagement has been so feeble as to be pathetic.”

The public relations approach by the industry has relied on waving false promises of becoming a “shaleionaire” in the general public’s faces and through spending gazillions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions.  None of it is working very well.

PUTTING THE HAMMER IN THE HAMFISTS

A few natural gas corporations have added a new dimension to their “good neighbor-make a lot of money” approach” through iJesse white-eid aggressiventimidation and (to put it politely) arm twisting.

In a post on Facebook last year, Rep. Jesse White of Pennsylvania wrote that industry representatives told the audience the gas industry is going to start getting more aggressive in attacking people who don’t agree with them.

Idle threat and bluster?  Not really.

Ask Vera Scoggins who was attacked in a Natural Gas Now blog, and recently was hit by a SLAPP suit from Cabot Oil & Gas because of her activism.  Ask Sharon Wilson who was dragged into court by Range Resources.    Ask Steve Lipsky, a Texas homeowner, who is at the center of a $3 million lawsuit for defamation from Range Resources, after he exposed the company for contaminating his water supply with methane and benzene.

What does this have to do with Inergy?   It appears Inergy is taking a page from these other natural gas corporations and upping the ante.

Below is an email from Barry Cigich, Vice President of Engineering and Operations at Inergy, LP proposing a boycott of businesses related to Gas Free Seneca Business Coalition.

Cigich_Email

 Who are the recipients of this email and what are their connections?

The Recipients:

  • David Crea: Process, Energy & Reliability Engineer at US Salt, LLC
  • Ron Happach: Senior VP Midstream Operations @ Inergy Midstream; greater Denver area
  • Jay Jackson: Regional Manager Wholesale Supply/ Risk Management; Kansas City, MO
  • Terry Rice: Plant Supervisor:Inergy Bath Storage Facility
  • Mitchell Dascher: President, US Salt
  • Frank Pastore: Plant Manager, US Salt
  • Maureen Ball: Manager of Administration Central NY Oil and Gas, Inergy:Owego
  • Joanna Dyer: Project Manager, Inergy, LP, Kansas City MO
  • Vance Harrington: VP Supply and Marketing, Inergy; Kansas City MO
  • Tim Hanley: Director, Eastern Butane Storage/ Marketing; Inergy; Kansas City, MO
  • Tom Cole: Drilling & Well Services @ Inergy Propane, LLC; Ithaca NY area
  • Jason Templar:   Project Manager, Inergy LP, Kansas City, MO
  • Michael LeRose:  Director, Engineering/ Project Management, Horseheads
  • Patrick Riban: Project Manager, Inergy Midstream, Sayre, PA
  • David Hooker: VP Commercial Operations & Business Development; Inergy:Denver, CO
  • David Smith: Previously at Inergy, now with National Cooperative Bank in the Cincinnati area
  • Jerry Kraus: Manager, Land Services, Land Services Inergy LP, Syracuse
  • Amy Gonzales: President, AK Environmental, LLC; Mechanicsburg, PA
  • John Shaffer:  Manager, CNYOG Central New York Oil and Gas
  • Alex O’Connor: Solicitor at Collyer Bristow located in the United Kingdom with offices in London and Geneva

**I’m still working on identifying James Bottomley, Elizabeth Rowe, Maria Farr, and Seth Bruce.**

The email was sent to a Star Gazette reporter who contacted Inergy about it and received this statement:

 “The email reflects one employee’s personal opinion, not the company’s position.  The company strives to be a good neighbor and partner in the communities where our employees live and work.”

The Star Gazette is holding off on doing a story until they hear back from Barry Cigich himself, which may never happen.

From Inergy’s Code of Business Conduct &  Ethics – section 6.0: (emphasis added)

6.0 ANTITRUST COMPLIANCE

Antitrust laws are designed to prohibit practices that might unreasonably restrict competition. These laws deal with agreements and practices “in restraint of trade” such as price fixing and boycotting suppliers or customers. They also prohibit (i) pricing intended to drive a competitor out of business; (ii) disparaging, misrepresenting or harassing a competitor; (iii) stealing trade secrets; (iv) bribery; and (v) kickbacks.

It is our policy to comply fully with antitrust laws. You are prohibited from engaging in practices that violate antitrust and competition laws. If you have any questions or concerns about the propriety of certain business practices, please consult with your supervisor or follow the appropriate procedures for contacting the Compliance Officer.

It appears Inergy is brushing it off, and as section 6.0 of their Business Conduct & Ethics code states, they do not boycott.  That’s what they say – but what are they doing?

Below is a series of email exchanges between Gas Free Seneca (GFS) and a local business.

I apologize for the redactions, but the parties involved are fearful of even more retaliation.

redact 1redact 2

Next is a series of email exchange between Gas Free Seneca (GFS) and a contact at Inergy, dated November 1  thru November 4 2013..  Again it has been redacted because fear of retaliation.

cigich redact 2cigich redact 3

Gas Free Seneca issued this statement:

 “We at Gas Free Seneca are extremely disturbed by the fact that employees from an out-of-state based corporation would attempt to bully local, sustainable businesses that simply wish to preserve what some have spent generations building. Turning our area into a gas storage and transportation hub for the North Eastern United States flies in the face of what our business coalition members have worked so hard to accomplish within the Finger Lakes, and threatens the hundreds of millions of dollars our businesses bring into the area on an annual basis. The behavior promoted by Inergy higher-ups is not neighborly, and does not help Inergy’s reputation. Furthermore, since most of the recipients on the email from Mr. Cigich are not local, we do not believe their intentions will in any way have a negative impact on area businesses.  Despite our differences in opinion about the Inergy project, we are a community, and communities stick together. That’s why we encourage all members of our business coalition to continue to serve all patrons, including ones we may disagree with on this project.”

What do you think?  Is this just one person’s opinion as Inergy stated, or is it more as the email exchanges suggest?

This raises a few more questions.  Were employees told or given a list of businesses to avoid?  If so, were they also told their jobs may be in jeopardy if they did not comply?

We’ll need to keep an eye on this for more developments.

Related: Inergy and LPG Storage in New York

 

11/12/2013 UPDATE on GAS FREE SENECA:  We have received inquiries from Wine/ Vineyard business: they need boots and Carhartt’s too, and want to buy their gear solely from this business after seeing this story!

Likewise, we have received messages from many people, since the story broke, who will be putting the Gas Free Seneca Businesses on the top of their shopping list!

The Business list itself has also grown from 171 businesses to 178 in the two days since this article came out.

Gas Free Seneca opposes the expansion of the gas storage facility on the west side of Seneca Lake  In response to FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) requests, Gas Free Seneca has received heavily redacted documents from the DEC.

“The DEC provided the documents,” said Joseph Campbell (Co-Founder of Earth Justice), “and everything in them was given to them by the company [Inergy]. The DEC has not done their due diligence, according to anyone who has read those reports. There isn’t enough in there about community repercussions or safety issues.” Both Clark and Young make note that the instability of the regional geology is very much glossed over in the reports. The salt beds themselves alternate with layers of other types of rock and these layers are heavily and complexly faulted.

Campbell feels that Inergy’s disinterest in safety is in part because the company is based in Kansas City, Mo., not central New York. “Who will be the victim of a catastrophic accident?” he asked. “Not them. Us.”

©2013 by Dory Hippauf

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Chip Northrup November 9, 2013 at 5:24 pm

The old freeze out the competition gambit . . . . just in time for winter. Tricky !

Reply

Mary November 10, 2013 at 6:43 am

I am a dismayed that the people who have lost business have been removed from the list, this is a win for the industry, and likely they still will not buy from them. I’m driving through Watkins Glen today and looking for a store with carhardt logo as I will buy something from them, but hope they put their sign back up so we know who to buy from.

Reply

Dory Hippauf November 12, 2013 at 3:22 am

I suggest GFS business members put a sign or sticker on their store window, door or on their counters stating they support a clean and safe community.

Reply

Mary November 12, 2013 at 4:40 am

That’s not a bad idea. I think people have to know in a boom/bust (hopefully not a total “boom” in Watkins Glen) the industry won’t be there forever (we hope) the other people will be (we hope).

Reply

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