Terry Bossert, a Range Resources Corp. executive whose remarks at an Environmental Law Form earlier this month caused a stir and raised questions about how the company selects its well locations, has written an open letter titled “A Driller’s apology.”
In it, the vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs apologized for his “attempt to interject dry sarcasm” into a presentation on oil and gas well siting. Several attorneys in the audience said Mr. Bossert indicated the company avoids placing wells near big homes where residents have enough money to fight the process.
Patrick Grenter, an attorney at the Center for Coalfield Justice in Washington, Pa., who attended the Pennsylvania Bar Institute event in Harrisburg and said he was the first to challenge Mr. Bossert after the presentation, isn’t buying the sarcasm angle.
“There was no ambiguity to his words at all,” Mr. Grenter said after reading the apology letter. “There was no joke. This was a remarkable statement in an otherwise unremarkable presentation.”
The Center for Coalfield Justice and several other environmental groups used the occasion of Mr. Bossert’s statement on well siting to urge the state Department of Environmental Protection to examine if there is environmental injustice in oil and gas siting decisions.
Mr. Bossert, who served at DEP’s chief counsel in the 1990s, reiterated in his letter on Thursday that Texas-based Range looks at a host of factors, including topography, geology, lease terms and zoning, when deciding where to build a well pad.
“It is unfortunate that my poor choice of words could call into question the unwavering commitment we have at Range in working with residents regardless of their economic means,” it stated.
A Range spokesman declined to comment further.
Logan Welde, an attorney with the Clean Air Council who was present at Mr. Bossert’s talk on April 6, said he wasn’t surprised by the sentiment of the comments, even if hearing them out loud was jarring.
Private companies regularly weigh “potential pitfalls” in their pursuit of success, he said.
“Avoiding potential and costly conflict is one of those,” he said. “One of the criteria in the analysis is likely what sort of opposition they’re going to face and if they can minimize it.”
Nor is this unique to Range or oil and gas companies in general, Mr. Welde said. The burden of industrial activity always tends to fall disproportionately on communities with fewer resources, he said.
“This maybe even shouldn’t be about Terry Bossert’s comments,” he said. “Maybe the bigger story should be where is the DEP and Pennsylvania Legislature in protecting these communities.”
Anya Litvak: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1455.
First Published April 22, 2016 5:19 PM