A caller from the Fayetteville shale territory reports to me that Mark Raines is leaving KTHV, Channel 11, where he’s been news director, to do public relations for Chesapeake Energy, a major participant in the gas play.
Which reminds me:
I spent an evening recently with a farmer who’d leased a substantial chunk of mineral rights (at $4,000 $400 per acre) for gas exploration and has already seen completion of some wells. The family has received a tidy windfall and expects a good revenue stream for 30 years.
But listen to this. The farmer wasn’t particularly happy about it all. He worried about the impact on multi-generation farm families and whether that tradition could be ruined by the new money. (Speaking as a native of the SW La. oil patch, I can answer that question: In many cases, yes.) He’s seen the huge damage done to county roads by drilling equipment. He’s seen the relatively minor local economic impact, even during heavy exploration, that the transient production workers have had on the local economy, save royalty owners. When most drilling is done, that impact will be even smaller, of course. He battles daily with the impact of pollution from the immense pits that must be built to collect waste water. He knows some contractors are more diligent than others. He fears drillers will draw water from streams in harmful ways (such as the Little Red).
The farmer is a public school backer and a student of politics, too. He knows the gas industry in 2007 tried to hurry through legislation that would have made it far more difficult to recover damages when exploration companies don’t properly restore land on which they drilled. He knows that Arkansas collects a pittance of a severance tax on the finite resource being drawn from our ground and then shipped to other states that do collect a reasonable severance tax. He knows that he pays pennies in property tax on land for which he’s received hundreds of thousands of dollars in mineral lease money. He knows that the popular governor of Arkansas has said it will be up to somebody else to lead a campaign to do something about the shameful severance tax. The governor is too beholden to the lobby to lead the fight himself. The farmer knows that little special interest money exists to promote good government.
So, yes, you could see where a gas producer could use some public relations assistance.
I talked to Raines briefly, by the way. He’s a nice guy with a background in PR as well as news. He’ll be manager of public relations for Chesapeake. “They are trying to do things the right way,” he promises.
UPDATE: KTHV boss Larry Audas shares his note to stafff about Raines’ departure on the jump.