A Chevron pizza gift certificate delivered to residents of Greene County, Pennsylvania, has gone viral a week after one of the company's natural gas wells exploded nearby.
Early in the morning of February 11, citizens of Dunkard Township woke to the sound of a Chevron well explosion that sent one injured worker to a local hospital. Another worker remains missing and is presumed dead. Fumes from a neighboring well also caught fire, and continued to burn for two days. Gas from the first well, Lanco 7H, burned for five.
Chevron, however, did offer a consolation prize: A day after the last fire subsided, the Chevron Community Outreach Team issued an apology letter to neighbors of the blast. Attached was a gift certificate for a free "special combo" from Bobtown Pizza, featuring "one large pizza."
Sean Kitchen, a local activist and reporter for Raging Chicken Press who followed up on the letter (first published by No Fracking Way), called the action an attempt to "whitewash" Chevron’s image after the devastation. Philadelphia Daily News writer Will Bunch pointed out that the "special combo" also included a two-liter drink while authorities continue to investigate a possible death. Bobtown Pizza has not responded to requests for comment.
If all this seems like a Yes Men hoax, it isn’t. Chevron spokesperson Kent Robertson confirmed the tone-deaf gift certificate and explained the company's position to Co.Exist below:
The situation at the Lanco well site in Pennsylvania remains serious and teams are working around the clock to safely approach and shut in the well. There has been considerable construction activity adjacent to the site, resulting in increased traffic and congestion in the area. Recognizing that our neighbors have been affected by these activities, we are out in the community every day to listen to and address concerns. We have also offered a token of appreciation for their patience during this time, and our commitment to the community goes far beyond this and our outreach is ongoing.
Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of our missing colleague and we appreciate the strong support we have received from nearby residents as we work to respond to this incident in a safe manner.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson John Poister says that the Lanco well wasn’t actually in production at the time of the explosion, but was being prepared for operations instead. Poister added that gas readings on the well pads are "relatively low," which will allow Wild Well Control, a Houston, Texas company, to stop the gas flow and cap the wells. In the meantime, the DEP, Chevron, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will be investigating the causes of the blast.
In December, the U.S. Energy Information Administration ranked Pennsylvania as the fastest-growing natural gas-producing state in the country—rising from the seventh-largest natural gas producer in 2011 to second-largest in 2013. That same month, Chevron received a DEP violation for constructing a production pipe on the Dunkard Township well pad and nearby access road without a proper permit.