So You Like Corporations? A Little Story About Big Oil
This hub was inspired by another hub written here on Hubpages titled “So You Don’t Like Corporations?” (no longer here). It was written at a time when the Occupy Wall Street movement was finally bringing the enormous, overreaching power of large corporations, specifically those associated with Wall Street, to the attention of the American masses. The author, a conservative, of course completely missed this point and ranted about how the Occupiers and others who were so against corporations should just wake up and realize how much every part of their lives was affected by corporate America. This author's advice to all those "corporation haters": get rid of your corporate-made car, sell your house made of corporate-made materials, throw out your corporate-made computer, strip off all your corporate-made clothes and (I guess) just go back and live in a cave. And stop your "infernal whining" while you're at it.
And there it was, folks, another perfect example of Right-wing absurdity. Planet Right-wing's black and white world in action. So for all those Right-wingers afflicted by this blind, manic love for corporations, here’s a little story about one of your most beloved.
First, I will go out on a limb and say that it’s common knowledge amongst the American people that big oil companies are evil entities. Practically everyone loves to hate them. Except, of course, those who work for them and Right-wingers.
However, I believe the vast majority of Americans who live in places other than oil producing states have no concept of just how evil big oil companies really are. I moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Oklahoma in 2009, but until that move, I, too, was one of those naïve Americans who had no idea what it was like to deal with them. "Big Oil" was simply a name for a handful of large energy companies. I have since come to realize that Big Oil's modus operandi is much like the Mafia's.
The problems here in Oklahoma begin with the fact that landowners do not automatically also own the mineral rights to that land - much to Big Oil's benefit. Unlike states such as California, where property and mineral rights are bought and sold as one, Oklahoma allows what is known as a split or severed estate. While one person might own the land, it is possible for numerous people, such as an entire family, to split the mineral rights beneath it. And it is usually when Big Oil decides to drill on one of these severed estates that problems arise.
My neighbor has in-laws who live close by. They have a beautiful property with rolling fields, trees, a stream and a pond. But their property is an example of a severed estate. They own the land but an extended family, apparently numbering in the hundreds, owns the mineral rights. And one day, out of the blue, Big Oil decided they wanted to drill on their property (even though they apparently received permission from only one of the owners of the mineral rights).
And The Stories Just Go On . . .
It wasn’t long after moving to Oklahoma, but long before my neighbor's in-laws began having their troubles, that I began to hear stories from various people about how they had been treated by the Big Oil companies here in this state. Here are some of those stories:
A contractor who worked on our house told of how Big Oil had placed an oil rig on his land and he received monthly royalty checks from what it produced. One day, the oil company told him that the rig was no longer producing so he would no longer be receiving the monthly checks. He went out to the oil well to verify the company’s claim and found it pumping away.
I worked with a woman who had had an oil rig placed on her land. The equipment had sprung a leak, allowing oil to flow into the pasture in which it was placed. The oil company “repaired” it by tying a rag around the leak. She showed me the photos she had taken of what had happened. She was in the process of trying to get her lawyer to do something about getting the oil company to repair it.
This same woman told me of how the oil company had put a gate into a pasture where she kept horses, had been negligent multiple times and left the gate open and she'd had several of her horses killed by cars.
My boyfriend, born and raised in Oklahoma, told me that his uncle had been an engineer for an oil company and it had been his job to read the meters on oil rigs and record how much each rig pumped. His uncle told him that the oil company kept two sets of books: the set recording the actual amount the rig pumped and the set showing how much the rig pumped according to what they were going to pay the owner(s) of the mineral rights (much less).
I have been told numerous times by numerous people of instances in which an oil company, unable to gain access to drill on a property they wanted, simply set up their rigs on the adjacent property and drilled horizontally (illegally) into that property.
Big Oil's first tactic to gain access to their land was persuasion. They began sending her in-laws letters asking permission to drill. Her in-laws did not want Big Oil to drill on their property as some types of drilling, and the one the company would use, involved explosives. And so they said "no". Well, "no" is not part of Big Oil's vocabulary . . . unless of course they're using it. And so the company continued to send her in-laws letters, each one becoming nastier than the last. Her in-laws ignored them.
Big Oil then pursued the pay-off route. They sent her in-laws checks (for a whopping $250.00!) in the hopes that they would be naïve enough to cash them and thereby give the company free rein to their property. Her in-laws sent the checks back certified mail.
When those options didn't work, Big Oil tried intimidation. The company sent one of their “representatives” to sit in a pickup truck at the end of her in-law's driveway. Her father-in-law, furious, went down and faced the man off and told him that his oil company was never coming onto his property. The man’s reply was, “Yes, we are. We’re gonna cut your fences and we’re comin’ on.” When her father-in-law told him to go get a court order, the man replied, “We intend to.”
At their wit's end and tired of being harassed, her in-laws decided to look for a lawyer. During their search, they found an article in a local newspaper about a large ranch not too far north of them that had spent $10,000.00, before even seeing the inside of a courtroom, fighting to keep Big Oil off of their property. The article concluded the ranch might “win” and keep the company off of part of their property only because said part was used for agricultural purposes and the drilling, admittedly, would ruin it.
Ultimately, her in-laws found that there really was no realistic way to keep Big Oil off of their property since they didn't own the mineral rights. The best solution was to find a lawyer who would fight to make the Big Oil company pay as much as possible for the desecration of their land - which wouldn't be easy in Oklahoma as most lawyers know fighting Big Oil is a losing battle so simply take the easy and more lucrative route and work for them.
Bottom line? If Big Oil wants to drill on private land here in Oklahoma and the landowner doesn’t own the mineral rights and the oil company gets permission from the party that does, Big Oil will cut your fences, scrape out roads over your property, use explosives during their drilling process, install noisy oil rigs, potentially ruin your water source and, if nothing else, devalue your land. And if you don’t like it . . . well, tough . . . but here's some pocket change.
Exxon Mobil's CEO Afflicted by NIMBY Complex
I have an acquaintance who is very much a conservative and lives in close proximity to my neighbor's in-laws. While we were out taking a walk one day, she began to tell me about how, presumably, the same oil company was trying to gain drilling access to her land. She was very annoyed because this oil company was coming on to her land and staking it out with flags without asking her permission or even advising her and her husband as to when they were going to do this. Then, all in the next breath, she proclaimed she was in favor of drilling here in the United States . . . just so long as it wasn't on her land! She giggled after saying this so I have to give her kudos for at least knowing she was being a hypocrite!
That all this could actually happen enrages me. I really do have sympathy for my neighbor’s in-laws. If an oil company tried this on my land, I would be livid.
On the other hand, there is an extremely comical side to the problems my neighbor's in-laws are facing. You see, they are typical dyed-in-the-wool Republican pro-corporation anti-Big Government Right-wingers. Apparently, they are even the proud owners of a book by Sarah Palin. You know, the huckster for "Drill, Baby, Drill".
It is the unending hypocrisy of Right-wingers that never ceases to floor me! The only thing more astounding is that they honestly seem to be completely oblivious to their hypocrisy! They spout their (typically fact-less) righteous ideology and opinions of what is good for everyone else until its bites them in their righteous posteriors. Then its mayhem!
Of course, furthering the comedy is that, as mentioned previously, it is Oklahoma state law that allows the practice referred to as a severed estate. There’s no way to put that genie back in the bottle. But the point is, is that if we could, it would be a state law that would make the concept of a severed estate illegal and prevent this from happening. A state law as in “government regulation”. Yep, that interfering, freedom-crushing, Big Government so despised by the Right-wingers. That Big Government the fringe element Tea-Baggers want to do away with.
All this is rather sad for my neighbor's in-laws and a mixed set of emotions for us somewhat liberally minded bystanders. But what’s important is that it shows that most things are never really black and white. No one really hates all corporations or even claims to. And some government regulations are needed to protect even Rightwingers from out-of-control corporations.
– At the time of this writing, there appeared to be a stand-down. Big Oil hadn't been heard from in awhile. We assumed they were preparing their invasion.
– 02/12: yep, Big Oil had been preparing their invasion. The lawyer for the excavation company (a sub for Big Oil) sent my neighbor's in-laws a letter explaining that the company intended to invade their land and that they were upset that her in-laws were refusing to sign the permit. And if her in-laws didn't sign it, there would be "trouble". Her in-laws ignored the letter and multiple daily phone calls from the company lawyer.
– 03/12: at some point there was a confrontation between my neighbor's father-in-law and a Big Oil employee or sub. The company took out a restraining order on her in-laws and began proceedings to take them to court. Her in-laws eventually backed down and signed a permit - but one that did not allow Big Oil to use explosives on their property.
– The oil company never did drill on their property. Her in-laws believe it was because they retained a lawyer.
 Kdt. / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
 Susan Heller, via flickr
© 2012 Gemini Fox