Thursday, December 1, 2011

Heard on the River (by the pipeline)

"We don't know the source of this material. We don't know what it is," Gallagher said Monday night. "Our priorities are to protect the environment — whether it is our material or not — and to protect our workers. --- John Gallagher, Vice President for Refining, Suncor

Jerry scrapes the company logo in the the sand with a toe of his penny loafer . "He's a jerk.", he says to no one in particular.

Paul looks downstream to the bobbing white booms and the small army of wadered, life jacket wearing, workers. "You gotta admit it plays well on the news.", he takes a drag on a stub of a cigarette before flicking it into the river, "He's wrapped himself in the flag and has apple pie cooling on the window sill. It's good. Friggin' Suncor."

"Jerry didn't clear any of that crap he said this summer," Charlotte added defensively, "And if he had asked me we could have avoided a lot of the backlash from the press, from the tree huggers and ..."

Jerry cut her off mid sentence, "Bullshit, you'd of just come out with more of that 'We're monitoring the situation closely' crap! That's what you always push out the door. I'm on the tip of spear, it's my ass, and I can't help it if the fucking fishermen twist every word I say!"

Paul gave Charlotte a sharp look ending the debate. He turned back to the river bed, the coffer dam and the large hole being scraped in the cobble exposing a length of dark pipe.

"Listen, I want you guys on this thing like stink on shit. No one talks to the press unless it's cleared by Charlotte. Nobody. Jerry, if you see a television camera I want you to run in the other direction. Screw this up and they'll never find your bodies"

Charlotte and Jerry share a nervous glance.

"Pipelines are the life blood of this business. We've pissed off a lot of people in the past with our spills but we've managed to keep most of the crap out of the rivers. Post BP people are real sensitive about seeing oil on water. And the anglers are particularly vocal."

"There's a lot of money to be made scraping the tundra for oil sands. If folks start questioning the pipelines they'll start looking upstream and see the mess we're making in Canada. Then the house of cards begins to fall apart. And people will get crushed when that house falls. We've got to keep our house strong."

"Jerry", Paul said turning to the portly pipeline manager, "You've gotta get those propeller heads on top of pipeline maintenance. They get no extra budget but it's their asses if another drop of my oil fails to reach the refinery."

"Charlotte, reach out to HR. Let's get some sort of volunteer initiative going; start encouraging our employees to get involved with some of these angling and environmental groups. The next time this happens I want to see some of our guys on the other side of the story."

"I'll contact the PAC and Super PAC guys and see where we can apply some leverage. The last thing we need is additional regulation just cause we've had a few accidents in the past quarter."

He pauses and looks to the horizon.

"Oil keeps this country strong; keeps it independent. There's a whole way of life that depends on us getting this right. Sure we'll make mistakes but we've gotta rebound from those quickly and minimize the negatives." He turns back to his employees, "Keep pushing forward aggressively so our children can sleep safe at night but do it right. Protect our interests."

He gives Charlotte and Jerry that paternalistic look that is his hallmark; stern, yet gentle.

With a nod, Paul walks back to the waiting black Suburban. As he passes Jerry he gives him a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

Jerry looks down sheepishly and sees that the logo has filled with seeping water; a light rainbow sheen shimmers on its surface. He scrapes the sand smooth restoring it to its original state.

Note: This is a work of fiction and is not intended to portray any real situation or real company or real conversation that may or may not have taken place and any real or imagined oil spill. All the characters in this fiction are fictitious as is their dialogue and the clothes they are wearing. The Chevy Suburban is real and is a fine vehicle for transporting your fishing gear though this should not be construed as an endorsement of the Suburban or Chevrolets in general. Doesn't "Chevrolet" sound French? Perhaps it is. Also real is the quote that started this whole thing. Another real thing is the debacle that is oil sand mining. You should check out that National Geographic link.


  1. That's just so cynical. They really care about the environment, at least in as much as it affects their bonuses...

  2. "Earnings Per Share, it's the new green."