With one person missing and presumed dead in an explosion at a natural gas well in a small Pennsylvania town, the company responsible is now under fire after apparently apologizing to the local community by handing out vouchers for free pizza.
It took five days for emergency crews to safely extinguish a fire that was set by an explosion that shook the small town of Bobtown, located in the far southwestern corner of the state. The blast gave off a loud hissing noise that could be heard from hundreds of yards away.
One resident told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the explosion in a shale formation where Chevron Corp. has spent time fracking “sounded like a jet engine going five feet above your house.” John Kuis, 57, of nearby Dilliner said his dog started growling unusually at 6:45 a.m. on February 11 “then the house just sort of shock and there was a big loud bang.”
At least one employee who was working on the rig has not been found and is widely thought to have been killed – either in the initial explosion or during the five days the flames burned. Another worker was injured in the event.
Chevron has denied any knowledge of what caused the explosion. Company spokesman Ken Robertson told the local ABC affiliate that workers were preparing to run tubing, which is done when wells are being readied for production, and that “there is not enough fuel being emitted to sustain combustion, and with the cooling of the crane, the ignition source has been removed.”
The Philadelphia Daily News has since discovered that residents of Bobtown – a census-designated community of fewer than 1,000 people that revolves mostly around coal mining – have started receiving coupons for one free pizza and a two-liter of soda from the local Bobtown pizza.
“Chevron recognizes the effect this has had on the community,” the company said on its website. “We value being a responsible member of this community and will continue to strive to achieve incident-free operations. We are committed to taking action to safeguard our neighbors, our employees, our contractors and the environment.”
Daily News reporters were able to confirm with Bobtown pizza that it was, in fact, Chevron that bought about 100 of the $12 coupons, which expire on May 1, 2014.
Chevron workers handed out the coupons by walking door-to-door, and the vouchers quickly became the subject of jokes on social media.
“There has been considerable construction activity adjacent to the site, resulting in increased traffic and congestion in the area,” a Chevron spokesman told the Huffington Post. “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.”
Will Bunch, a blogger with the Philadelphia Daily News, pulled no punches when describing what the company forgot when thinking up the public relations campaign.
“Of course, a cynic would argue that a lifetime supply of pizza – even with those cheesy breadsticks thrown in – wouldn’t be worth the health risks of having a massive fracking rig next door,” he wrote. “On the other hand, I see a possible new marketing campaign for Chevron: We guarantee your fracking rig won’t explode, or your pizza is free!”