Last Tuesday, the residents of the small rural community of Bobtown in the far southwestern corner of Pennsylvania woke up to a horrible shock -- the sound of a massive explosion in their backyards. The source of the blast and the intensely hot fire that followed was a Chevron fracking well that had been set to begin production, but instead shot orange flames high into the air and gave off loud hissing sounds that could be heard hundreds of yards away.
John Kuis, 57, of nearby Dilliner told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that at 6:45 a.m., his dog growled, then the earth rumbled, and finally: "Then the house just sort of shook and there was a big loud bang." Another neighbor told the paper that the fracking explosion "sounded like a jet engine going 5 feet above your house."
It was a horrific event on every level. One worker at the rig was not found and is presumed dead. The fire -- who posed enormous risks to rescue workers and to the surrounding community -- burned intensely for five days before it was finally extinguished. Despite reassurances, neighbors surely worried whether toxins were released in the fiery aftermath.
Of course, living near a fracking rig in Pennsylvania -- the state that Gov. Corbett has promised will become "the Texas of natural gas" -- isn't a picnic under the best of circumstances; scores of neighbors have complained about polluted drinking water or foul odors or ailing pets and livestock, of headaches and nausea and skin rashes.
But the people of Bobtown who endured the Chevron blast got a sweet -- or rather savory -- consolation prize for all that agita.
Pizza, pizza!. OK. actually just...pizza.
Local residents were delivered a note (pictured above), dated Sunday, from the Chevron Community Outreach Team. It states in part:
Chevron recognizes the effect this has had on the community. 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…
Tucked inside the envelope was a gift certificate to Bobtown Pizza, courtesy of Chevron. It entitles the resident to a free large pizza, and before you say something like, "Boy, is that chintzy," you should know that was just the beginning, that the coupon also entitles the holder to a 2-liter soda.
Is there a catch? Well, sort of – the certificate is good for a "special combo only." Remember, Chevron's yearly profits declined in 2013 and the firm made just barely over $21 billion. You weren't really expected pepperoni, too, were you? (Note: the pizza certificates were first reported by No Fracking Way and Raging Chicken Press -- I called (!!) the pizza shop and confirmed that about 100 of the certificates were distributed by Chevron.)
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. 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!