Pro-Frackers Hire Homeless Supporters
In a world with personal assistants, dog-walkers, family chefs, and in some cases, hit-men, it’s clear you can pay anyone to do anything. The North Carolina Energy Coalition capitalized on that fact when it hired several homeless men to pose as fracking supporters at a state hearing on hydraulic fracturing operations in North Carolina.
According to the Citizen-Times, The Energy Coalition bussed the men from Winston-Salem to Western Carolina University, and gave them pro-fracking shirts to wear, some stating, “Shale Yes,” “Energy Creates Jobs,” and “N.C. Energy Coalition.com.” Apparently, of the 600 people who attended the event, a large majority were against fracking practices, so The Energy Coalition decided to bring in its own “supporters” for shale drilling. However, once the hired supporters arrived, it was quite obvious to those around them that they were completely unfamiliar with the hearing and the process of fracking itself.
Betsy Ashby, a member of the Jackson County Coalition Against Fracking said, “They were clueless. At least two of them I met definitely came from a homeless shelter. One even apologized to me and said, ‘I didn’t know they were trying to do this to me.’ One said, ‘I did it for the…’ and then he rubbed his fingers together like ‘for the money.’”
Coincidentally, The Energy Coalition states its mission “is to provide the public with factual information and offer an in-depth look into oil and natural gas industry in North Carolina.” Although it’s questionable how factual the provided information actually is, since the bottom of the webpage says it’s sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute. Plus, when asked about hiring homeless men, The Energy Coalition chairman, Algenon Cash, claimed, “There was a homeless person who, once we identified, we politely asked him to leave.”
One of the hired men said, “We feel we did not know about none of this,” in relation to what they were doing at the event. According to others in attendance, when the homeless men were questioned further about their presence, they were nervous to talk in fear of not getting a ride back to Winston-Salem. Ashby added, “They were scared. I don’t think they had any idea what they were getting into. Once they realized it, they were very uncomfortable. They were completely clueless about fracking. They’re being exploited seven ways to Sunday.”
This, in addition to the many antics fracking companies pull, does not exactly put the drilling process in a shining light. Hydraulic fracturing was already approved last year in North Carolina, so hiring vulnerable people to pretend to support it seems futile (and also really mean). The hearing itself was to discuss plans to start natural gas extraction, which could begin in March 2015. Once fracking begins, it’s unknown whether the homeless men will be hired to do actual work for the drilling companies.
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