Tell Oil Company to Prioritize Restoration Over Public Image

shale oil

Target: Gregory Goff, Tesoro Logistics Chief Executive Officer

Goal: Ensure the company responsible  for a giant oil spill focuses on repairing the damage, not on fixing its public image.

In September 2013, a Tesoro Logistics pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of shale oil in rural North Dakota. While struggling to clean up both the toxic spill and its public relations nightmare, the company has turned to a contractor known for helping downplay some of the most notorious spills in the history of the planet.

Witt O’Brien’s (formerly Oops, Inc.) was hired by ExxonMobile in the wake of a large tar sands oil spill earlier in 2013. The company worked on the infamous Exxon Valdez spill, and oversaw the use of chemical dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s giant spill in 2010. The company was there to address the single largest spill yet seen, in the Arabian Gulf in 1991. And while taking clean up efforts seriously should be commended, that is only one reason why oil companies continue to turn to Witt O’Brien’s.

Witt O’Brien’s also specializes in what they call ‘crisis communications.’ Its website asks potential clients, “How much time and effort has your company spent building up its reputation? Is this an investment you’re able to protect?” The website goes on to suggest it is “ferocious media coverage with rumors and misinformation flowing through traditional news media and social media networks” that puts oil companies at risk after a spill.

Winter has come to North Dakota, and clean up efforts have essentially been put on hold until spring. Is burying the spill under a blanket of snow, out of sight and out of mind, a sign of things to come? Tell Tesoro Logistics that it must focus on containment and restoration in the wake of the spill, not on public relations projects that seek to dismiss the extent of the damage done.


Dear Mr. Goff,

The last few years have been challenging both for oil and gas companies, and for the rural communities that host the pipelines. When 800,000+ gallons of your company’s Bakkan shale oil bubbled up in North Dakota wheat fields in September, it was no doubt taken seriously. In the wake of your hiring Witt O’Brien’s to manage ‘crisis communication,’ however, one is left wondering just what the top priority will be during clean up.

Witt O’Brien’s is known for its work on some of the largest oil spills the world has yet seen. The company’s use of chemical dispersants after BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill has been widely criticized, as has its part in the literal cover-up of Michigan’s ‘dilbit disaster’ spill.

The public has the right to question companies’ competency following these tragic oil spills–and history has shown there is often reason for concern. The move to hire Witt O’Brien’s has, if anything, weakened confidence in your company. Demonstrate Tesoro Logistic’s commitment to clean up efforts in North Dakota by focusing on the spill itself, and not the public relations problems you now face.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Gretarsson via Wikimedia

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