Payette, Idaho — “I’ll do whatever I want” and “fuck you” were the responses from one of the nation’s top oil and gas industry attorneys when asked not to touch a news camera.
The incident occurred in the hallway of the Payette County Courthouse in Payette, Idaho, following a meeting of the county commissioners on November 17, 2014.
After EnviroNews Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry began videotaping a conversation between Joe Morton, of Emmett, and industry attorney John Peiserich, the Vice President and general counsel of Alta Mesa Idaho, things got ugly quickly.
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“I proceeded to start rolling tape again, and as soon as I did [Peiserich] stopped his conversation immediately, came straight toward me, put his hands all over our camera gear and tried to close the matte box, and then proceeded to grab me by my arm and try to manhandle me,” Urry said.
Urry is heard in the video asking Peiserich not to touch the equipment, but that doesn’t stop the oil and gas representative.
He barks back, “I’ll do whatever I want.”
The 10 or so people standing around witnessing this interaction are heard saying, “No you can’t.”
Peiserich is then heard saying, “fuck you.”
Citizens in the hall come between Peiserich and Urry, but the attorney again grabs the reporter’s camera as Urry walks toward the exit.
Witness Bob Knott, of New Plymouth, said Peiserich had no right to push anyone around and that’s why he got in between Urry and the gas lawyer.
He thinks the display of aggression represents a change of attitude by the industry in general, and not for the better.
Knott said gas and oil representatives have always been “cocky” about their plans to extract gas in southwest Idaho, but now they are “pushing and shoving and mad as hell for some reason.”
In addition to trying to stop Peiserich, Knott filed a police report about what he saw.
“The guy should be held accountable for his actions,” Knott said.
Fellow witness Joe Morton also filed a police report. After seeing Peiserich at various state and local government meetings for several years, Morton was surprised to see the attorney and one-time Halliburton lobbyist get physical with the reporter.
“I saw John Peiserich in a mode I’ve never seen before,” Morton said during a phone interview Monday. “It was quite surprising.”
The Payette Police Department is investigating the alleged assault.
Payette Police Chief Mark Clark told EnviroNews the investigation would include reviewing video of the encounter as well as the many oral and written statements provided to an officer who came to the scene.
Once that is complete, the police department will send its findings to the office of the county prosecuting attorney, who will make the decision whether or not charges will be filed against Peiserich.
“We’ll see if they’ll be willing to charge anybody,” Clark said.
In 2012, during the Idaho legislative session, Peiserich was a registered lobbyist for Halliburton, Inc., the oilfield services giant headquartered in Houston, Texas.
For several years, he has been a key figure in representing the industry as the state of Idaho and its county governments overhaul their oil and gas laws and regulations while the nascent industry gets on its feet.
In October, Peiserich was named Alta Mesa Idaho’s vice president and general counsel.
Alta Mesa Idaho is owned by parent company Alta Mesa Holdings, of Texas.
Alta Mesa Holdings is acquiring many thousands of acres of gas leases in southern Idaho and is involved in operations in the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, as well as holding leases in Louisiana and Oklahoma.
Moody’s Investors Service currently rates Alta Mesa Holdings as “non-investment grade,” with a negative credit rating over the medium term.
Peiserich is also a partner in the Little Rock, Arkansas, law firm of Perkins, Peiserich, Greathouse, Morgan, Rankin.
Peiserich didn’t return attempts to contact him for comment, nor did Alta Mesa Holdings.
Urry said that instead of attempting to rough him up, Peiserich could have chosen to speak on video.