When Shell Oil Company arrived in the small town of Harper, Kansas in 2011 to begin shale oil exploration, the company found limited housing options available for its employees. In fact, the town of about 1,500 struggled to provide adequate housing for some of its own citizens, especially seniors. The housing shortage meant that pressure for available housing could drive up rents, with low-income locals losing out to the higher-paid oil field workers.
Some local business owners then approached the company with a proposal—to build housing for Shell employees that would then revert to community use when the employees departed. Shell agreed to support this innovative solution. After carefully vetting several proposals, the sponsors selected builders for two projects who had long-standing community roots and a good sense of the needs of the local citizenry.
The first project involved new construction, initially of 15 one-bedroom units, to be expanded to 32 units after Shell left town. The company agreed to pay for five of the units in exchange for their use as employee flex housing for up to one year. Shell then provided support for the construction of several more bedroom units and common areas. The builder expanded on this initial footprint with two-bedroom apartments to complete the project.
For the second project, the builder renovated the upper stories of a local bank. Six additional employee apartments were created in this space, with laundry facilities and Wi-Fi making them desirable accommodations. To support administration and planning for Shell personnel, the company decided to add a boardroom to this facility.
As discussed in the section above, housing temporary workers, especially in rural areas, can be challenging. This collaboration between Shell and community entrepreneurs resulted in a plan that avoided both shortsighted overbuilding and the displacement of low-income residents. Shell stayed in Harper for approximately 18 months, with comfortable accommodations for its workers, and the town received much-needed housing for its senior citizens and other temporary residents.
In October 2006, Marathon Oil Company launched an educational awareness program intended to address the methamphetamines (meth) crisis taking place in Wyoming. Although the problem was not unique to Wyoming, Governor Freudenthal had expressed concern, citing it as one of the top social issues in the state. 1 With its long history in Wyoming, Marathon had not only witnessed the issue first hand, but was also in a unique position to do something about it. The company had found that the high incidence of meth use had become a concern for hiring and maintaining contractors for all operators in the area. In some locations, the issue had even begun to affect the company’s operations because its contractors were experiencing failed pre-employment drug testing, an increase in absenteeism, and shortages in the local workforce, leading to project delays. Marathon was also hearing that families, especially those with teenagers, were concerned about moving into the area for oil and gas industry jobs.
In response, Marathon designed an educational awareness program intended to start a discussion among its employees about the dangers of meth. After a weeklong presentation series attended by nearly 350 Marathon employees and contractors, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Many employees commented that their families, friends, and neighbors needed to see it as well in order to initiate an open community dialogue about the issue.
Amy Mifflin was manager of Marathon’s corporate social responsibility program when she took on the question of whether to bring the awareness program to the larger community. She was initially met with in-house skepticism about taking on an issue as significant as meth addiction that was seemingly unrelated to oil and gas development. After discussing the project internally to define its parameters, the company agreed on the value of an awareness-raising campaign that would serve as a resource to employees, their families, and potential employees, as well as build a strong relationship with the local community.
The first community workshop included a presentation by health, environment, and safety expert Eddie Hill about the dangers of meth; information from the local sheriff’s office and the mayor; and testimonies from people who had been directly affected by meth. According to Mifflin, the success of the initial workshops and subsequent presentations in other communities transformed many company skeptics into champions. For a relatively small investment, the program helped strengthen community relationships and build a positive reputation for the company.
Brett Martin, a certified addictions practitioner, participated in the outreach and education campaign when it came to his hometown of Cody. He gave a presentation at the Marathon project’s events in Cody and on the nearby Wind River Reservation. In his role as an addictions counselor, he often speaks to audiences about his own struggle with meth addiction and his pathway to recovery. Due to Marathon’s reputation and standing in the area, he observed that the company was able to reach a larger and more diverse audience than the local health department could. Hundreds of people attended the presentation, including those in key leadership roles, such as city councilors, commissioners, and local mayors. The presentation was well received in the community and people even brought their families to see it—which, Martin said, indicated that the Marathon project was able to transcend the usual stigma. “It helped to show that we can talk about this and it doesn’t have to be about shame,” he said. “Marathon found a way to allow people to talk about it, to say ‘we’re all in this together.’”
Marathon’s meth education and awareness campaign ran from 2006–2009, reaching an estimated 75,000 people in 11 states. It was delivered free of charge at high schools and town community centers. There were workshops with state health departments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The company also filmed the presentation, producing a video for each community and distributing it free of charge. By the time the campaign was winding down, Mifflin was receiving requests from other oil and gas companies that wanted to do similar projects in communities where they were operating.
Asked about advice she might offer to others confronting similar challenges, Mifflin encouraged companies to engage in conversations with communities, even difficult ones. “It starts to alleviate tension with private sector industries, such as oil and gas,” she said, “and people begin to see you as an advocate for collaboration and actively engaged in solving the problem.”
For companies considering undertaking a similar outreach project, Martin suggests finding ways to support continued conversations in affected communities. For example, the company could offer regular meeting space and resources for developing outreach materials to those who are inspired by the project and want to keep the conversation going.
For more information, contact Amy Mifflin at firstname.lastname@example.org. See below for a short video clip with an overview of the program, accessed November 30, 2014
Amy Mifflin (Global Collaborations, Inc.), interview by Erica Bucki and Dana Goodson, June 2014. ↩
At its sites in the Fayetteville Shale play in Arkansas, Chesapeake Energy had been purchasing most of its water for drilling and hydraulic fracturing from private sources and trucking it to the well pads. While this process was working for the company, the truck traffic was causing damage to local roads. In 2008, therefore, Chesapeake decided to look into new water supply sources. The company found that by creating what is essentially a holding lake for the overflow from the Little Red River, it could cut down on some of its trucking needs.
Under the system the company developed, water is pumped from the river to the holding lake and transferred into a gravity-fed pipeline that traverses over 40,000 feet, with fourteen hydrants positioned at crossroads where the water can be pumped into trucks. The piping system reduces the air quality impact and safety concerns of trucking, and serves a dual purpose as a source of water for local fire departments. The project was approved to extract a limit of 1,550 acre-feet of water annually. 1
Although water is only diverted from the river during periods of high flow, as mandated by the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission (ANRC), there were local concerns about how this project would affect the Little Red River’s ecosystem. The river is home to a trout population prized by anglers, so Chesapeake turned to the local chapter of Trout Unlimited for input on the project.
As a result of this collaborative effort, various methods were identified to protect the wildlife in the river—for example, the intake pipe is oriented to face upstream and is covered with a metal mesh to prevent harm to the fish. 2 The company has also instituted monitoring of water quality and both game and nongame fish species in the reach of river surrounding the intake. Working with the community, Chesapeake was able to identify and implement measures to protect the river’s wildlife and its recreational and scenic values to the community.
Communities in the Eagle Ford Shale region know from experience that an influx of oil and gas development can mean infrastructure updates, inflated housing prices, and an increase in traffic, among other impacts. In an effort to prevent the typical boom-bust cycle that occurs in many communities experiencing natural resource development, Shell Oil Company and the University of Texas—San Antonio (UTSA) have collaborated to develop community-based solutions in the region. With the goal of helping communities make the most of their existing resources, the UTSA launched a capacity-building training series. 1 The program aims to help communities plan for typical boomtown effects in a way that considers the long-term benefits to the community as a whole. For some of these communities, long-term planning to maximize the benefits of development has meant building strong collaborative relationships with their neighboring towns.
Shell has also funded a workshop series that focuses on how to build successful local businesses. The purpose is to develop realistic, achievable community vision plans with an emphasis on proactivity and preparing communities for the implementation of municipal improvement projects. For example, La Vernia, Texas has developed a unified plan for how to invest increased sales tax revenue. 2 Their overall goal is to invest in projects that will benefit the broader community and the town’s cultural environment. With this in mind, the city will be investing in downtown public spaces, not only to encourage business growth in the downtown area, but also to provide features that residents will enjoy. Local business owners plan to participate in this effort by using income from increased revenue to make updates and diversify their services. The city is also emphasizing strategic planning for long-term job creation.
While the training sessions are intended to help communities plan for their future, the program itself is temporary. It is designed to be adaptable, placing the importance of the desired outcomes in the hands of the community that will be affected. For the Eagle Ford Shale program, change is already afoot, due to Shell’s recent divestment of its acreage in the region. The effort is instead moving to the Permian Basin in West Texas, where development is booming.
For more information: Small business development centers and/or community colleges can often help with similar planning efforts. For more information on the UTSA/Shell project, please contact RESOLVE at email@example.com.
When the Permian Basin in West Texas experienced a fivefold increase in number of oil rigs, Bill Wren at the University of Texas McDonald Observatory began to educate both private companies and the public and the on the adverse effects too much light can have on a community. Lights that stay on 24 hours a day can be detrimental to organizations such as the McDonald Observatory that depend on a dark sky at night. Additionally, in places known for their beautiful night skies, too much light can mean the loss of a viewshed of great value to the community. Concerned about this potential loss, Wren has given several presentations and demonstrations to educate people about ways to enhance the efficiency of light fixtures while protecting the sky from the light pollution.
Rather than demand that companies turn off the bright lights, Wren and the McDonald Observatory have shown businesses that installing dark sky-friendly fixtures can improve light efficiency and save them money. 1 Both visibility and security are improved when measures are taken to prevent light pollution. Overall, it is estimated that $1.74 billion is wasted in the United States every year on energy for light shining directly upward. 2 By switching to shielded light fixtures for street lighting, the Canadian city of Calgary saved an estimated $1.7 million per year on energy costs.
In an effort to help restore dark skies in West Texas, Wren reached out to Stacy Locke, the CEO of Pioneer Energy Services in San Antonio, and together they implemented a trial of new fixtures. Although Locke and Pioneer were initially unaware of the issue, once approached, they were open to implementing the changes. 3
Wren suggested that Pioneer direct their lights downward rather than horizontally, which reduces the amount of light lost into the sky. 4 Aiming the lights in this way creates a more efficient light and, saves the company money due to decreased energy costs. This change has also provided companies with a safer working environment because the downward-pointing light does not cause glare like horizontally aimed lights do. Workers are better able to see instrument controls, which creates a safer and more efficient workplace. 5
Wren’s work has now also expanded beyond Texas, and he has collaborated with the National Park Service to develop these light managing techniques in Utah. 6 According to Wren, it is critical to educate people about the problems associated with too much light in order to implement needed changes.
Wren has also been at the forefront of the movement to create legislation to reduce lights that are adversely affecting the night sky. As a result, a light ordinance was implemented in the seven counties surrounding the Permian Basin in 2011. Each county is responsible for writing and implementing its own ordinance to reduce light pollution in that area. This legislation will prevent more light pollution linked to an increasing population as oil and gas development in West Texas continues to grow. 7
For more information, contact Bill Wren, McDonald Observatory, University of Texas at Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (432) 426-3621.
Box 10. Examples of Education and Training Programs
San Antonio, TX (Eagle Ford Shale) – Educators in San Antonio, Texas are collaborating with energy firms to create a program that would give middle school and high school age students the opportunity to build a skillset that would prepare them for working in the oil and gas industry. By creating educational programs in communities affected by the increased presence of oil and gas development, the residents of those areas are given the opportunity to have a leg up in that job market. Local hiring would reduce the number of transient workers that would have to be hired from out of town. It will be an optional field of study meant to spark students’ interest in work in the energy field or college courses in related fields. As of April 2014, this project was in the planning stages, with the goal of having information about the project disseminated throughout the school system in the following months.
ShaleNet: Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia (Marcellus and Utica Shales) – The ShaleNet program was developed in 2010 by members of Westmoreland County Community College in Youngwood, Pennsylvania with the goal of meeting specific demands of the oil and gas job market. The program received funding through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration. With that financial support, the college developed a job training program to prepare a new corps of workers for high-demand jobs in the oil and gas industry. The program offers a range of credentials, including training courses that are several weeks long, one- or two-year degree certificates, associates degrees, and a bachelor’s degree in Technology Management. The program partners with educational institutions to provide the training and education programs and works with industry partners to connect learners to upstream, midstream, and downstream careers in the oil and gas industry. It serves as a way for people with an interest in working in the oil and gas industry to obtain the required knowledge and skillsets for the job they want. By June 2013, the program had 20 training providers across 4 states, and had trained 5,000 people, connecting 3,400 of them with jobs. For more information on the program, contact a ShaleNet career counselor.
Shale Education and Training Center (ShaleTEC): Pennsylvania (Marcellus and Utica Shales) – A collaboration of the Pennsylvania College of Technology and Penn State Extension, the Shale Training and Education Center offers courses in applied technology, such as heavy equipment operation and civil engineering, as well as community-focused topics such as land and leasing; environment and water quality; and first responder training. The Pennsylvania College of Technology is the lead implementing partner in the ShaleNet program. The ShaleTEC program was created with the goal of building an “educational pipeline” of skilled technicians that would feed into the energy industry. Since the program’s creation in 2008, over 8,500 people have participated in its oil and gas-related courses. 1
Box 9. Case Study: Driver Safety — Peru Liquefied Natural Gas Pipeline 1
Peru, home to extremely challenging terrain for drivers, has the third-highest traffic mortality rate in the world (21.5 casualties per 1,000 inhabitants). 2 During the installation of a 408-kilometer liquefied natural gas pipeline, the company Peru Liquefied Natural Gas (PLNG) instituted a program to achieve driver safety.
Over the course of the project, a variety of stakeholders, including PLNG, government officials, drivers, and community members all contributed to the effort — with monthly assessment meetings, ongoing driver safety programs, community road safety workshops, reporting of concerns by both drivers and the community, and a driver incentive program that rewarded incident-free on-time delivery.
Drivers delivering pipes and equipment to the project traveled approximately 69 million kilometers during the two-year installation (2008 – 2010) — often navigating unpaved roads affected by heavy rains, snow, and freezing temperatures — from sea level to altitudes as high as 4,900 meters. Despite these challenges, with very careful attention to vehicular safety, incidents during the entire installation averaged 2.82 per 1,000,000 kilometers driven, exceeding the program’s target of 7.53; and, in 2012, there were no road accidents related to the pipeline work at all.
Much of the project’s success was due to ongoing evaluation and adaptation, as each incident was studied and underlying causes determined. Other elements contributing to the success of the program included:
Instituting a company safety accountability framework to support the safety program
Implementing a system of management controls, including:
Road risk maps highlighting potential hazards such as heavy pedestrian traffic, winding roads, and open trenches were developed and updated regularly. Drivers were instructed on how to use these, and electronic versions were synced with the vehicle’s GPS.
Speed controls were initiated, such as posted signage, vehicular GPS recording, and use of real-time speed radar guns by road supervisors.
Drivers were regularly monitored for blood alcohol levels (with a zero tolerance standard) and for signs of altitude impairment. Some of the monitoring for speed and driver condition took place at five strategically located checkpoints along the route. Vehicles and loads were also inspected, and driver services were provided.
Working with the community to raise awareness of safe driving practices.
Focusing on improving the health and safety of drivers. For example, drivers were educated on appropriate nutrition and water intake for high-altitude driving.
Holding third-party contractors to the same standards, with this requirement included in the procurement bidding process.
Providing incentives for deliveries without incident.
Summary of International Finance Corporation (IFC), “Lessons of Experience: Peru LNG: A Focus on Continuous Improvement” (No. 3, March 2013). ↩
Box 4. Case Study from the Mining Industry: The Good Neighbor Agreement
In 2000, when Stillwater Mining Company began making plans to expand their mining operations in two Montana counties, several environmental NGOs saw an opportunity to engage with the company about protecting the area’s natural resources. During the hearing on the initial draft of the expansion permit, NGO representatives raised questions about its environmental implications. The groups subsequently entered into negotiations with the mining company on how to resolve these issues before the permit was finalized. The result of their negotiations was the creation of the 2000 Good Neighbor Agreement, 1 a legally binding document. The purpose of the agreement is to protect the area’s quality of life while providing for responsible economic development.
Designed to avoid triggering state government regulatory action on water quality, the Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) establishes water quality requirements that exceed those required by the state. Three citizens’ committees and a set of projects were established to implement the objectives outlined in the agreement. As part of the agreement, an independent third-party consultant provides the citizen councils with technical assistance. The consultant costs, as well as other expenses of implementing the agreement, are covered by Stillwater.
One citizen committee focuses on engaging local residents in water quality monitoring for the agreement in the Stillwater, Boulder, and East Boulder Rivers. 2 Other initiatives of the GNA have increased public safety and decreased air pollution by establishing traffic restrictions and providing for carpooling, as well as a busing program for miners. On an annual basis, the technology committee considers any emerging best practices in the mining industry that could be applied to either of the mines.
The company’s transparency about its operations, along with citizen participation in monitoring activities, has fostered an environment of trust. 3 Maintaining an ongoing relationship has been important for stakeholders in the GNA because it has allowed for open dialogue and development of amendments to the agreement as needed. For example, the busing agreement originally stated that Stillwater was permitted only 35 private vehicles on the road per day. Nine years later, stakeholders renegotiated the traffic provisions to accommodate the changing operational needs of the mine while keeping traffic to a minimum.
In its newsletter commemorating the tenth anniversary of the GNA, the Northern Plains Resource Council, one of the original NGO parties to the agreement, stated that the GNA “has become a template for resolving disputes and promoting positive interaction in the permitting and development of natural resources.” 4
Oil drilling has taken place in Alaska since 1967. With the expansion of the industry in recent decades, some development activities began to occur near rural Alaskan native communities in the North Slope region, where some residents began expressing health concerns. In 2006, local tribal leaders and the borough government responded with a decision to jointly conduct the region’s first HIA. The project’s goals were to address community concerns and bring a more systematic, evidence-based approach to integrating public health data into the oil and gas planning and regulatory process. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agreed to integrate the HIA into an existing environmental impact statement (EIS) process for proposed oil and gas leasing near several local villages.
The study produced some significant findings. The HIA highlighted potential impacts on regional fish and wildlife populations, which would have consequences for local diet and nutrition. It also recognized potential social changes that the anticipated large increase in population would bring to the region. Finally, the HIA acknowledged the potential benefits for local communities, such as increased revenues to support police and emergency services, education, and public health programming.
As a result of the HIA’s identification of specific risks to the community, preventative measures were taken to prepare the community for the expected changes, including:
new BLM requirements for monitoring contaminants in locally-harvested fish and game
air quality modelling for large industry facilities located near villages
water quality monitoring
worker education programs on drug and alcohol use and sexually transmitted diseases
The HIA process also led to a new level of collaboration between state and tribal public health authorities; state and federal regulators; and industry. The state subsequently established an HIA program and now conducts HIAs for large projects throughout Alaska.
Sources: Aaron Wernham, “Inupiat Health and Proposed Alaskan Oil Development: Results of the First Integrated Health Impact Assessment/ Environmental Impact Statement for Proposed Oil Development on Alaska’s North Slope,” EcoHealth 4 (2007), 500–513; The Pew Charitable Trusts, “Case Study: Oil Development, North Slope of Alaska” (December 30, 2006)