IADC/SPE: Industry working to build public's trust

The oil and gas industry needs to expand its efforts to build the public’s trust, which has been a problem since the industry’s earliest days, panelists told a closing plenary session during the IADC/SPE Drilling Conference & Exhibition in San Diego on Mar. 8.

“Your image started out long before Macondo,” said Quenton Dokken, president and chief executive officer of the Gulf of Mexico Foundation Inc. He referred to the April 2010 blowout of the deepwater Macondo well off Louisiana, which resulted in 11 deaths and a massive oil spill.

“You are a part of the whole of vested interests in the gulf. You are not the whole,” Dokken said. “Industry is only as strong as its weakest player.”

Martin Durbin, American Petroleum Institute executive vice-president of government affairs, agreed. “As an industry, we’ve got to hold ourselves up to a higher standard,” he said.

Durbin also noted that industry can be proud of its accomplishments, including the operating standards that API has provided since it was founded decades ago.

“We don’t have to sit here and wring our hands,” Durbin said.

Industry needs to promote energy literacy throughout the general public by honestly presenting the facts, he said. This means explaining the risks as well as the benefits such as job creation, economic growth, and revenue that the industry provides the federal government.

Currently, API is working to communicate with residents “county by county and town by town” in states where industry is using hydraulic fracturing. Individual companies also are doing this, Durbin said. API also consults with regulators and lawmakers in these states.

“Trust has got to be viewed as a long-term prospect,” Durbin said.

Thomas Williams, senior adviser for the Environmentally Friendly Drilling program (EFD), said his various organizations have done numerous studies on the public’s perception of industry, and he encouraged industry to review these results on the EFD web site.

The EFD program provides unbiased science and develops methods to address issues associated with oil and gas development, he said.

Research indicates operators need to communicate early and often with the public about both the positive and negative effects of drilling programs.

“If you don’t tell the stakeholders what is about to happen, you’ve got a problem,” Williams said.

Having 30 years experience in the energy industry, Williams said industry can communicate with the public through sustainability reports that document efforts to reduce drilling pad size and cut down on traffic by using buses to shuttle drilling crew members back and forth from the work sites.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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