API releases unconventional production community engagement standard

The American Petroleum Institute issued a new standard specifically aimed at effectively engaging with US communities affected by exploration and development of unconventional oil and gas resources. ANSI-API Bulletin 100-3 emerged following 3 years of meetings and discussions with producers, community leaders, state regulators, property owners and other stakeholders, API Standards Director David Miller said.

“It’s a first-of-its-kind industry standard for community engagement,” he told reporters on July 9. “These guidelines will provide a roadmap for oil and gas operators seeking to build lasting, successful relationships with local residents in areas of the country where energy development opportunities are open for the first time, thanks to advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.”

The new unconventional production community engagement standard is similar to others that already exist for pipelines and rail transportation, Miller said. He and New York State Petroleum Council Executive Director Karen Moreau, who also participated in the teleconference, emphasized that it was not a knee-jerk response to recent court decisions or moves by communities to restrict or ban fracing.

“We’re not here to mirror environmental groups’ activities,” Moreau said. “Our member companies spend their time developing technologies and improving production to make their operations better. We don’t take our cues from environmental groups which apparently aren’t held to the same standards we are. Many of the bans in New York are in towns where there are no prospects for development. We’ve been engaging with communities where it looks more likely.”

Steps during five phases

Miller said the new standard provides a detailed list of steps that producers can take to help local leaders and residents prepare for energy exploration, minimize interruption to their communities, and manage resources. It is divided into five oil and gas development phases: entry, exploration, development, operations, and exit.

“During the entry phase, companies determine the potential for energy extraction in a given area,” Miller explained. “They are encouraged to introduce key personnel to local leaders, share information on safety commitments and operational goals, and set professional standards for local employees and contractors.”

Once exploratory drilling begins, producers are encouraged to focus on transparency, open dialogue, and education, he continued. Community meetings and discussions around training for job opportunities are recommended, he said.

“In the development phase, as operations are expanded to match the potential of local resources, companies are urged to work with local emergency responders to prepare against any potential risks,” Miller said. “They also are prompted to engage with local authorities, develop relationships with mineral owners, and promote best practices regarding safety and environmental protection.”

Maintenance, traffic safety

Miller said once operations begin, industry presence declines as existing wells continue to produce, while affected land is reclaimed and restored. “Long-term standards for maintenance and traffic safety are recommended, as well as a public feedback mechanism that allows local residents to maintain two-way communication with company representatives,” he said.

Finally, during the exit phase, companies may close or transfer ownership of local operations, sometimes after decades of successful production, he indicated. “Just as companies plan for their original entry, it is recommended that they engage with the community regarding plans for reclamation and restoration, and prepare stakeholders for the transition,” he said.

“Each community is different, and the standards are not designed to be exhaustive, but rather to serve as a reference for developing a plan-of-action that matches the needs and concerns of a broad range of stakeholders—from rural farmers to indigenous tribes,” Miller said. “As with all our standards on hydraulic fracturing, API’s Global Industry Services division will work hand-in-hand with industry participants to educate operators on the successful deployment of engagement strategies.”

Moreau said that New York state law already gives communities the right to regulate their roads and taxes, and API strongly supports that concept. It backs state preemption in other areas because elected local and county councils can change members every 2 years, and producers making spending commitments over longer periods need more stability, she said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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