In a press release Wednesday, the American Petroleum Institute (“API”) published a first-of-its-kind industry standard for community engagement in shale-rich areas where oil and gas can be extracted using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques. API is a national oil and gas trade association with members including large integrated companies, as well as exploration and production, refining, marketing, pipeline, and marine businesses, and service and supply firms.

API Director of Standards, David Miller, announced at a press conference on Wednesday that the guidelines “will provide a roadmap for oil and natural 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.” He said that the standard “provides a detailed list of steps that oil and natural [gas] companies can take to help local leaders and residents prepare for energy exploration, minimize interruption to the community, and manage resources.”

The Community Engagement Guidelines document is divided into five phases of oil and natural gas development:

  • Entry: During the entry phase, companies 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.
  • Exploratory Drilling: During the exploratory drilling phase, companies are encouraged to focus on transparency, open dialogue, and education, with recommendations for community meetings and discussions around training for job opportunities.
  • Development: During the development phase, companies are urged to work with local emergency responders to prepare for any potential risks, engage with local authorities, develop relationships with mineral owners, and promote best practices regarding safety and environmental protection.
  • Operations: During the operations phase, when industry presence declines as existing wells continue to produce, the guidelines recommend long-term standards for maintenance and safety, as well as a public feedback mechanism to allow local residents to maintain two-way communication with company representatives.
  • Exit: During the exit phase, as companies close or transfer ownership of local operations, companies are encouraged to engage with the community regarding plans for reclamation and restoration, and prepare stakeholders for the transition.

David Miller stressed that “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.”

More information is available here.