Being frightened of the unknown is a natural and essential human response. Most people in the US have never seen a hydraulic fracturing facility and know relatively little about their operations, and yet many have already developed opinions about their safety and environmental impact based on reports in the media. Energy companies must recognize and prepare for this reality when approaching communities where the development of hydraulic fracturing facilities is now being proposed.
Dr. Kinslow presents several examples of community engagement strategies as they relate to the energy industry, specifically hydraulic fracturing, in Texas and other states. Through these examples, she illustrates how applying the three tools of commitment, transparency and dedicating the right people for this type of engagement are critical to addressing community concerns and to the economic success of hydraulic fracturing.
Commitment to the community involves a proactive response to questions and concerns of the community. Interestingly, many concerns from fracking communities do not coincide with those concerns illustrated in the media. Proactively recognizing and addressing these issues learned from past experiences places the industry in a solid position to build a trusting relationship. Transparency is essential in this relationship. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has developed an outstanding and transparent system of engagement, datasharing and strong community outreach. This Agency-wide attitude has gained the TCEQ standing as a science based, strategic, and trust worthy group to turn to when human health impacts are an issue in state and federal regulatory decision making. Having the right people to bring these tools forward is essential for successful engagement. This team must involve a set of communicators that are ready to apply their scientific, business, and regulatory knowledge in order to help people in the communities understand the safety and environmental issues. Communities know when someone is not genuine. Having the right people at the front lines to build and maintain that genuine relationship through knowledge sharing will gain respect and trust on all sides.