When oil and gas operations move into communities where they have not been present, it is crucial that relationships involve clear two-way communication, transparency and quick response to ease and eliminate concerns. This should actually happen in all places where the oil and gas industry operates, regardless of how long oil and gas companies’ operations have been present. Time has shown that any skimping in this regard can lead to misinformation being distributed, tarnished images, developmental hurdles or possibly squashed projects. This is why the initiative undertaken by the American Petroleum Institute (API) to create what it calls “good neighbor” standards for oil and natural gas developers can prove to be an effective tool in improving industry’s relationship with the public. API’s guidelines, released last week, are geared toward areas where there are horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations. The guidelines offer ways for companies to help local residents prepare for what is to come during exploration, minimize interruptions in the community and manage resources, according to the news release announcing the standards. “From entry through exploration and operation to eventual exiting, fostering broad stakeholder involvement through every phase of project development has become good industry practice. Operators should explain their activities, in a reasonable time frame, to community stakeholders and then identify, understand, listen and respond to legitimate issues and concerns,” the guidelines said. “Identifying and engaging the right stakeholders at the right time in an appropriate way allows for two-way communication to occur. Involving stakeholders in managing the potential impact on their community helps establish trust and build mutually beneficial relationships. While a balanced resolution between industry and stakeholders is ideal, some issues can present unique challenges.” Recommendations, designed to fit the different stages of a typical oil and gas project’s life cycle, include activities such as: Entry. Selecting professional standards for landmen and ethical code of conduct protocols; identifying and engaging stakeholders on communication strategies; conveying key company messages on safety, environment and health practices; building a timeline for when to release information to the public; and developing information packets to distribute at community engagements; Exploration. Determining the best media and technology vehicles for community access to the company; assessing opportunities for workforce development with key community stakeholders; offering and providing access to a community feedback mechanism; and engaging in dialogue to address issues, challenges and opportunities; Development. Providing project updates by engaging emergency services and first responders; informing the community on potential economic impacts; seeking collaborations with local universities; and managing and promoting best practices; Operations/production. Addressing community concerns; developing and implementing an ongoing strategy to engage local government officials; and maintaining open communication; and Exit. Decreasing surface footprint; conducting community meetings during decommissioning; and soliciting key community leaders and other stakeholders for input on exit strategy. These were just a few of several recommendations, or considerations, given for each phase. “America’s energy revolution is creating millions of jobs and reenergizing communities from coast to coast,” API Director of Standards David Miller said in the release. “The energy revolution is now occurring in areas of the country where oil and natural gas exploration doesn’t have the same history as Texas or Oklahoma. API’s community engagement guidelines will serve as a gold standard for good neighbor policies that address community concerns, enhance the long-term benefits of local development, and ensure a two-way conversation regarding mutual goals for community growth.” The guidelines are available for free via the API’s website. Hopefully, they will be put to use with good results for all. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at vaddison@hartenergy.com.