Guidelines Could Make Oil Companies Better Neighbors

In Yorktown, Texas, they put locks on fire hydrants to keep oil workers from stealing water.

Meanwhile, the ammonia level at the water treatment plant has been rising, and officials suspect it’s from oil field workers illegally dumping used wastewater into the sewage system of the small town, 150 miles southwest of Houston.

“It’s easy for them to drive an 18-wheeler through a car wash and pretend like they’re washing it and possibly dump (wastewater), and I say possibly because we haven’t proven that yet,” said Robert Mendez, interim city administrator for Yorktown. “It was oil field-related companies that were actually caught stealing water from our hydrants.”

These are the kinds of things that make people hate the oil and gas industry. And these are the things the American Petroleum Institute hopes to discourage with a new set of standards for community engagement.

The guidelines, which came out last week, are voluntary but companies ignore them at their peril. Angry New Yorkers have organized across the state to use zoning laws to ban drilling, while residents of Colorado will vote on a law that would allow local authorities to ban hydraulically fractured wells.

As drilling pads begin to resemble assembly lines, it's easy to forget they operate within a community inhabited by real people. Residents who love and want to protect their little pieces of this planet aren't the industry's enemy, they're good neighbors, and the industry should treat them that way.
July 15, 2014
Houston Chronicle