Posted September 27, 2017
Our industry’s “social license to operate” – the broader public’s confidence that our companies’ work, operations and products serve society’s greater good – is based on a number of things, none more important this this:
These are our communities – where we work, live, play, learn and grow. We’re your neighbors. Our children go to school with your children. Our employees and their families care about where they work and live. Those are important reasons why safety, protecting the environment and public health, and giving back to communities are some of industry’s top priorities. All help sustain industry’s compact with other Americans to bring them energy in as safe and responsible a manner as possible.
Let’s explore this social license to operate concept over the next weeks in a series of posts – looking at workplace safety, reduced environmental footprint, stewardship of water resources, emissions reduction, cleaner fuels and protecting animals and their habitats. We’ll also address industry efforts to develop a more diverse workforce, charitable giving, volunteerism, and investments in local education.
First, given the devastation of recent hurricanes in Texas, Louisiana and Florida, it’s appropriate to start the series by seeing how natural gas and oil companies have been and are involved in the recovery and rebuilding of communities in the wake of a natural disaster. Again, because these mega-storms hit our homes, schools and workplaces, too.
Coming Together in a Time of Disaster
Our thoughts are with all the communities directly and indirectly affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which brought heart-breaking devastation. We know this first-hand because the Gulf Coast, particularly southeastern Texas and the Houston area, is the energy capital of the U.S., and many of our companies are headquartered there or have operations in the region. In the storms’ aftermath industry employees faced the reality of ruined homes, flooded neighborhoods, school disruptions, uncertain access to job sites and offices, and more. Our companies and their people responded as others in the region have, by coming together and working with their neighbors and communities to recover and start rebuilding.
“In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, there are plenty of lessons to be learned. One of them, which we've seen time and again but never fails to inspire and reassure, is that the worst of circumstances bring out the best in the American people. From risking their own safety to rescue neighbors to donating generously to support the long recovery, Americans are meeting adversity with resilience and kindness.”
To deal with natural disasters, companies have specific protocols in place to prepare for and respond to these storms. Companies have to shut down operations at specific times and in specific ways to avoid accidents and prevent injury, while also evacuating employees from offshore platforms and other facilities.
Every natural disaster is a learning experience. Each hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, and tornado brings its own set of unique challenges that exposes vulnerabilities and moves the industry to action, regardless of how much preparation there is beforehand. But one thing stands true of all companies for all disasters: once a storm passes, the first priority for any company is the safety and well-being of its employees.
Immediately After the Storms
The first priority is safety. “Are all our employees accounted for? Are they safe or hurt? Where are they?” These are the types of questions that run through the minds of management and fellow coworkers at oil and natural gas companies.
After Harvey hit along the Gulf Coast and Irma hit Florida, assessments of property damage ensued. But, even before that, the first thing on the To-Do checklist was taking care of employees. Contractors were hired to gut homes that were flooded, remove debris, and help employees as their families began the recovery process. Addressing the physical damage caused by these storms is not the only thing companies did.
There are numerous other ways that oil and natural gas companies supported their workers after the storms. Some companies provided employees with online portals to donate time, money, and resources to their coworkers who were affected. Other companies provided their displaced employees with hotel rooms and shelter after the storm, while others provide their employees who were affected by the storm with direct financial support as they begin to tear down, rebuild or replace their homes and lost personal items.
Beginning the Recovery and Rebuilding Process
We care about the recovery of affected areas not only because it’s where we operate, but because we are part of these communities. We are committed to doing everything we can to help our fellow neighbors, friends, and employees recover from the devastation that these storms brought.
The Gulf Coast and the southeastern U.S. region are home to tens of thousands of industry employees and their families. From the moment Harvey hit, our companies jumped in to lend a hand. They coordinated with the Red Cross and first responders. They sent work crews to rip out drywall from flooded homes, and they even provided helicopters to deliver water to families in the city of Beaumont when the water system failed. A similar story is true for the response to Irma.
There are dozens and dozens of stories like these, of companies and their employees going above and beyond for their neighbors and communities. Here are a few highlights:
Recovery is Ongoing
While industry operations have largely recovered since Harvey and Irma hit, hurricane season is not over and there is still much work to be done. The effort to help Texas and Florida continue to recover is ongoing and will continue until our communities are back on their feet. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses have been damaged or destroyed, and it will take years to rebuild fully, but our industry is committed to being there every step of the way.
Houston is home for the oil and natural gas industry and our industry is going to be there for Houston, Florida and wherever else a natural disaster might occur. Learning from challenges and adapting is what the industry does best. In the months and years ahead, we will work hand in hand with communities all along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere to help them recover from the devastation, and to make sure industry operations are even safer and more resilient in the future. The work is never done. It can’t be when you’re committed to continuous improvement and safety.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Wallace is an associate of research and content development for the American Petroleum Institute. Before joining API she was a researcher and policy analyst at America’s Natural Gas Alliance, and worked on pollinator conservation programs and state wildlife conservation policies before entering the energy industry. Kate graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in Resource Economics, and earned her Master of Public Administration from George Mason University. She loves taking her dogs on hikes, travelling and navigating the northern Virginia/DC craft beer and wine scenes with her friends and family.