A Guide to Protecting our Schools and
Communities from Shale Gas Development
Develop a Campaign Outside of the Regulatory Process
In addition to participating in the permitting process for local natural gas-related proposals, it is equally important to consider taking action outside the regulatory process in order to put pressure on other stakeholders that may have the power to help you and your group achieve your goals.
Public Pressure Campaigns
A public pressure campaign against a company is used to shame them or pressure them into acting better. In these types of campaigns, groups use tactics to target shareholders, consumers, or other influential groups or people that have influence over the target natural gas companies company. Before beginning a campaign like this, you should research the importance of the company's public image to its operations. Some companies will not move because of public pressure, while others might be sensitive to bad press, especially if struggling financially. Your campaigns can target natural gas companies with a specific demand.
In Pennsylvania, groups and individuals have developed a variety of different requests for companies, from asking for better technologies to asking the company to withdraw its permit application altogether. One group in northeast Pennsylvania was successful in pressuring a company to eventually withdraw its permit application due to the amount of visible public opposition the group mounted against the company at various meetings and through legal pressure. Another group in northeast Pennsylvania developed a campaign to pressure a compressor station company to use better technologies that reduce air pollution. One group working to protect their school from fracking used social media to alert company shareholders and the public about the company’s proposal to frack near multiple schools.The company’s stock started a downward trend as soon as the group started the negative social media work.
Contact Protect Our Children to speak with community leaders about what types of strategies and tactics have been effective in the past.
Your campaign could also focus on asking your local government for specific legal requirements that could potentially prevent fracking or related infrastructure from being located near schools. Some townships, such as Trafford Borough, have passed an ordinance that includes a ½ mile buffer of protection around schools and robust environmental analysis requirements such as air dispersion modeling. Click here to learn more about ordinances your municipality can pass that would place restrictions on natural gas operations.
Depending on your group’s size, skill-set, and time, you may want to consider joining an existing state-wide policy effort or create a new initiative that would advance your group’s goals. Examples of statewide campaigns include an effort to urge PA DEP to develop best-in-the-nation air pollution standards for the gas industry and also a campaign to push the Governor for a moratorium on fracking. Click here to view one campaign example.
G: Plan Your Campaign
Sometimes, taking action is the only way to get people in positions of power to take notice and respond to the immediate needs of the community. In this section you will learn some basic information on developing a campaign outside the regulatory process, different types of public pressure campaigns, and legal considerations.
Taking legal action is very time, energy, and cost intensive and should only be taken as a last resort. Finding a lawyer with the expertise that is right for you can be one of the most important decisions you make when taking legal action. Consider interviewing several candidates before selecting an attorney. Even if you do not intent to take legal action, retaining a lawyer can be valuable. An experienced lawyer can help you understand the zoning process, notify you of opportunities for public participation, advise you of your legal rights, counsel you on risks and rewards associated with different strategies, and assist you with language on paperwork to obtain information from governmental bodies. Some of the organizations in the Protect Our Children Coalition may be willing to provide some of the above legal services for free. Please contact us with any questions or if you would like to request legal assistance.
If you do decide to take legal action, manage your expectations. Success is not guaranteed even if you and your lawyer think your argument is strong. There can be value in filing a lawsuit even if you ultimately don’t achieve your preferred outcome. For instance, legal proceedings can sometimes yield valuable information that can eventually be made available to the public. Lawsuits can also bring a new level of attention to your issues. Make sure to reach out to other communities who have taken legal action in the past, or who are currently taking similar legal action. Members of an organization or a core group of community members that share a common cause for legal action against the government or a private corporation can bring a suit jointly. Make sure legal action is supporting organizing actions, campaigns, your group’s overall strategy, and that it is used only when all other options have been fully exhausted. Click here to download a list of attorneys who practice land use law.