Improving The Decision Process
Improving The Decision Process
Jennifer J. Halpern, PhD
December 27, 2010
Even assuming good faith on the part of all participants, it is challenging to nail down every detail of what will happen on somebody’s land. Some tips for preparing for the decision process follow.
- Lists of questions prepared by various groups can help landowners collect some of the details of what may happen with their land and that of their neighbors’. Un_naturalgas.org provides a list of questions in the document "Get the answers before signing a lease," that may help landowners when they are considering leases. Joint landowner coalitions may be helpful, although they do not prevent all problems. The Cornell Cooperative Extension provides information about finding landowner coalitions, and about questions to consider when leasing your land, at the CCE website.
- Landowners and industry alike can prevent misunderstandings by remembering that everyone’s perspective is colored by their experience (or lack of it) with drilling or similar industrial applications.
- Word choice can facilitate, or obstruct our understanding of each other, according to Poppy McLeod, Professor of Communication at Cornell University Some words contribute to the perpetuation of conflict. For example the industry uses “hydrofracing” or “frac”; while those opposed to drilling use “fracking” or “frakking”. McLeod’s research suggests that asking questions in a less biased way may help landowners get the answers they seek; answering them with an eye towards the landholder’s lack of experience in the field could help drillers avoid problems in the future.
- Extrapolating from peoples’ experiences in other locales may create concern about problems that are unlikely to arise for a landowner from a completely different location. McLeod points out that what people in a rural Pennsylvania town see as a “large number of trucks on the road” might not be considered a large number in a locale with significant existing truck traffic.
- Your family’s level of tolerance for distraction and noise may differ from those of your neighbors’. Your distance from the drilling site, or the direction or angle of the site relative to your home, may affect your experience. Evaluating this aspect of the process is a challenge.
- Joining with landholders in your area may be helpful. Landowners are more powerful together than they can be individually.
- In some areas, companies prohibit contracted landowners from discussing their leases, so it may be important to join together before leases are signed, when possible.
- Good legal advice is crucial. As both Gill of IOGANY (the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York) points out, understanding the drilling process, your lease, and spelling out specific terms clearly in that lease, can help ensure a satisfactory experience. Ellen Harrison of fleased.org believes their is no such thing as a good lease, but that if you do lease, be sure to spell out everything. Examine flexible language, or references to adapting to regulations that may change in the future (like those regarding well spacing noted in the article). As with most legal situations, if the lease writer makes a promise, or says something is highly unlikely, so you shouldn’t worry about it...but doesn’t write it down, there’s no way to recover if the promise is broken, or if the event does occur.