Welcome to the Pennsylvania Citizens’ Toolkit Resources.

With the ever expanding oil and gas operations in our region, citizens, advocacy groups, and elected officials seem to have more questions than answers.  And, because so much of this industrial development is new to most communities, finding facts on the operations and the permitting approval processes can seem daunting.  In an effort to help educate, inform, and guide citizens through the basic components of the process, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) is developing a Citizens’ Toolkit.  This informational toolkit provides descriptions of key portions the public notification and participation requirements, as well as fact sheets and example templates, so that citizens and decision makers can better prepare themselves.

The Golden Rules:  As citizens educate themselves on oil and gas operations and local oversight issues, engagement with local elected officials and reviewing bodies or boards is key.  In order to achieve effective engagement, citizens should strive to become reliable sources of factual resources by using the following methods of presenting facts, asking questions and seeking important updates and changes at all levels of government.

  • State the facts– using documents, reports or other factual resources, citizens should base their oral and written presentations on materials obtained via publicly accessible documents, news stories/reports and other objective resources.  It is important, when and where possible, for citizens to base their comments on company documents provided as part of the application process so that specifics about the proposed project can be referenced.  For example, permit applications, along with the accompanying correspondence submitted for review, provide important insights into what a company may be seeking.    There is a treasure trove of publicly available documents, if you know where to look for them and how to ask to obtain access to them. See PA Right to Know Law tool section of the Citizens’ Toolkit for more information.
  • Ask questions– if full disclosure of pertinent facts are not available via the means outlined above, citizens can and should pose questions to decision makers.  Questions can be submitted in writing or included as part of oral comments or testimony as part of the various meeting/hearing opportunities described throughout the Citizens’ Toolkit.  The most effective questions are based on facts, and not just speculation or opinions.  See Public Meetings/Public Hearings tool section of the Citizens’ Toolkit for more information.
  • State your opinions– opinions can be included as part of citizen participation in meetings, hearings or other public comment opportunities.  However, it is important to note that passion and emotion alone, are not enough.  It is essential that personal opinions or accounts include references to hard facts.  Be mindful that stating opinions does not mean citizens can accuse anyone or any company of a misdeed and doing so usually is counterproductive.  Use your opinions wisely.  See Public Meetings/Public Hearings tool section of the Citizens’ Toolkit for more information.

EIP continues to add educational resources into our Citizens’ Toolkit.  Currently included in the toolkit are the following sections:

The Citizens’ Toolkit is the start of important resources, designed to help level the playing field for those hoping to become engaged in the application, review, and permitting processes for the oil and gas operations.  EIP will update the tools and resources, as warranted.

It is our hope these tools will provide some clarity and a roadmap, of sorts, in an effort to ensure more public transparency, fact-checking and participation.

We look forward to working with you as, together, we seek accountability and transparency.    

Welcome to the Pennsylvania Citizens’ Toolkit

With the ever expanding oil and gas operations in our region, citizens, advocacy groups and elected officials seem to have more questions than answers.  And, because so much of this industrial development is new to most communities, finding facts on the operations and the permitting approval processes can seem daunting.  In an effort to help educate, inform and guide citizens through the basic components of the process, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) is developing a Citizens’ Toolkit.  This informational toolkit provides descriptions of key portions the public notification and participation requirements, as well as provides fact sheets and example templates, so that citizens and decision makers can better prepare themselves.

Link to the full PA Citizens’ Toolkit Resources: Welcome to the Citizens’ Toolkit

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The Golden Rules of Communicating

As citizens educate themselves on oil and gas operations and local oversight issues, engagement with local elected officials and reviewing bodies or boards is key.  In order to achieve effective engagement, citizens should strive to become reliable sources of factual resources by using the following methods of presenting facts, asking questions and seeking important updates and changes at all levels of government.

For more information: Golden Rules of Communicating

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Local Government Organization Chart

In order for citizens to effectively participate in local proceedings, it is important to understand how local government is organized and what power resides within each portion of decision making.  This organization chart provides an overview of local government structure along with valuable links to other factual resources.

For more information: Local Government Organization Chart

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Quick Reference Guide to Municipal Government and Responsibilities

There are multiple rules and regulations that play a role in the decision making capacity of local governments.  In order to effectively engage decision makers, it is essential that residents and advocates understand the rules, regulations and responsibilities of local officials.

Knowing how to “speak the language” of local government is key to ensuring that proper procedures are adhered to and necessary protections are instituted.

The following is a guide to some of the most important documents local government officials use in their roles as either appointed or elected officials.   Each section includes color notations indicating the relevant legal authority.  By following the color codes, citizens can easily find the reference materials associated with key provisions of the guiding documents used by local governmental bodies, their staff members, and consultants.

For more information: Quick Reference Guide to Municipal Government

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Act 14 Municipal Notification Letters

Companies applying for permit approval from the state must send letters to the host municipality announcing plans to submit an application to PA DEP for permitting operations.  The following letters give you an idea of what you may find in the letters and also include tips on what to look for.

Letter #1
Letter #2
Letter #3
Letter #4
Letter #5
Letter #6
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Local Application Process – Complete and Fully Transparent Submissions are a Must 

In an effort to ensure full disclosure of the entirety of each proposed oil and gas operation, so that local decision makers can make lawful – and the best – decisions for their communities, Townships/Boroughs should consider adopting the following requirements:

      • Step one – Completeness Review: How local officials can and should adopt an application review process that is consistent with the process used by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP).
      • Step two – Technical Review and Conditional Use Procedures:  How using this two-step process, local government officials can ensure that all required submittals have been received so that all applicable Boards/Commissions/Councils can consider a complete application package and render their decision on all the facts and not just incomplete or partial submittals.

For more information: “Local Application Process

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PA Right to Know Law Tool

Facts matter – so there is power in public files. Having access to actual company documents, reports, and correspondence with the overseeing regulatory agency is an important way to level the playing field. Company documents will reveal specific details about the proposed operation and its location, as well as provide key pieces of information about pollution sources and other factual details. Submitting comments, preparing testimony, or participating in open Question and Answer sessions can be made much stronger when facts from actual company documents can be called into question.

For more information about accessing public documents: “Facts Do Matter – The Power of Public Files

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How to Write a Letter to the Editor

Your opinion matters and you should consider voicing your concerns publicly. Writing a Letter to the
Editor at your local or regional newspaper provides an outlet for elected officials, regulators, and the public to consider important, personal viewpoints on proposed projects, existing operations, and proposed expansions of facilities in your community, in the region, and throughout the state.

See more details: “How to Write a Letter to the Editor

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How to Document and Report a Problem 

You are the eyes and ears of the community.  What you see, hear, smell, and feel is important.

If you see something that might indicate an emergency – like a spill of fluids in or around your property, a strong chemical smell, or a flaring event – it is important to report those incidents to the appropriate agency.

For more information: “How to Document and Report Problems

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PA Sunshine Law

  • What it means for public notification, public meetings, and public participation
  • What it means for citizens’ rights to attend, participate, and record meetings
  • What it means for public officials and how governmental procedures are to be conducted

For more information: PA Sunshine Law

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Public Meetings

You are the eyes and ears of your community.  All decisions facing your elected and appointed boards could have an impact on you, your family, your property, and your community.  You can and should be part of that democratic process, particularly when it comes to rapidly expanding oil and gas operations.  By knowing the rules and participating in the process, your involvement can serve a vital purpose:  to ensure full transparency and disclosure of all the facts as well as hold all elected officials to the rules governing public notice, participation, and all other aspects of local decision-making.

For more information: Public Meetings Fact Sheet

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Public Hearings: Understanding the Rules for Participation

A public hearing is a formal proceeding held in order to receive testimony from all interested parties – including the general public – on a proposed issue or action.  Providing oral or written testimony as part of an official public hearing is an important opportunity for your voice to be heard before a decision is made.  Whether you choose to provide testimony, or not, attending a public hearing can also provide important information on the issue/application that is the subject of the hearing.  Listening to others comments/concerns can provide clarity on the issue being considered.  Hearings are important venues but there are very strict ground rules.  Learn more about how to effectively engage during these important proceedings.

For more information: Public Hearings

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How to Prepare My Testimony 

Public hearings are key windows of opportunity for your voice to be heard by decision makers at all levels of government:  local, county, state and federal.  There are ground rules for participating in hearings including a strict time limit.  This fact sheet will provide a guide to how you can best prepare to participate in a public hearing.

For more information: “How to Prepare My Testimony

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Questions to Ask Before Signing a Gas Lease 

It is important to note that no one portion of an oil and gas operation is a stand-alone feature:  from well pads to processing plants, there is a highly industrialized web of infrastructure needed to support the entirety of the operation.  However, far too often, industry does not completely disclose the full capacity buildout of their planned operations so asking for more details and disclosures is essential.  Having a fuller picture of exactly what might be planned for your property and your community is important.

For more information: “Questions to Ask Before Signing a Gas Lease

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Questions and Procedures Local Government Officials Should Consider Before Granting Project Approval

As oil and gas development expands into suburban communities, it is important that citizens and local leaders have the opportunity to fully review ALL the facts associated with any proposed project.  In some cases, communities are facing these industrial proposals for the first time – and for some, it is unclear where to begin and what questions to ask.

In an effort to assist local communities as they contemplate these proposed projects, the following information provides important facts along with guidance on how community leaders might consider establishing protocols to ensure more transparency and accountability from each applicant.

Most important:  before any time clocks are started, industrial applicants must be required to submit their entire plans for any proposed project.

For more information: Questions and Procedures Local Government Should Consider

 

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Questions or Comments

If you have questions about the resources above, the permitting process, or just want to share your own insight or stories, please contact us through the form below.