Waste Facility vs Lake Community—a Tale of 5 Mediations
An oil field management facility company had submitted an application to the Energy Regulator to build a facility within 3 km of a lake. Farm land and acreages surround the lake. The lake is important to its surrounding residences for a number of reasons:
1) its campground is host to regional, national, and international visitors,
2) annual fishing derbies,
3) bird and water fowl sanctuary, and
4) point of community pride.
Several residences objected to this facility and had attended information sessions; however five decided to file objections with the Energy Regulator. Separate ADRs/ Mediations were held between the company and the five landowners who filed objections.
Five Landowners: The landowners, who filed objections to the proposed project had no objection to the facility itself, but did object to its proposed location. The five landowners held similar positions. They wanted the company to:
- move the facility to another location away from residences and further away from the lake.
- test water wells pre- and post- project construction.
- pave a segment of the county road from the main highway to the turn off of the proposed facility.
- construct updates to the lake’s community centre (new playground, leveling of the grounds and more).
The Company: The company’s position was that the location cannot be moved. It is the best location due to a number of factors:
- geological formation of the area,
- depth of clay base in the area,
- transportation corridor,
- ease of access, and
- access to existing well sites.
The company espoused that the site had been designed and engineered to mitigate, as much as possible, any potential leaks, contamination, or spills of any kind, to protect the environment; the site design went beyond regulated requirements, as did the regulated landowner notification zone radius.
PRE-MEDIATIONS: A number of pre-mediation conversations were held with each of the landowners and the company to provide information about what mediation is, its benefits, the mediation process and determine if mediation is appropriate for the situations. Pre-mediation discussions also included conversations about the situation as it pertained to the individual landowners and company’s issues, concerns, interests, and options for resolutions.
MEDIATION: The purpose of this mediation was to facilitate a conversation among the parties so landowners could obtain, directly from the company, information and understanding of the project as a whole, and both parties could provide to each other their perspective of the situation, perceived impacts, clarify information and assumptions, and work together towards mutually agreeable resolutions. The mediation facilitated an information exchange, and assisted the parties to come to resolution with issues as needed.
Mediation Design: Mediations were conducted separately with each of the five Landowners and the company despite some landowners wanting a group / multiparty mediation. This was determined by:
- request from the company—the company did not want a multiparty mediation for fear that one or two landowners may “stir things up,” and there would be no information exchange nor resolutions.
- Separate mediations ensured that focus could be on each individual landowner and their own concerns, ensuring their voices are heard—more personal meeting.
- With separate mediations, each landowner could freely discuss resolutions with the company that would meet their own specific needs.
- Resolutions could remain confidential between the company and each individual landowner.
- Better outcomes could be had by all the landowners.
Experts attend. Subject matter experts were brought in by the company to explain various technical aspects of the project to the landowners as required. Also, the Mediator coordinated the attendance of two Energy Regulator subject matter experts at each mediation — a geo-hydrologist (to speak to the hydrology and drainage of the area and mitigation concerns), and a field inspector (to speak to regulations, legislation, and inspections and adherence to regulations).
Duration of each Mediation: 4 to 6 hours
The company requested the landowners know that 2 key items would not be tabled by the company:
1) re-building or paving of the county highway for 4 km and
2) drilling of landowner water wells.
- representation of facts by landowners
- project understanding
- understanding of project
- environment and reducing industry waste
- community and safety
- being a good neighbour and good relationships
- dust control
Five landowners within the community objected to the facility. Since landowners’ issues and interests were similar, they were amalgamated together for this case summary.
- spills and site mitigations (creek, lake and water)
- water quality, fresh water usage, and water well baselines
- dust control and roads (safety, quality, maintenance, trucks, school buses, design)
- lighting, traffic (hours, speed, idling, fumes), and noise
- truck routes/ staging
- good neighbours and communication
- cement casing viability
- property values
- country living & quiet peaceful enjoyment of the land
- environment and natural landscape
- road safety, and maintenance
- respect and care of the land
- healthy lake and landscape
- clean air and water
- road upgrades
- sense of community
- farming operations
Common interests between landowners and the company:
Though each landowner had separate resolutions and written agreements that suited their personal circumstance as a result of mediation, the mediation meetings resulted in the following common resolutions:
Outcomes as a whole for all landowners:
- Better understanding of the project
- Understanding of county/ provincial government/ and company boundaries pertaining to transportation routes, roads maintenance and upgrading of roads;
- Better understanding of each other’s (landowners’ and company) perspectives, and assumptions clarified.
- Company informed landowners of partial road upgrades, and proposed maintenance.
Resolutions for some individual landowners included:
- company would extend snow removal to a landowner’s driveway.
- company would pay for half the testing of a landowner’s water well (pre-construction).
- company would plant trees on a land owner’s property and around the facility.
- company would check regularly on property across from its proposed facility to ensure security and safety of the landowner’s property.
- company would provide to the lake campground good will through the provision of labour and materials for the lake community’s projects