Social aspects in the news service of Polish Geological Survey
Shale gas exploration and production is more than just advanced technology, expertise and geological subtleties. This is also a concrete real-life project which is being delivered here and now: in immediate vicinity of our homes, fields and plots of land.
Like all infrastructural projects, shale gas exploration may involve major or minor changes in our environment: it has an effect on the natural environment, landscape, living conditions, the local economy, tourism and trade. The influence can be beneficial and negative at the same time. What one perceives as beneficial, other people may consider as a risk (and conversely).
The discussion on shale gas exploration should not be confined to technology, engineering and geological aspects. The question to be always asked is: what a particular engineering solution, gas exploration methodology – with seismic surveys, drilling and fracturing – means from the viewpoint of the entire Polish society and that of local communities. What are the potential favourable and unfavourable effects of exploration efforts? What are the related opportunities and risks? What is certain and where do we enter an area of uncertainty? What shale gas exploration means to the local residents, farmers, local businessmen, the municipalities, pension owners, resorts, incoming tourists, residents of neighbouring towns and cities, communities in the entire region?
Social aspects of shale gas exploration efforts include primarily a public dialogue which is open to all stakeholders – groups and communities that express an interest in the subject. The dialogue should ensure that views expressed by different stakeholders are given consideration in the decision making processes.
In order to do so, it is imperative to ensure access to the knowledge of social shale gas exploration aspects, as far complete and exhaustive as possible. In this way the dialogue will become a bridge that establishes communication between energy sector's decision makers and various social groups so as to collaboratively work out better decisions that are more compatible with diverse interests of the Polish society.
Plans and intentions
With these pages we want to contribute to the building of foundations for social dialogue on shale gas matters and establishing good relationships between the investors, public authorities and the broadly defined society. By focusing on social aspects of shale gas exploration/production we will attempt to bring about a starting point for mutual discussion and the dialogue. We will share with you the results of social surveys, as conducted in collaboration between Polish Geological Institute and Sociology Institute of Nicolaus Copernicus University, with contributions from sociologists and social science researchers from other Polish universities having expertise in public dialogue, controversial energy projects and conflict studies.
Moreover, we will demonstrate how public dialogue should be conducted, what methods of consultation and participation should be applied, and what approach is used in other countries or to resolve other problems.
First of all, we want to write with you about topics you are interested in, respond to real-life problems and expectations, to provide knowledge and information that you need.
author: Piotr Stankiewicz, editor in charge of “Society” Section in the “Shale oil and gas” news service