Corporate Social Responsibility

Public Engagement

Commitment to Consult with Local Communities

Williams utilizes the voluntary pre-filing process developed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to engage impacted stakeholders prior to the submittal of the formal project certificate application. This process was leveraged for five of our major pipeline projects: Atlantic Sunrise, Dalton, Northeast Supply Enhancement, Hillabee and Virginia Southside.

 

This  creates a framework for applicants to consult with project stakeholders, such as landowners, community leaders and permitting agencies, prior to submitting a formal certification application. Activities include public meetings and consultations with elected officials, community leaders and impacted landowners. For example, Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise project included 11 open houses or public workshops and hundreds of stakeholder engagement meetings, ultimately leading to the adoption of more than 400 changes affecting more than half of the originally-designed project route.

Executive Responsibility for Community Relations

 

Our executives are actively engaged in the development and implementation of various community relations initiatives. Williams President & CEO, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, General Counsel, Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategic Development and Williams Foundation President make up the Williams Foundation Board. This engaged and passionate board meets at least twice a year to govern and approve strategy, budget, processes, procedures and standards of the company’s charitable giving programs. The Williams Foundation Board and Operating Area executive leaders work closely with Williams Community Relations department to develop and approve budgets for supporting specific charitable programs in the communities where Williams’ employees live and work. Nearly all of the company’s nine executive officers donate their time by serving on nonprofit boards of directors for various organizations.

Operations-Specific Responsibility for Community Relations

Williams’ operating area managers are involved in the identification of specific local community needs and opportunities for us to partner with deserving organizations. Operating area managers work with Community Relations staff to develop budgets and obtain company support for various local community relations initiatives. Most commonly, this includes partnerships with local emergency response organizations, which can consist of regular financial contributions as well as formal emergency response training hosted by the company.

Community Consultation Guidelines

 

Williams’ Public Outreach team utilizes an internally-developed Public Outreach Strategy Guide which formally outlines community engagement consultation guidelines and best practices for pipeline project teams. This team consists of dedicated personnel who serve as the central contact point for public outreach efforts related to pipeline projects. The team works closely with the project manager and is responsible for initiating, designing and executing strategies which build credibility and trust with the public.

 

Williams’ public outreach best practices reinforce the position that early involvement from stakeholders can help develop better overall project solutions. Stakeholders include any formal or informal group, organization, agency, elected official, community leader and landowner or identified individual who has a direct interest and/or involvement in the regulatory process and outcome of the project.

 

The company’s Public Outreach Strategy Guide articulates a clear engagement strategy, which includes:

 

  • Early contact
  • Continual communication
  • Listening and learning
  • Being flexible when possible

A Formal System for Developing Local Stakeholders

The formal stakeholder list is developed and maintained by the Public Outreach team for contacting interested parties that are affected by or interested in the outcome of the project. This formal list is also submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission within 30 days of initiating the FERC pre-filing process. The development of the formal list begins as soon as the project scope has been initially identified (prior to pre-filing activities).

 

Developing an effective stakeholder list is a collaborative process with input from the various disciplines on the project team, including State Government Affairs, Communications, Land, Operations, Natural Resources, Engineering & Construction and Environmental. Public Outreach oversees the administration of the stakeholder database and is responsible for managing this data.

 

The stakeholder list is populated utilizing a variety of sources, including publicly available data obtained through third-party databases, internet searches, directories and professional contact lists. It includes local emergency responders, non-government organizations (NGO)s, county and municipal elected officials, and federal and state legislators. The initial list of stakeholders is developed using the FERC regulations as a guideline. As the project develops, the stakeholder list is revised to include other interested parties as they are identified. This list is typically maintained in a web-based database that is managed by an outside contractor.

Consultation Conducted at Early Stages of the Project

 

Investing one-on-one time for effective stakeholder relationships is an integral component of successful public outreach. The method and timing of the dissemination of information helps the project team manage project risk and contributes to the degree of success realized by the outreach program.

 

The Williams Public Outreach team coordinates the scheduling of outreach briefings almost immediately once the project scope has been finalized and prior to any on the ground data collection or other field activities. The team works with the project manager to determine meeting strategy, discussion items and meeting participants. Typically, Federal Government Affairs is responsible for notifications and meetings with Congressional leaders and State Government Affairs is responsible for notifications and meetings with state legislators. These meetings are documented and communicated to the public outreach team.

 

Early project briefings are essential to developing support or attempting to neutralize opposition for the project. Keeping community leaders informed about a project helps to ensure they are sufficiently knowledgeable about the company’s proposed plans to interact with constituents or to respond to landowner or public inquiries.

 

After these initial briefings, township and county officials often ask the company to appear at local public meetings to give a presentation about the project or to update the community as the project progresses through the regulatory process. Although these meetings are not required as part of the FERC process, the company makes every attempt to appear at meetings when asked. Public Outreach supports this effort by assisting in the preparation of presentations and speaking on behalf of the company with other project team members depending on the focus/message of the presentation.

Ongoing Consultation Mechanisms

Public Outreach develops and maintains a project-specific public participation plan for each major project. This plan is tailored to meet the needs of each individual project and clearly conveys the company’s roadmap for engaging stakeholders in the FERC process. The plan specifically outlines the company’s preferred methods to provide guidance to stakeholders regarding consultations and communications on project-related issues. This includes the development of specific two-way communication channels, such as project-dedicated social media channels, project website, newsletters, project hotline and a dedicated project e-mail address. In addition, it includes the development and execution of project open houses or workshops, as well as formal one-on-one briefings with local public officials and other key stakeholders.

Accessible Mechanism to Collect, Record and Address Complaints

 

A critical element in promoting sustainable decisions is listening and dialoguing with the stakeholders most affected by the project. Significant feedback is collected and documented during the company-hosted formal open houses / informational meetings. These meetings are designed to actively involve all stakeholders, including farmers, elected officials, landowners, regulators, local business owners and local nongovernment organizations.

 

Feedback from these meetings is captured and input into a centralized database for analysis and further consideration. A similar database is used by company land agents to log and track feedback from landowners directly affected by the project. Changes to the project route are documented and evaluated on a case by case basis. Landowners are provided with the personal cell phone numbers of the land agent assigned to their property tract. Contact with each landowner is documented and tracked in a centralized landowner database.

 

The company also actively maintains a 24-hour telephone hotline and email address to collect project-related feedback. Once project construction begins, landowner complaints for issues are logged and track in the weekly construction activity report submitted to the FERC.

Policies & Standards

For a full list, please visit our Policies & Standards page.