A Winning Formula for Permitting
Some years ago, I was involved in a particularly difficult hearing before the elected officials in a county in Southern California. I was aware that two of the elected officials had received strong union support during their last election. Therefore, I contacted the union that represented a number of our employees and asked them to send someone to speak in favor of our request at the upcoming hearing. I suspect that the union representative had never been to a meeting of the County Board of Supervisors before. He took it upon himself to comment on every item on the agenda before our item was heard. He was rude, would speak without being recognized by the Chair, and generally made a nuisance of himself. At one point, he even threatened the supervisors. I learned a good lesson from that experience. To the extent possible, you should always screen others that you recruit to speak on your behalf.
- Schedule you request as far down as possible on the agenda. It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally, you will have the opportunity to choose where your items appear on the agenda. If you are so fortunate, always get as close to the end as possible. The reason is simple: to most people, the items discussed at public meetings are boring. Many people will simply leave at the first break. It is very rare when an audience remains fairly intact when a meeting resumes after a break. Once, we were the last item on the agenda at a hearing held on Thursday evening, July 3, before a three-day holiday weekend. By the time our item came up at 10:30 p.m., we were the only ones left in the audience. We were granted a 25-year permit!
- Prepare for a subsequent court battle. Unfortunately, in many instances, when a producer has been successful in obtaining a favorable vote to permit additional reserves, the opponents take the matter to court. Once the matter moves into the legal system, judges look very closely at the time the request was approved. In reading a number of rulings over the years, it is evident that judges look closely to ensure that the proper “findings” have been made by local decision makers.
Applicants may want their attorney to supply a list of findings to the local agency prior to the hearing. You do need to be careful in this regard, however. Some local agencies and their attorneys may resent an applicant submitting this type of material. If this is the case, then you need to back off. Other agencies (once they have decided to recommend approval of the permit request) may welcome help from the applicant to ensure that the findings by the decision makers withstand judicial scrutiny.
Present a notebook about your company to decision makers. It can be said almost without fear of contradiction that, in any public hearing involving a controversial application to permit additional reserves, the opposition will attempt to raise serious questions about the company’s reputation. The opponent’s job is made much easier today because many governmental regulatory agencies list all of a company’s violations, notices to comply, etc., on their Web sites. Even the best-run business will occasionally have minor infractions given the explosion of confusing rules and regulations at all levels of government during recent years. An applicant must be prepared to counter these attacks.
The best way I know how to project a good company image immediately before a controversial public hearing is to prepare a notebook about the company and have it delivered to the decision makers about three to five days before the hearing. In my opinion, the notebook should not contain any information about the current application. It should be limited to information on the company’s history, the company’s involvement in the community, and, if examples are available, photos and descriptions of land that previously has been mined and reclaimed.
The overwhelming majority of decision makers, whether appointed or elected, are involved with community groups in one form or another. As previously discussed, before a hearing, you need to research each member’s past and present community involvement. If a decision maker is involved with youth sports, for instance, then you want to include several examples of thank-you letters from various sport leagues indicating your sponsorship of a league team. If a decision maker has been involved in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, then a letter from a Scout council thanking you for providing scholarships to summer camp should be included. For any group of decision makers that includes teachers, a thank you letter from a school participating in your Adopt-A-School program would be ideal.
The purpose of your notebook is simple. Most local decision makers will read the material you provide before the hearing. As your opponents try to trash your company’s reputation during the hearing, your goal is for the decision makers to remember the information you provided them with via the notebook. If you have done a good job with your notebook, have a solid record of community involvement, have attractive looking facilities, and have successful examples of reclamation, it should counter any attempt to damage your company’s reputation at the hearing. If you are successful in showing the decision makers that your opponent’s claims about your company are not accurate, you also raise doubts in the decision makers’ minds about other claims the opponents make directed against your specific request.
The idea of providing decision makers with information about your company is particularly important with many mergers going on within the industry. Companies that are well known in one part of the country may very well have little name recognition in other regions. Providing local officials with examples of positive stories of community involvement in current operations, along with a promise of doing the same in the area where the request is pending, goes a long way to balance any perceived impacts should your request be granted.
MORE FROM Articles
SUBSCRIBE & FOLLOW
- Vulcan shareholders reject board changes at annual meeting959 Views
- Former gravel quarry-turned-landfill transforms into nature reserve494 Views
- Americans consume 3 million pounds of minerals in a lifetime241 Views
- Excavators uncover ancient quarry in Jerusalem204 Views
- North Carolina grants Martin Marietta water quality certification for limestone quarry186 Views