July 1, 2008
A safe blast – demonstrated before local decision makers – can help clear the obstacles in your path to a permit.
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-chief
When it comes to permitting, the first commandment is “know thy neighbor” according to Jeff Straw, vice president and area manager of Geosonics, Inc. He advises producers to lay the ground work well in advance before seeking a permit.
“If you need a permit, you don’t start preparing six weeks beforehand,” he says. “The key thing I have seen in successful permit applications is getting to know the community and developing buy-in. The farther out you can prepare and get the community involved, the better off you are. Communities have a hot button: find out what it is.”
For companies seeking to expand an existing site, Straw says it is vital to have a complaint program in place and to promptly respond to those complaints. “People’s individual events color them forever,” he explains.
Other best practices include scheduling blasts at the same time each day or developing a call list for neighbors so they know when a blast is about to take place and don’t blame the site for non-blasting noise or vibrations. Removing uncertainty goes a long way toward lowering emotional reactions.
When discussing blasting with various governing boards and agencies, Straw recommends that producers tailor their message based on the type of group it addresses. For example, water issues should feature prominently in discussions with environmental committees while other groups may be more concerned about endangered species.
With planning committees and other decision makers, he says one of the best practices is to schedule a visit to the site during a blast. “Have the people making the decisions visit the site and understand the process,” he says. “Typically, they come in and say, ‘Is that all it is?'”
Being proactive is also important. In the absence of a fact-based presentation, public officials often only hear from people who are complaining or telling horror stories that put the producer on the defensive.
Straw recommends that producers consider holding community informational meetings well in advance of permit requests as an informal way to present facts in a less threatening manner. Visual aids during these presentations are a key consideration.
“If you show people where the particle velocity is, where the limits are, how far apart those two points are, and how consistent your data is, that removes a lot of the concerns people have about blasting and changes their perception,” he advises.
He also suggests having data – including ground vibration trends – on hand so that questions can be answered immediately. “Having that data right there and being able to answer someone’s questions is key,” Straw says.
According to the Aggregates Manager Permit Survey, more than 1 in 4 permits contained blasting restrictions.