The arid ranching region of southern Texas, USA, was one of the poorest parts of the country when energy companies arrived to develop the Eagle Ford shale fields. Many of the small rural towns – some with just a church, a post office and a handful of businesses – welcomed the economic benefits. New businesses sprang up and school numbers swelled as workers and their families arrived.
When Shell leased 250,000 acres to drill for natural gas near the border between the USA and Mexico, we also set out to help local communities share the benefits of our operations. We applied our global approach, developed from lessons learned at projects around the world.
To improve road safety as industry traffic increases in the area, we have improved access to and from our operations. With other companies, local police and state agencies, we are working to raise awareness of road safety and increase support for broader safety improvements to public roads. Shell has also funded training and equipment for emergency services. In schools, we are sponsoring programmes to help teachers explain the energy industry to students. In 2012, we worked with a regional non-profit organisation to establish a new after-school facility in Eagle Pass. We also helped to set up a family literacy scheme due to start in 2013.
We are looking at ways to help build sustainable community development. For example, in 2012 we worked with a local university to develop two programmes that will start in 2013. One will provide training and resources to help civic leaders manage the sudden growth and influx of revenue, while planning for the long-term benefit of their communities. The other will help local businesses manage the change, including those that are not Shell suppliers.