CAPs help communities understand what plants do, how they work

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Community Advisory Panels providing a forum for open, honest dialogue between local citizens and site management

 

Their aim is to engage openly with site neighbors in various forms of neighborhood dialogues. One of those dialogues is a Community Advisory Panel (CAP), also referred to as a Citizen’s Advisory Council (CAC).

“A CAP is a continuous, long-term discussion forum for open dialogue,” according to BASF. “It consists of a group of individuals who live near or around a facility and who represent the fabric of the community. The CAP meets regularly to discuss issues of mutual interest. It is a forum for open and honest dialogue between citizens and site management.”

According to BASF, the goal of a CAP is to provide the community with the opportunity for direct involvement, while allowing industry to better address local expectations.

The TJC Group in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is one company that facilitates CAP meetings and helps industry build knowledge, understanding and trust with local communities. TJC Group Founder and President Tim Johnson facilitated his first CAP in October 1990, and the TJC Group has worked with and assisted some of the largest and most recognized organizations in the world.

“CAP meetings are important to industry and the community because they provide regular, transparent, candid, honest communication between a site’s leadership – the plant manager and his or her leadership team – and the folks who live in that community,” Johnson said. “The meetings provide the opportunity for plant leadership to hear directly from the community, and the most important flow of information that comes out of these meetings is from CAP members to site leadership.”

TJC Group currently manages 22 individual CAPs that represent 65 companies on 87 sites. According to Johnson, each CAP meeting has a different agenda.

“CAP meetings almost operate like a focus group,” Johnson explained. “It is not the only communication that should take place, but it’s one element of communication that is critically important. Plant leadership can hear what the community is concerned about, how the community feels the plant could be a better neighbor, what the plant should be engaged in, in terms of community support, etc.

“Separate meetings might take place discussing the facility’s environmental performance, local employment and hiring, economic impact, personnel or process safety, emergency preparedness and response, or engagement in local schools. During CAP meetings, it’s also important the community understands the quality-of-life improving products that these plants make every single day. However, a main concern of the community that continues to come up during these meetings is how to get more of the local population working in the plants.”

Johnson emphasized that he has hundreds of success stories where industry and community have worked together as a result of CAP meetings.

“In an area where we had a multi- plant CAP, there was no designated transportation route for trucks,” he said. “Tanker trucks carrying chemicals were traveling through neighborhoods, and a lot of discussion took place at this CAP meeting about safety, truck routes, etc. The CAP was able to persuade all the plants to create a single truck route, a single transportation artery. This route took the trucks out of the community and made sure they stayed on individual highways that weren’t populated. Positive outcomes like this happen all the time during CAP meetings.”

In Texas, the Citizen’s Advisory Council to La Porte Industry’s (LPCAC’s) mission is to build a true partnership between the petrochemical industry and community in La Porte, Morgan’s Point and Shoreacres. The LPCAC, facilitated by Diane B. Sheridan, consists of27 citizens, eight community organizations and 43 industrial facilities, which represent a cross section of the La Porte, Morgan’s Point and Shoreacres communities.

Sheridan has been a part of CAP meetings since their beginning, facilitating her first meeting in Wichita, Kansas, in 1988. According to Sheridan, CAP meetings were officially formed as a result of the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care program. Today, there are more than 300 CAPs across the country.

“The root of making these meetings useful for community and industry is that they provide a forum for constructive dialogue between industry and the community that’s necessary,” Sheridan said. “There is always going to be an inherent tension between the plants, which are making products to benefit society, and the local impacts if something doesn’t go well.”

Whether or not the CAP meetings are open depends on the group. Sheridan explained that some are open, some are closed, while others are by invitation only.

“We like having visitors come to our meetings,” Sheridan said. “We’re seeing a lot of interest in CAP meetings about workforce development as more and more people are retiring.”

Sheridan noted that suppliers and contractors are also able to attend LPCAC meetings. Even though the meetings aren’t geared toward business development, it’s a great way for contractors to make connections, especially with site leaders.

Bob Bradshaw, site manager of INEOS Olefins & Polymers’ Battleground Manufacturing Complex, has been a member of LPCAC since 2011. What he enjoys most about being a part of this organization is having the ability to connect with community members and being able to have constructive dialogue on issues that are pertinent to the residents and community members.

“I also enjoy learning what other plants are doing and bringing their best practices back to my site,” he said. “CACs are important because they give plants, specifically plant managers, an avenue to build relationships with the thought leaders of our communities. Through this relationship, an honest dialogue is enabled that allows industry representatives to learn what the community expects of us. It is also a vehicle for plant members to ‘demystify’ what is going on behind fences and gates. I believe the most important aspect of the CAC is it drives accountability to be a responsible operator within our community. If there’s an issue or incident at one of our facilities, it is added to our agenda for an in-depth discussion.

“As industry leaders, we understand the community allows us to operate in its city, and we need to earn this license to operate on a daily basis. I encourage community members to become active participants in your local CAC.”

 

BY ANDREW WHITE | MAY 4, 2022 | 9:30 AM