XTO Energy Gives Back to Community
XTO understands every place it works is different and strives to better listen
BELLAIRE — XTO Energy Inc. may be recognized nationally as a leading producer of oil and natural gas, especially from tight shale formations like those found in the tri-state area, but the company has gained a broader local reputation for using its energy resources to power investments that benefit the communities where it operates.
In the Appalachian Basin, a region that is home to the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil Corp., operates in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. A large focus of its work in Ohio takes place in Monroe and Belmont counties, where it maintains an office in Bellaire. XTO Energy also operates in nine counties in West Virginia.
“We couldn’t ask for better neighbors,” Brian Teller, operations manager, XTO Energy Appalachia District, said. “Everyone has been so welcoming. In return, we’re committed to doing everything we can to remain good corporate partners who contribute positively to these communities and to the lives of our neighbors.”
Teller explained that XTO Energy’s philosophy is getting to know the community and engaging residents early and often. Nowhere is that more evident than with the company’s Community Advisory Panels, which include about 25 leaders from academia, business, nonprofit organizations, emergency management and other areas. The panels meet at least quarterly in Ohio and Pennsylvania to allow for open exchanges and conversation as well as information sharing.
“Regular dialogue with key community members is critical,” said Karen Matusic, manager of Public and Government Affairs, XTO Energy Appalachia District. “It’s not just us telling them about XTO. It’s about listening to them. Every community is different. What might work in one community may not work in another, and the only way to know what works is to talk to the people who live there. The back-and-forth we experience in the CAPs enables us to do that.”
It also helps to highlight areas of need where XTO Energy can help.
In 2018, for example, XTO Energy and ExxonMobil invested more than $1 million in education, emergency response, local charities and arts and civic organizations in Ohio. Over the last few years, local governments within XTO’s operational footprint have been able to enhance community parks, purchase needed equipment or boost spending on critical infrastructure.
XTO’s work force — more than 250 employees throughout the three states — is made up entirely of local residents. In other words, these employees not only work in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, but they live there as well, and they take the time to develop relationships with local residents and organizations.
In fact, because of the new opportunities oil and gas development has brought locally, many employees, like Matusic, have returned home. She was raised in the Ohio Valley but moved away for a time for work.
“But I’m home now. And that wouldn’t be possible without this region’s abundant natural resources,” Matusic said. “I’m not alone. Many of the men and women I work with in the Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania shale fields are returning home, too. They’re finding family-sustaining jobs right here rather than searching abroad.”
Teller stressed that employees are committed to ensuring communities benefit from the new opportunities presented by the Marcellus and Utica shales, and that there is a talent base locally to continue fueling industry positions. That means significant investments in education and partnerships with schools.
In November, more than 50 students from schools in Bellaire, Powhatan Point and Shadyside took part in “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” where students participate in experiments and work with XTO mentors to encourage interest in STEM programs — the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
XTO also works with the United Way on after-school tutoring programs in which students who need help in reading, writing or math stay after school for an hour up to four days a week to get extra help in their problem subject or subjects.
XTO also partners with the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley on internship programs that will keep young people in the area once out of school and help them qualify for job openings locally.
Other investments benefit the entire community.
XTO Energy, which operates drug-free work zones and tests workers to ensure a safe, healthy and productive workplace, recently teamed up with Frio Capital Group to donate $19,000 to help the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office purchase, train and certify a new drug-sniffing dog, Xyrem, a Belgian Malinois, and retrofit a cruiser for patrol.
In West Virginia, the company donated $10,000 to help with the upkeep and preservation of Fraternal Memorial Park, a recently re-discovered and historic African-American cemetery in Anmoore. The company also paid $22,000 to hire an archeologist to assist with ongoing preservation efforts and research about who is buried there. XTO spent more than $100,000 on restoration efforts after first coming across the cemetery.
XTO also makes sure its operations are conducted in the most efficient, effective, environmentally sound way possible. That includes investments in local roads, an issue of intense interest locally.
In all of the areas where it operates, XTO obtains road use maintenance agreements, or RUMAs, which require the company to maintain and repair any damage incurred by hauling activities. With these RUMAs, combined with other road investments it has made voluntarily, XTO Energy spent $2 million on roads in Belmont County last year and $12 million since 2014.
Last year, the company even invested to fix roads that were in disrepair not because of its operations but because of bad weather.
Central to all of these investments is dialogue with the community. XTO has an open-door policy and responds to any calls it gets. The company regularly meets with local residents who have questions about operations, and provides tours to officials who are interested in the development process.
“XTO Energy has been a member of this community for more than six years, and we plan to be here for years to come,” Teller said. “I’m grateful to be part of something that is making a difference in people’s lives and helping to rebuild and support our communities.”