Oil and Gas Development in Colorado: Is Consensus Possible?

BROOMFIELD, CO -MARCH 15: Workers build homes in the Anthem subdivistion near the spot of the proposed Sheridan pad, that could have up to 40 wells, in Broomfield, March 15, 2017. A rebound in oil prices is spurring a rebound in drilling, including close-in to residential areas. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post)

CDR facilitated the high-profile and challenging Broomfield Oil and Gas Comprehensive Plan Update Committee (Committee). A 14-person, citizen-committee, comprised of diverse and divergent perspectives regarding oil and gas, worked for over six months to develop a consensus agreement that was adopted by the Broomfield City Council.

Background

Oil and gas development has been important to Colorado for decades. As both Colorado’s population and the international demand for oil and gas have continued to climb, oil and gas development has encroached on urban and suburban areas, while cities and towns have sprawled towards historic oil and gas areas. Landowners are sometimes frustrated to learn about the state law that allows a “split estate.” Split estate means that surface property rights are the landowner’s rights to the surface of the land and mineral rights are property rights to the minerals beneath the surface of the land. These mineral rights can be “split off” from surface rights, meaning minerals beneath the land can be owned by a separate entity. Mineral rights include a mineral owner’s right to explore, mine and produce the rocks, minerals, oil, or natural gas below the surface of the property. This includes the right to enter upon the land and extract those minerals or receive royalty from the extraction of the minerals. In Colorado, the fact that surface and mineral rights for the same area of land may have different owners can result in disputes.

Update Committee

In response to public concerns and anger toward an oil and gas proposal that would site multi-well pads near residential areas (some sites included over 40 wells per pad), the City Council organized a transparent and citizen driven effort to develop regulations and guidance for oil and gas contract negotiations and memorandums of understanding (MOUs).

Broomfield convened a public forum at the 1st Bank Center that attracted thousands of concerned community members (in-person and live streamed) and later formed the Update Committee that prioritized the health, safety, and welfare of the residents and environment of Broomfield, as part of the Comprehensive Plan.  The Committee members also recognized, as part of their charge, the need to allow mineral rights owners’ reasonable access to their mineral property. The Council charged the Committee with this technically complex and controversial task.

The Committee organized itself into four subcommittees: Health, Community Impacts, Planning, and Legal.  The Committee met at least two times a week for over six months. Numerous experts presented to the Committee on a range of topics to better inform the deliberations from air quality and noise standards to property values and state policy.

Consensus Agreement

CDR facilitated the Update Committee’s consensus agreement working through numerous contentious issues, framing the problems constructively and encouraging frank and creative problem solving. One of the essential elements of the effort was the strong technical, legal and policy support from the Broomfield staff.

The six-month facilitation resulted in comprehensive, strategic, and far reaching recommendations. Both the process and the substantive recommendations are seen to be a model for other communities facing similar challenges. These recommendations require state of the art technology and target regulation to mitigate, to the extent possible, negative impacts to the community and the environment.  Recommendations from the Update Committee include: Air Quality, Groundwater, Environmental Assessment, Oil and Gas Facility Siting, Application Process and Requirements, Pipelines, Setbacks, Traffic, Visual Screening, Insurance and Bonding, and Enforcement.

Click here to view City Council Resolution 2017-160 and the adopted Comprehensive Plan Update Chapter on Oil and Gas, adopted on September 26, 2017.

For more information contact: Jonathan Bartsch or Taber Ward

CDR Welcomes – Taber Ward – Program Manager

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Taber is an attorney and facilitator with a focus on building partnerships, collaboration on transportation issues, regulatory design, and legal and policy analysis.   She has worked with a range of public and private agencies and organizations to solve problems, reach decisions and resolve conflicts.  Taber’s work includes convening stakeholder groups, consensus-building and working with agencies and non-profit boards to improve decision-making processes, increase understanding and rebuild trust. Taber is adept at working across and between sectors with social entrepreneurs, activists, government, non-profits, and business leaders.

Taber earned a law degree from the Colorado Law School in Boulder and practiced public health and natural resource law for the State of Colorado. She also founded Mountain Flower Goat Dairy, a non-profit urban agriculture project with a mission to train the next generation of farmers while providing humanely produced dairy products to the community.  Additionally, Taber has previously worked with Boards of Directors and Executives, run business development teams and facilitated government affairs and policy efforts.

Taber is an integral part of the future of CDR, currently working on a variety of challenging and exciting transportation, wildlife and public involvement efforts.

In her free time, Taber can be found mucking around with goats or on a hike in the Colorado mountains and walking her dog.

If you would like to know more, find Taber’s contact information here.

Voices Rising: Public Participation in the City of Boulder

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“If You Always Do What You’ve Always Done, You Always Get What You’ve Always Gotten”

– Henry Ford

In May 2016, the City of Boulder charged the 14-member Public Participation Working Group (PPWG) with recommending improvements to the city’s engagement process and public participation. The City’s goal was to engage citizens in the decisions made by civic leaders. Other cities initiating similar public participation processes include Austin, TX; Portland, OR; Berkeley, CA and Minneapolis, MN.

CDR’s Jonathan Bartsch, Principal, and Taber Ward, Project Manager, facilitate and support PPWG meetings to ensure that the PPWG receives the necessary resources to develop, refine, prioritize and present Public Participation Recommendations to the City Council by June 2017.

At the time of this publication, the PPWG members are well underway with discussions and research.  Initial topics addressed and discussed by the PPWG include, but are not limited to: increasing the City’s outreach efforts; inclusivity and diversity in voices; case-studies; best practices and public participation principles; education; skill-building and cultures; and systems of public participation.  A City Council representative and three staff members from the City’s Communications, Neighborhood Services and Planning departments also attend PPWG meetings to provide guidance and support.

CDR’s role is to facilitate and assist the PPWG in fulfilling its charge to provide applicable, actionable, and thoughtful Recommendations to increase public participation in Boulder.  The ultimate goal of this project is to ensure that citizens have an increased voice, a space, and a place to safely and respectfully contribute to the bigger conversation and process of Boulder governance.

If you would like to know more, find Taber’s contact information here.

Social performance – CDR helps companies manage social risk, address impacts and increase shared value for businesses and communities.

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CDR has worked extensively with the extractive industry sector. We are driven by the desire to ensure that the social and political leverage of a company is used to benefit those directly impacted by its operations, and that the strategies employed to achieve value and well being for communities also generate economic value for the company and reduces its social risks.

In 2014, the corporate social performance manager from a global oil and gas company approached CDR Associates to help them devise a social performance management system, consistent with international standards, that would enable business units across its global operations to comply with its revised community-relations policy, new community-relations standard and associated requirements and commitments. The company was interested in developing a systematic approach that tied its social performance strategy to business objectives; ensured social risks were assessed, managed and monitored throughout the life cycle of an asset; integrated social performance into its organizational culture and broader business processes; and increased the company’s ability to operate on schedule and within budget, contributing to a positive bottom line.

Over the past three years, Susan Wildau, a Partner at CDR Associates and another colleague, partnered with the corporate team to develop a global community relations management framework, standard, and implementation strategy. They also created practical tools, templates and guidance to support compliance at the asset level.

An important insight gained early in the process was the need to place ownership and accountability for the system squarely on the shoulders of the CEOs for the business units rather than with the community relations department. Moreover, a shift in company culture was called for, whereby social risk was viewed as everyone’s business, and community relations considerations had a regular place at the decision-making table.

Accordingly, CDR Associates, in partnership with the company, provided support in the following areas:
• Capacity building and coaching of the corporate social performance team in social performance management systems.
• Development of the social performance global framework.
• Preparation of the company’s social performance standard and alignment with associated standards and policies.
• Development of the company’s practice in social opportunities management, including its social opportunities procedure.
• Preparation of a full set of social performance management plans consistent with the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) performance standards, for use by the business units.
o Plans were developed in the areas of local content, closure, involuntary resettlement and land acquisition, conflict management, contractor management, community health, safety and security, stakeholder engagement, grievance mechanism, and so forth.
• Design and implementation of an interactive Social Performance Management Workshop and corresponding Train the Trainers course to introduce the social management system across the company’s global operations.
o Deliverables included program design, workshop agendas, all materials including case studies and simulations, and the Training for Trainers Guide.
• Co-delivery of workshop with corporate social performance team to targeted business units in various regions of company operations.
• Continued support of the corporate team and business units in their efforts to establish positive and constructive relations with local communities, civil society and authorities; reduce social risk; and enhance social performance tied to business objectives.

For more information on CDR’s experience and projects designing and implementing social performance management systems, grievance mechanisms, strategic community engagement, and conflict management for the extractives sector, including resolution of contentious company-community disputes, find Susan’s contact information here.

A million acre wildfire?! Maybe once in a century, but several in several years? Not sustainable

The issue of multiple, large-scale wildfires was confronted by the Bureau of Land Management, through Oregon Consensus in Portland, Oregon in December of 2014.   CDR Associates was engaged to help Harney County, OR face the specter of mega-fires in sagebrush country.

With the help of a “Core Team” made up of Federal officials (from BLM and US Fish and Wildlife Service), scientists (USDA Agricultural Research Service), environmentalists (The Nature Conservancy), a County Commissioner, and ranchers, CDR began working on this project in February 2015.  First, CDR and the Core Team first worked  to create a larger group called the Harney County Wildfire Collaborative.  The Collaborative included members from Oregon Department of State Lands, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, members of six Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (the volunteer firefighters for the county), firefighters from federal agencies, members of two other environmental groups, as well as chiefs of tribal, city and county fire departments.

The Collaborative agreed to meet for a full day once a month in Burns.  Further, they agreed that the purpose of the Collaborative was to reach consensus on specific, achievable, tangible and measurable steps to be taken by all entities (both public and private) to reduce the potential for and impact of mega-fires in Harney County.

The first topic addressed by the Collaborative was suppression — defined as the communication, coordination and integration of actions taken to put fires out in both initial attack and extended attack.  The Collaborative will then tackle the issue of prevention – meaning, what has changed ecologically and administratively in addressing mega-fires.  The Collaborative identified where their energy could be focused to reduce both the instance of and the damage done by mega-fires.

The next tasks for CDR and the Collaborative are 1) to identify a pilot site and 2) Agree on the most effective tools to reduce the site’s vulnerability to mega-fire.

If you would like to know more, find Mary Margaret’s contact information here.

CDR assists the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with a Federal Rule-making Negotiation

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Estuary programs are multi-stakeholder collaborative initiatives to protect and restore water quality and the ecological integrity of estuaries of significance. They commonly involve diverse Federal, State, and local government agencies and stakeholders from the private and non-profit sectors. See https://www.epa.gov/nep/overview-national-estuary-program for more information on EPA’s National Estuary Program.)

Stakeholders in the Brownsville area of Texas are in the process of establishing an estuary program for the Lower Laguna Madre, a long, shallow hypersaline lagoon along the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Participating groups hope that in the future, the program will be recognized and supported by the U.S. Congress and incorporated into the national network of estuary programs.

CDR was asked by the local Laguna Madre Estuary Program coordinating committee – composed of representatives from multiple universities, counties, cities and EPA – to provide assistance in the design and facilitation of the Program’s first large public stakeholder engagement workshop.

The purposes of the workshop were to identify interested local partners, solicit their input on issues the Program should address and secure commitments for future participation.  CDR Partner Christopher Moore worked with the committee and EPA to design the workshop, facilitate it and prepare local facilitators to conduct topic-focused working sessions.

Close to 50 people attended the workshop, which has been followed up by numerous public education meetings and working groups.  For more information on the Lower Laguna Madre Estuary Program, contact:  Augusto Sánchez González, Director of Estuary, Environmental and Special Projects – Cameron County Region and Department of Civil Engineering, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. augusto.sanchezgonzalez@utrgv.edu or (956) 882-6605

For more information on CDR’s work in stakeholder engagement on development and environmental projects and programs, find Christopher Moore’s contact information here.