Colorado Drillers Tread Lightly Amid Rising Tide of ResentmentSource: Bloomberg Businessweek | 2 September 2014
A fight over hydraulic fracturing is looming in Texas. Another stand-off is shaping up in Colorado. Yet drillers’ reactions couldn’t be more different.
In Texas, drillers are doing their noisy in-your-face fracturing as usual. Meanwhile, on a small farm about an hour from the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the oil industry is giving hydraulic fracturing a makeover, cutting back on rumbling trucks and tamping down on pollution.
Oil companies in Colorado are responding to a rising tide of resentment as local communities and environmental activists vie to impose measures to ban fracking or restrict drilling. A series of ballot initiatives and other grass roots opposition around the country is seen as threatening the booming shale industry, even in oil-friendly Texas, where the US energy renaissance began.
Last December, Anadarko named Alex Hohmann, an engineer who previously helped complete wells, to lead a new team dealing with community relations. Now, Hohmann, 31, spends his time visiting potential sites and neighborhoods, sometimes going door-to-door, acting as a kind of oil-drilling diplomat.
“When your oilfield is intermingled with 250,000 people, it’s increasingly important to take into account the neighborhood, the church, and the school,” Hohmann said on a recent tour of several Anadarko drilling sites. “We have to demystify it, to help people see it as compatible with their lives. That’s our industry’s challenge.”
He and his three-person team answer a hotline, send notices to homes and neighborhood associations and organize community meetings. Hohmann even hired security guards to monitor a wellsite near a playground 24 hours a day for more than a week while work was done, ensuring that no children came to harm, he said.