Constructive Engagement / Collaborative
Constructive engagement is an approach that brings communities,
local governments, environmental groups and oil and gas companies
together to address social and environmental issues through cooperative,
non-adversarial partnerships. These partnerships may not always
be appropriate or effective, but knowing what they are and how
they work can give communities an alternative to conflict and
A constructive engagement process may include the following
Introduction to Constructive Engagement
For more information, see CDR
on the Workshop page.
- Community advisory committees
- Independent constructive engagement organizations
- Participatory studies, such as NEPA environmental impact assessments
or baseline development studies
- Participatory monitoring or oversight committees
- Grievance resolution systems and procedures
Though many communities may only require open lines of communication
and a good working relationship with industry, a more formal collaborative
process can be a useful approach to finding solutions to contentious
issues. Collaborative processes inform stakeholders, foster discussion
between parties in a non-adversarial environment with the help
of a facilitating, neutral party, and allow stakeholders themselves
to explore and develop solutions to their problems.
Whether communities turn to collaborative process or other forms
of constructive engagement to address development issues, it is
important for the process to involve all stakeholders from the
beginning, to establish the process’ legitimacy, to make use of
facilitation and technical advice as needed, and to address the
economic, social and environmental concerns of the community.
Plans and Agreements
The following plans and agreements address natural gas development in identified geographic areas. The areas may vary in size, but all address development on a scale larger than a single well permit site. Two of the plans are established in statute or regulations; the other plans and agreements are processes independently initiated between communities and industry. All are intended to form good working relationships between communities and the oil and gas industry.
Comprehensive Drilling Plan
A comprehensive drilling plan (CDP) is a Colorado specific plan that identifies expected oil and gas development within a specified geographic area, the potential impacts, and measures to mitigate those impacts on public health, safety, and the environment. Operators voluntarily initiate and enter into a CDP, but are required by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC) to develop the CDP in participation with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), local governmental agencies, and surface owners. Operators may determine the issues that are addressed in the CDP while being encouraged to provide detailed information. CDPs typically cover the activities of one operator, although operators are encouraged to develop joint plans covering the proposed activities of multiple operators where appropriate. Once a CDP is approved, the operator is not required to submit Form 2A to identify impacts of development and that otherwise must be approved by the COGCC before a drilling permit can be issued. A CDP can be valid for six years after approval.
Geographic Area Plan
The Colorado legislature authorized use of GAPs in 2008, but no GAPs have been prepared to date.
A Geographic Area Plan (GAP) is a Colorado-specific planning tool for addressing cumulative impacts from oil and gas development. The GAP covers entire gas fields or geologic basins and can include activities of multiple operators in multiple sub basins or drainages over a period of ten years or more. The plan is intended to assist the COGCC to adopt basin specific rules that address unique geologic or hydrological features. The COGCC first publishes a notice of intent to initiate a GAP which then allows for a public participation process. The COGCC then consults local governments and other agencies such as the CDOW, the CDPHE, County Commissions, and local government designees. The COGCC also considers any local government comprehensive plans or other long range planning tools for the GAP. This plan may include development scenarios, designate units, adopt spacing orders, implement sampling or monitoring plans, or require consolidation of facilities.
Community Development Plan
A community development plan (CDP) is a plan made between the community being affected by oil and gas development and the operator. This plan is a voluntary agreement that identifies the potential impacts of development on the environment and on community well-being. The CDev'tP also includes best management practices to be implemented by the operator to address those impacts agreed upon by community members and the company. The goal of a CDev'tP is to initiate a relationship between community and operators that will promote transparency, reduce conflict, and give the community an opportunity to participate in decision making regarding oil and gas development in their area.
Watershed agreements are non-binding agreements created between corporations and communities. The primary goal of a watershed agreement is to allow for development of natural resources, specifically oil and gas, while ensuring the protection and reclamation of the watershed health. In such an agreement, companies adhere to best management practices that protect the watershed by defining baseline water quality conditions and maintaining or improving these conditions over the development period. Companies may agree to hire a third-party that oversees monitoring and studies of the water quality throughout the development process. For oil and gas development, BMPs may include, green fracturing, fracture tracing, clustered development well pad spacing, and closed loop drilling systems, among many others.
Good Neighbor Agreement
A Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) is an agreement between a community and a corporation whose development poses a pollution threat for that community, usually in the form of water or air pollution. In a GNA, which can be legally binding, companies agree to disclose all potential pollution producing activities while also using best management practices that mitigate any unnecessary pollution. Best management practices are implemented by the company, on the basis that the community members agree to abstain from protesting or legal action that could delay or stop the development process. As part of the agreement, community members typically have input and decision making power regarding the company’s operations.
Wildlife Mitigation Plans
A wildlife mitigation plan (WMP) is another Colorado-specific plan. Like CDPs and GAPs, it is based in COGCC rules. Unlike these other large-scale plans, a WMP has a single resource focus: to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts from oil and gas activities to wildlife. A WMP is developed by an operator and the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) with consideration of landowners, but little or no general community input.
Master Development Plan
A Master Development Plan (MDP) for federal lands and minerals is often used in the development of multiple proposed oil and gas wells that are in close proximity to each other and have similar producing zones. MDPs are useful when drilling is certainly going to occur and covers an area with homogeneous geologic and environmental characteristics. They are not very efficient on smaller, or individual, exploratory sites. MDPs are similar to Geographic Area Plans (GAPs) in that they analyze and plan development of a large scale oil and gas production site. The main focal points of MDPs are on the drilling plans and surface use plans of at least two or more potential well sites, typically characterized by clustered well pads. A description of required infrastructure for each well is included and covers more general development such as roads, pipelines, and storage of waste fluids. Individual operators submit MDPs to the Bureau of Land Management and include the environmental assessment required by the National Environmental Policy Act along with any information that may be required by local regulation. A MDP is usually submitted in conjunction with an Application for Permit to Drill (APD), and any deficiencies or pending corrections to the APD usually do not effect the approval of the MDP. Overall, MDPs give a comprehensive look at development and help to reduce redundancy in planning, paperwork and applications. BMPs may be voluntarily included or required as conditions of approval.
In addition to leadership and cooperation amongst stakeholders,
community planning requires information about projected population
growth, hydrology, infrastructure, service provision, community
character, costs and fiscal impacts, and more. In addition to
political and regulatory dynamics, this technical information
is vital to smart community growth. For communities experiencing
oil and gas development, this information is needed to accurately
assess potential impacts of the development and lead to successful
negotiation between community stakeholders and industry.
The following organizations can provide funding, technical assistance,
and other support to communities who wish to work with industry
to form a plan for development.
Red Lodge Clearinghouse
A project of the Natural Resources Law Center, the Red
Lodge Clearinghouse provides a wide range of resources for
participants in collaborative process involving natural resources
issues. The site provides information about federal laws, upcoming
events and training, stories of successful and not-so-successful
collaborations, and access to technical assistance and facilitation.
Additionally, the site provides valuable
guides: a collaboration handbook, a guide to grant-writing,
tools for environmental problem-solving, and more.
Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project
The Earthworks Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) works
with tribal, urban and rural communities to protect their homes
and the environment from the devastating impacts of oil and gas
development. OGAP provides information useful to communities and
individual landowners, including workshops, fact sheets, best
management practices, and model regulations. The OGAP’s guide
for landowners, Oil
and Gas at Your Door?, details landowners’ legal rights and
offers information about the oil and gas development process.
OGAP has offices in Colorado, Montana and New Mexico.
Oil and Gas Regulation: A Guide for Local Governments
In this report, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs provides municipalities and local governments a general guide on the issues surrounding oil and gas development, industry practices, and the regulatory authority of local governments over development. The report also addresses the impacts on communities that are not typically considered, such as loss of affordable housing or tourism revenue. This guide encourages collaboration among local governments, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, and industry representatives. Descriptions of mitigation strategies and case studies that give examples of these strategies are also included in the document. This guide is a great resource for communities who are interested in having a hand in the regulation of oil and gas development in their area.
Guide for Landowners in Areas of Coal Bed Methane Development
The Region 8 Coordinated Regional Natural Resource Monitoring and Training Program team developed a guide, titled Land and Water Inventory Guide for Landowners in Areas of Coal Bed Methane Development, for interested landowners, which describes coal bed methane extraction processes, the positive and negative effects landowners might encounter if coal bed methane is extracted on or near their property, and potential disposal and use options for produced water. The guide encourages landowners to investigate who owns the mineral rights associated with their property, to negotiate surface use agreements with the mineral rights owner, and to document the land and water resources on their property prior to extraction commencement. The guide also briefly describes best engineering practices (BEPs) and best management practices (BMPs) so that landowners can be informed during, and possibly influence, the development process.
Mediation and Facilitation Resources
For more resources go to the Red
Lodge Clearinghouse Facilitation Directory.
the American West
Mountain Land Use Institute
Congress and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance
Plains Resource Council
Environmental Law Center
Juan Citizens Alliance
of Community and Economic Development
of Rural Development
of Cities and Towns
Department of Natural Resources, Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining
of Environmental Quality, see “Citizens” and “Stakeholders”
Utah Department of Community and Culture
the Wyoming We Want
River Basin Resource Council
Rural Development Council
Regulatory Bodies and Relevant Regulations
Oil and gas development in a community may be regulated by federal,
state and local law as well as all levels of government agencies.
For a general introduction to oil and gas regulation, see the
Red Lodge Clearinghouse (RLCH) Oil
and Gas Resource Development page, especially Process Essentials:
Federal, State and Local Regulation. This RLCH webpage includes
information on planning, leasing and permitting of development
as well as the assessment of impacts under the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA). For a more detailed summary of laws and regulations
applicable to oil and gas development, see the LAWS
pages of our web site.
The Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the primary authority
for regulating development of oil and gas on federal lands and
of federally-owned oil and gas, regardless of the land ownership.
Other land management agencies, e.g., the U.S. Forest Service,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service, participate
in leasing and development decisions on lands that they manage.
Because of their role in oil and gas development, coordination
with the BLM is usually extremely important. Some useful links
to BLM resources include:
Resource Advisory Council
Oil and Gas
Oil and Gas Information
Oil and Gas Lease Sale Information
Lease Sale Protest Information
Mexico Oil and Gas Information
Oil and Gas Leasing Information
Planning and RMPs Information
BLM Oil and Gas Leasing information
BLM Planning Documents