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Hydraulic Fracturing: A Controversy and A Case for Evolved Negotiations, Part Three: Resolving Intractable Conflict by Evolving It

By Lisa Bracken

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When Words Fail

As reflected in Part Two of this series, the failures in operational practices and resultant contamination which had prompted a moratorium to be imposed upon a portion of West Divide Creek (also known as the “Mamm Creek Field”) in our south-eastern corner of Garfield County, Colorado were about to be tested.

Then, as well as in retrospect, I was convinced that those cementing and hydraulic fracturing failures, outlined in a 2004 hearing and Order (1V-276) by the COGCC in August 2004, were determined and defined by both the COGCC and industry operator within an overwhelming absence of investigative evidence.

None of our neighbors knew how severely the West Divide Aquifer might have been damaged, and inquiries to those in a position to determine such matters were consistently redirected or quelled with verbal assurances that no such evidence existed. It became apparent that the COGCC’s method of determining and defining impacts such as invasion of natural gas into water wells was carefully contained to a case-by-case approach, ignoring the larger and interrelated condition of the aquifer itself.

Like many similar situations to follow across the country, citizens were without resources to pursue the volume and level of science necessary to first determine cause and effect, and second, argue sufficiently against the industry’s predictably advanced position of denial.

I felt that political pressures contained and shaped findings, and a relatively obvious, but nonetheless effective public relations campaign to advance the appearance of minimized damage led the way toward justice.

In the early years, within their severely limited scope of awareness, settlements for damages (among those who brought them) were based primarily on 1) a limited understanding of impacts, 2) legal standing to bring suit and/or 3) the public assurance that such an event would not occur again.

Neighbors, now bitterly divided over losses as well as the way they had been portrayed and treated by both the State of Colorado and the industry operator itself pursued quick and quiet restitution amid rumor and withdrawn community interaction. As has long been a legal practice in settlement situations, agreements are often cloaked in non-disclosure.

Hydraulic Fracturing: A Controversy and A Case for Evolved Negotiations,Part Three: Resolving Intractable Conflict by Evolving It by Lisa Bracken


Copyright © 2012 Lisa Bracken
Copyright ©   2012  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  (August, 2012)