Public Participation in Fracking Controversies
In the wake of the unconventional oil and gas boom, Colorado communities and governments experimented with novel public participation techniques in order to address public concern and improve industry practice. Our research group studied how memorandums of understanding between industry and local governments shaped public perceptions of risk, trust in industry and government actors, and acceptance of unconventional oil and gas activity. MOUs tended to enhance public trust in local government, but not industry. We found that MOUs narrow the breadth of citizen complaints and increase citizen engagement with governing bodies. We identified the significance of local government officials' everyday practices for either eroding public engagement or enhancing trust in the midst of less-than-optimal government and industry outcomes. We found that the most significant predictor of complaint volume was encroachment of drilling activities close to communities.