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University of Colorado Denver

School of Public Affairs
 

Understanding the Politics of Shale Gas Development

A Focus on Colorado, New York, and Texas


On September 18, 2014, Tanya Heikkila and Chris Weible presented their findings on the political landscape of hydraulic fracturing to over 100 people at The Earth Institute at Columbia University.  The presentation was entitled, “The Political Landscape of Shale Gas Development and Hydraulic Fracturing in New York: Understanding the Fractures.​”       



A new report titled "A Summary Report of the Perceptions of the Politics and Regulations of Unconventional Shale Development in Texas" presents the findings from a survey conducted in the spring of 2014 of individuals who are involved with the politics, policies, and rulemaking concerning shale oil and gas development that utilizes  hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in Texas. The survey finds areas of agreement and disagreement between those advocating for and against hydraulic fracturing-related oil and gas development. These findings may help clarify the underlying concerns, preferences, and resources of a diverse range of people involved in this issue in Texas.

On June 16, 2014 at the 15th annual Wirth Chair Sustainability Awards, Tanya Heikkila and Chris Weible presented their work on the politics of hydraulic fracturing-based oil and gas development. Their presentation, titled "Oil and Gas Development in Colorado: Exploring the Political Fractures and Seams," focused on areas of consensus and debate of those involved in oil and gas policy making in Colorado. 

A new article titled "Hydraulic Fracturing Politics - Lessons from the U.S.​" published in CommentVisions: debating the energy challenge. 

                                                 Project Description

This project focuses upon understanding the politics surrounding the issues and concerns of hydraulic-fracturing-based oil and gas development in Colorado, New York, and Texas. The findings will aim to identify opportunities for learning, policy change, and common ground.

 
Recent expansion of shale gas development has created a flurry of political debates being played out in national, state, and local newspapers, on blogs and other mass media, in regulatory agencies across all levels of government, and in Congress, state legislatures, county commissions, town counties, and courts. Illustrative of societal attention is the exponential rise in newspaper articles published in the New York Times from less than 10 articles using the term "hydraulic fracturing" between 1980 to 2007 to 90 articles in 2011 (see Figure 1). 
 
 
 
          
 

                                                    Description of Actions

This project will involve interviews, an on-line survey, a news media analysis, website analysis, and the analysis of published documents and reports. The study sites will focus on the Niobrara, Marcellus, Barnett, Eagle Ford, and Mancos shale gas regions. The project will be conducted from July 2012 through July 2015. 
                                                 
  

                                                      Project Background

 
Rising natural gas prices and recent advancements in horizontal drilling technology in hydraulic fracturing are resulting in the increasing viability of United States shale gas reserves as energy sources (Rogers, 2011). Hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking, involves the injection of water, sand, and proppants (a mixture of various chemicals) to crack shale formations and release natural gas. With advances in fracking methods came the rapid expansion of shale gas development across many states, particularly in the Marcellus shale formation in the Northeast, the Barnett shale in Texas, and the newly explored shale formations in western states. This recent expansion of shale gas drilling has been significant; The PA Department of Environmental protection reported in 2012 the wells drilled in the PA portion of Marcellus shale increased from 195 in 2008 to 1,386 in 2010 to an estimated 4,000 wells in 2011 (Griswold, 2011). Whereas a decade ago, shale gas constituted a minuscule proportion of US natural gas supplies, currently it is estimated to comprise 30 percent and, by 2035, it could comprise half of domestic supplies (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2010).
 
  

                                                       Project Objectives

 
This project focuses upon the politics of shale gas development in the United States to help understand opportunities for learning, policy change, and common ground via the following four objectives: 
 
  1. Identify the actors involved in the politics of gas shale development, their interests, concerns, beliefs, and values regarding gas shale development, and how they are organized within political coalitions across different scales (e.g. local, shale formation, state, watershed, and national).
  2. Examine the types of actions and strategies that coalitions use to translate their interests into political outcomes, including issue framing in the media.
  3. Determine to what extend coalition actors have learned through their political involvement in the shale gas debate and what fostered this learning.
  4. Explore how the characteristics of coalitions and their interactions have influenced changes in shale policy or regulations and what actions might lead to common ground and policy change in the future across different venues and scales.

                         

                                            Use and Distribution of Results

The findings will be conveyed to the people involved in shale gas development in the shale gas regions studied, and to people in other parts of the United States and the world. The results will be presented at conferences/meetings and published in academic publications and professional outlets, included web publications for the Buechner Institute for Governance. Webinars for survey participants via the Workshop on Policy Process Research will be used to help disseminate the results, as well as workshops in each region.

                                                 Reports and Publications


  • This report​ presents the findings from a survey conducted in the spring of 2014 of individuals who are involved with the politics, policies, and rulemaking concerning shale oil and gas development that utilizes  hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in Texas. The survey finds areas of agreement and disagreement between those advocating for and against hydraulic fracturing-related oil and gas development. These findings may help clarify the underlying concerns, preferences, and resources of a diverse range of people involved in this issue in Texas.​


  • This report presents the findings from a survey conduct in the fall of​ 2013 of individuals who are involved with the politics, policies, and rulemaking concerning shale gas development that utilizes high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York. A total of 379 people were administered the survey and 129 people responded. These respondents include people from local, state, and federal governments, oil and gas service providers and operators and industry associations, environmental and conservation groups, local citizen groups, and academics and consultants.

 
  • This report presents the findings from a survey conducted in the spring of 2013 of people directly or indirectly involved in the politics and regulation of oil and natural gas development that utilizes hydraulic fracturing in Colorado. A total of 398 people were administered a survey and 137 people responded. These respondents include people from local, state, and federal governments, oil and gas service providers and operators and industry associations, environmental and conservation groups, local citizen groups, and academics and consultants.

 

Weible, Christopher M., Tanya Heikkila, and Brian J. Gerber​. Lessons on Learning from a Public Forum on Hydraulic Fracturing. A Buechner Breakfast Evaluation Report. Published May 6, 2013 by the School of Public Affairs University of Colorado Denver.

Pierce, Jonathan J., Christopher M. Weible, and Tanya Heikkila. "Hydraulic Fracturing". Forthcoming. In Brent Steel (ed.) Issues and Controversies in Science and Politics.

Heikkila, Tanya, Jonathan J. Pierce, Samuel Gallaher, Jennifer Kagan, Deserai A. Crow and Christopher M. Weible. Forthcoming. "Understanding a Period of Policy Change: The Case of Hydraulic Fracturing Disclosure Policy in Colorado". Review of Policy Research.

 

 

 

                                      University of Colorado Denver Project Team  

Tanya Heikkila, Associate Professor Chris Weible, Associate Professor​
​University of Colorado - Denver ​University of Colorado - Denver
​1380 Lawrence Street, Suite 500 ​​1380 Lawrence Street
​Campus Box 142 ​Campus Box 142
​Denver, CO 80217 ​Denver, CO 80217
Tanya.Heikkila@ucdenver.edu Chris.Weible@ucdenver.edu
Phone: 303-315-2269 Phone: 303-315-2010
Fax: 303-315-2229 ​​Fax: 303-315-2229
​Jonathan Pierce, Post-Doctoral Scholar ​Samuel Gallaher, Ph.D. Student
Jonathan.Pierce@ucdenver.edu Samuel.Gallaher@ucdenver.edu
​Jennifer Kagan, Graduate Student ​David Carter, Ph.D. Student
Jennifer.Kagan@ucdenver.edu David.Carter@ucdenver.edu
Deserai Crow, Assistant Professor​ Benjamin Blair, Visiting Scholar
University of Colorado - Boulder​ University of Wisconsin Milwaukee​
Deserai.crow@colorado.edu bdblair@uwm.edu​
Liz Shanahan, Associate Professor​ Michael Jones, Assistant Professor
Montana State University​ Virginia Tech​
shanahan@montana.edu shanahan@montana.edu

 

 

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