Local strategies of contesting oil and gas development: The case of Windsor, Colorado

Authors: Nicholas Schuelke*, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Topics: Energy
Keywords: scale, local resistance, oil and gas, Colorado
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Evergreen, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Approval of oil and gas development projects on non-federal land in the US typically fall under the purview of state regulatory agencies that are primarily focused on “down-hole” concerns. However, many impacts of oil and gas extraction are realized at the surface by the communities in which they are located. Local stakeholders often have very limited, if any, ability to engage in permitting processes in order to mitigate undesirable impacts that reduce quality of life and environment. How is it, then, that certain communities are able to contest the location of oil and gas development through meaningful participation in decision-making processes?

Using the case of Windsor, Colorado, I illustrate how local stakeholder strategies were successful in resisting the siting of a large-scale oil and gas development project within residential neighborhoods. Concerns surrounding externalities, distribution of costs and benefits, and competing notions of “best location” mobilized residents and town officials to employ particular strategies of resistance, including land annexation and the hiring of outside oil and gas experts, to contest the project location. These interventions led to subsequent negotiations among stakeholders, and ultimately resulted in relocation of the project. The case of Windsor is widely regarded in Colorado as a model for how local efforts to contest oil and gas development projects can ensure more locally desirable outcomes.

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