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More Voices Needed to Validate Fracking, Says Noble Exec

With an aggressive push in Colorado where it is investing billions of dollars, Houston-based Noble Energy is helping to carry out a major communication effort to counter opposition to hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and the effort needs to be duplicated nationally according to CFO Ken Fisher.

Speaking at the BakerHostetler Shale Symposium in Houston Monday, Fisher said Noble's efforts include trying to underscore the oil and gas industry's role as a "fundamental driver of the U.S. economy" while also countering grassroots movements to put anti-industry measures on state and local ballots, as is happening in Colorado.

"There are significant anti-fracking efforts with sophisticated campaigns, and in my view it is not just about fracking but about opposing fossil fuels," said Fisher, noting it is going to require what he called "a lot of engagement" by the industry to make the case that domestic energy gas supplies can be produced safely and in a sustainable manner.

"We are trying to make sure information is available and we have trained more than 100 of our employees in Colorado to be what we call 'ambassadors’; we are giving them economic and technical information, along with communication skills to be out on the front lines. Last year there were five ballot measures to ban or restrict fracking and this year we think there will be statewide measures to either address fracking, limit oil and gas activity or change setback rules”  (see Shale Daily, Oct. 28, 2013).

Noble has done extensive public opinion polling in Colorado, Fisher noted, adding that similar polling has been done in other parts of the country. There are a "significant number" of people who would like to ban and/or extensively study unconventional drilling techniques.

There are also an informed portion of people who understands what the industry is doing and supports it, he said.

"Our sense is as we have watched the polling data that the more information you give people on the ground, the better chance we have to impact this debate," Fisher said. "The people most impactful on this discussion are people in the industry who talk to their neighbors. The message we have given our employees is that 'we need you' to be a spokesperson on this."

Fisher said it is clear that people want more credible information on the issue(s), and the industry has not done a good job over the long haul in supplying that information.

In the past, Noble teamed with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and more recently the industry is getting behind a community-based effort, Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED). "The name recognition in Denver on this is now very high," Fisher said (see Shale Daily, Jan. 14).

"If there are ballot initiatives this year, this group can help get information out to help voters make informed decisions."

In response to a question about establishing a similar organization in Texas, Fisher said Noble was willing to share its "playbook." He called Colorado the front end of the anti-fracking sentiment, but "other places are going to be impacted by it. What we learned with CRED is to get ahead of the issue early and coordinate the pro-industry support."

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