A call to action was sounded last Tuesday at the Rocky Mountain Energy Summit for U.S. oil and natural gas operators to take what industry pioneers created and continue reinventing for the future — with the public’s backing.

The 25th annual event was sponsored by the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, which this year used “Making History” as its platform to acknowledge “our critical role at a critical time in history,” said COGA Chairman Tom Sheffield, who is vice president of Pioneer Natural Resources Corp.’s western division.

Sheffield said the industry has the technology, history, and most important, science to back up its claims that drilling can be done safely and not damage the environment. Once there’s thoughtful engagement, there won’t be “fiction permeating the public airwaves.”

The industry has to “proactively shape our contributions” and “change the narrative,” he said. Other speakers also urged the attendees to collaboratively work with opponents (see related story).

“Are we promptly addressing community concerns, or are we continuing to use competitive, ineffective corporate-speak that does not resonate with public opinion?,” asked Sheffield. “What do we need to do to properly develop the resources that will give the public the assurance that they are safe?”

If the industry has hit a “great wall” with groups opposed to hydraulic fracturing (fracking), “maybe it’s time to rethink and calibrate strategies in engagement. We’re the leaders, the innovators, and most important, we have the scientists armed with facts…We need straightforward, relevant strategies, and only then can we move forward.”

Beyond the battles with environmental groups, “our job is to remind the public that we are all stakeholders,” Sheffield said. “It’s not industry versus the people; we are all part of the game.” The audience was pressed by Sheffield to be engaged and to address any concerns. “What we say and how we say it concludes how we will be in the future.”