As demand and consumption of natural gas increases, so will drilling operations to extract the natural gas on federal public lands. Fueled by the shale gas revolution, natural gas drilling operations are now frequently taking place, not only in the highly documented urban settings, but also on federal public lands with high conservation value. The phenomenon of increased drilling in sensitive locations, both urban and remote, has sparked increased public opposition, requiring oil and gas producers to reconsider how they engage the public. Oil and gas producers have increasingly deployed the concept of a social license to operate to gain support from the public and the communities in which they operate. A social license to operate is a voluntary license granted by communities, obligating companies to go above and beyond the requirements of their legal license to operate. While natural gas developers have increasingly sought to achieve a social license to operate in urban settings, such as the Colorado Front Range, there has been little use of this approach by operators drilling on federal public land. We advocate for the use of increased collaboration with affected stakeholders and communities through the NEPA process as a means to achieve a social license to operate on federal public land.
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