The debate over oil and gas drilling in Colorado, and the environmental consequences, is heating up.
When residents started getting riled about groundwater and air pollution that could be caused by drilling, local officials started saying they wanted to be in charge, not entrust enforcement to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. El Paso County commissioners were among those wanting more latitude at the local level.
Then, Gov. John Hickenlooper appointed a special task force to study the issue, even as he posed for newspaper ads and spoke on radio ads to reassure Coloradans the state is doing its job to protect the environment from hasty hydraulic fracturing fluids seeping into the ground or into waterways — a tactic activists found over-the-top.
Now, environmental activists are again crying foul over comments Hickenlooper made to the media about spills and releases of drilling fluids, saying, "There have been a few spills.”
Quite a few, 18 environmental groups say, noting that COGCC records show there have been a statewide total of 3,966 spills and releases since 2000.
“Governor Hickenlooper needs to stop misinforming the public about the amount of drilling and fracking fluids spilled and released on Colorado’s land and water,” Gary Wockner of Clean Water Action said in a press relesase. “There are not ‘a few spills;’ there are hundreds of spills and releases every year.”
In fact, statement says, the number of spills and releases have been growing over time. In 2002, there were 193; in 2010 and 2011, nearly 500 per year.
We've asked the governor's office for a comment and will update when we hear back.
From the release:
“The public needs to know the facts about the threat that drilling and fracking poses to our communities,” said Shane Davis of the Sierra Club. “Not only are chemicals spilled and released, the majority of that chemical pollution is never recovered or cleaned up.”
An earlier detailed analysis by the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action revealed that over 40% of spills/releases reported in Weld County between 2003 and 2012 contaminated groundwater, nearly 3% contaminated surface water, and a random sample of 6% of 1,000 reports suggested that up to 1.75 million gallons of spilled/released fluids was never “recovered.” Spilled/released fluids includes “oil,” “produced water,” and “other” as reported to the COGCC.
Here's a list of the groups signing on to this press release. None is from Colorado Springs or El Paso County. In fact, we know of no groups that have formed around this issue in the Pikes Peak region, so if we've missed one, please, someone, let us know:
Clean Water Action, Fort Collins
Sierra Club — Poudre Canyon Group, Fort Collins
Western Colorado Congress of Mesa County
Sierra Club-Trappers Lake Group, Steamboat Springs
Coalition for a Clean Colorado, Affiliate groups:
Renewable Communities Alliance, Alamosa
Commerce City Unity NOW, Commerce City
Citizens for Huerfano County, La Veta
South Park Coalition, Como
Be The Change, Denver
Rifle-Silt-Peach Valley-New Castle (RSPN) Coalition, Silt
What the Frack?! Arapahoe, Aurora
Coloradoans for Fair Rates and Clean Energy (CO-force), Boulder
Elbert County Oil and Gas Interest Group (ECOGIG), Agate
Erie Rising, Erie
Citizens for a Healthy Community, Paonia
Routt County Frack, Steamboat Springs