Natural gas Frac-ing
By Jim Carpenter, the Governor’s Chief of Staff
In regard to questions from folks about the Governor’s position on natural gas Frac-ing.
The Governor doesn't for a moment discount the concerns of those who worry about protection of drinking water supplies.
The COGCC has documented examples where improper construction of wells has polluted groundwater. We do know of at least once case where a nurse fell critically ill after treating a worker who spilled fracturing fluid on himself.
Making sure that frac'ing is done right and that we are constantly pushing industry to develop better and safer technologies is tremendously important. Gov. Ritter and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conversation Commission (COGCC) are absolutely committed to protecting drinking water and assuring the safety of anyone who comes into contact with frac'ing fluids.
It's why he pushed, starting in January 2007, for the COGCC to be reformed and new rules adopted. New rules are now in effect.
• The new rules require that every single frac job is monitored to be sure groundwater is not affected during frac'ing.
• They require operators keep detailed records of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid (including proprietary chemicals) and disclose them to state and county officials on request.
• Chemical information must also be disclosed immediately to medical providers in case of an emergency.
• The rules have additional oversight requirements for frac'ing in shallow coal seams that provide protection for drinking water, like baseline groundwater quality studies and ongoing monitoring during and after the operation, to ensure pollution isn't occuring.
• They prohibit most drilling within 300 feet of rivers and streams that serve as public drinking water supplies.
• The rules have tougher requirements for lining pits to make sure fracking fluid and waste don't seep into the ground or reach groundwater.
• They protect landowners by requiring that any spills or releases be reported to the landowner within 24 hours.
Tens of thousands of oil and gas wells are fracked every year, and it appears most frac'ing occurs without incident. State oil and gas commissions across the country have extensive experience in regulating these practices. Colorado's rules are on the leading edge.
Now, to the federal legislation issue. The Gov. believes it's important to understand the problems and the risks before developing a federal regulation that could supersede Colorado's carefully designed state rules.
That's why he has urged the Congress to take a hard look before it legislates.
Should there be a similar federal program? How would it be structured? Who would implement it, and who would fund that work? Does the EPA have the expertise? Can we add yet another large task to EPA's agenda when it is already working overtime on a host of environmental issues? Especially when the states have regulatory programs in place? Is regulation of frac'ing even a good fit for existing federal laws, or would we need an entirely new regulatory program?
But it is important to recognize that local and state agencies will almost always be the first responders in response to any fracking problem, so a regulatory program tailored to a state's needs may make the most sense. A federal backup may be needed, but it makes sense to ask whether that is needed, and if so, how it would work.
One other point: natural gas is the cleanest burnig fossil fuel. It's use can help with transportation, power generation, etc. and help us reach climate change goals. It's also an important part of Colorado's economy, and the Gov has always beleived natural gas must play a key role in the New Energy Economy. How we use our important resources in a way that protects health, safety, communities and the environment is something that the Gov. and his team worry about every day.