Penry-passed pit-liner bill to protect groundwater upheld by Denver judge

A bill mandating stricter handling of oil and gas brine that was passed in 2008 by strange bedfellows Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, in the state Senate and Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction, in the House was upheld by a Denver District Court judge Tuesday, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

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A mixture of salt water, fracking chemicals and hydrocarbons, brine was seen by Penry and Buescher as a potential source of groundwater contamination. Their bill required it be stored in non-permeable synthetic pit liners at facilities at least a half mile away from homes. Two Moffat County storage operations challenged the rules as unconstitutional and usurping local authority.

According to the paper, Judge William W. Hood III ruled that the Colorado Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission correctly interpreted that the intent of Penry (an ardent oil and gas industry backer) and (now Secretary of State) Buescher’s bill was to mandate synthetic pit liners over more permeable clay liners.

Hood cited a comment by Penry to fellow lawmakers that the liners are the “best technology available to protect ground water from any undesirable consequences [associated with the pits.]”

Conservationists agreed. Frank Smith of the Western Colorado Congress praised the ruling: “Pit liners, absolutely that helps protect people and water.”

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