Trust – but verify, says environmental group about proposed fracking rules

Gov. John Hickenlooper (Kersgaard)

Proposals by state and industry officials in Colorado to step up transparency about the impact of hydrofracking operations on water are welcomed, but they still fall short, says Western Resource Advocates.

“The governor’s proposal doesn’t go far enough,’ says Mike Choropolos, land program director for the Boulder-based group, “We want to see full disclosure, and we want to see quantities.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Tuesday announced plans to require that constituents of hydraulic fracturing be disclosed, as is already the case in Wyoming. However, he said that companies would not be required to address the amounts.

From all accounts, water and sand are the primary constituents of fracking, in which fluids are injected at high pressure into gas-bearing formations generally deep underground in order to create passages for the escape of the gas. However, dozens of other chemicals are used, some as benign as the chemical used as an absorbent in baby diapers but others known to be carcinogenic.

At the same session, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association announced a voluntary program in which water in areas near wells will be tested prior to drilling and then within three years afterward. Major companies operating in Colorado have agreed to participation. They drilled 99 percent of all wells in Colorado during the last 18 months. The information will be publicly available.

Good, but not good enough, says Choropolos. Before and after water-quality testing needs to be required of all drillers, and the program needs direct oversight by state agencies normally responsible for protecting water quality, primarily the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.

The plan announced by Hickenlooper, and then further explained by COGA officials, will use third-party consultants.

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