There is a rush to drill in Colorado and oil\gas exploration has been a large part of this state’s economic development for some time. Let me state for the record that I am for domestic and energy exploration. However I am adamantly opposed to mineral and oil exploration occurring near active fish habitats. Unfortunately anglers have the smallest voice in this discussion.
It is my experience that when drilling occurs near water, the water gets $%^& up. This doesn’t happen all of the time but it happens far more than the energy crowd or even Hickenlooper likes to admit. Just talk to the folks in Ft. Lupton and other areas in Colorado where the aftermath is so bad that you can literally light your tap water on fire. Health regulators deem the water safe but refuse to drink it themselves. Incidents of contamination are piling up and in nearly all of these cases the companies deny responsibility as much as possible and walk away as soon as regulatory agencies give the green light. For years now I have read articles where residents, property owners and even anglers are left with stinky, milky looking water and told, “As good as it was and perfectly safe.”
Ask anyone in the business this question, “Has there been evidence of contaminated water in Colorado where drilling\fracking has taken place?” The answer is yes. “How often does this happen?” The answer you will get is this: “We are working on developing better regulations and have some of the toughest standards in the nation.” Look at COGO’s own statistics before approving and more importantly signing a piece of paper that allows drilling near fish habitat.
If you have a minute, please take a look at the information being posted on the COGO website (link listed above). Especially go to the homepage, then database and select the Inspection\Incident report. Spills and contamination are fairly common according to their own information.
The worst part is that while permits are being granted, the regulators and oil companies are getting more or less a free pass. Bruce Finley has done a great job of streamlining the incidents and fines associated with the companies that work in Colorado using the database described above. This provides a perspective based on numbers that may cause a few people to think twice about allowing oil exploration in areas of South Park and others where some of the state’s best fishing may be in jeopardy.
Drilling spills rise in Colorado, but fines rare
PLATTEVILLE — Colorado's wave of gas and oil drilling is resulting in spills at the rate of seven every five days — releasing more than 2 million gallons this year of diesel, oil, drilling wastewater and chemicals that contaminated land and water.
At least some environmental damage from the oil-and-gas boom is inevitable, industry leaders and state regulators say, with a record-high 45,793 wells and companies drilling about eight more a day.
But a Denver Post analysis finds state regulators rarely penalize companies responsible for spills.
This year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has imposed fines for five spills that happened three or more years ago. The total penalties: $531,350.
Sorting out the numbers
The companies responsible for the most spills wield clout. For example, state records show Anadarko has contributed $43,450 since July 2010 to Colorado political groups and candidates, including $1,050 to John Hickenlooper's gubernatorial campaign. Other companies do likewise.
An analysis of spill data reported to COGCC regulators, and spill reports compiled by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, found the following:
• Of the 343 spills reported this year through Sept. 2, Kerr-McGee had 38, Noble Energy had 37, and Williams Production and EnCana Oil and Gas each had 36. Next closest were Chevron and Petroleum Development Corp. with 29 each, followed by Pioneer Natural Resources with 22 and British Petroleum America with eight.
Noble, EnCana, Williams, Kerr-McGee and BP on Aug. 3 received COGCC awards — despite 374 spills among them since January 2010.
• Colorado groundwater was contaminated in 58 spills this year. Streams were contaminated 18 times. Spilled substances overflowed berms designed to contain spills 204 times.
• Among the spills reported to state health officials this year, about 54 were related to oil and gas operations and released about 2.1 million gallons of "produced water" extracted during drilling, along with gas and fracking fluids, diesel fuel, oil and other chemicals.
• Among spills reported by companies to COGCC regulators, the most occurred in Weld County, 114, followed by 55 in Garfield County, 34 in Las Animas County, 30 in Rio Blanco County and 12 in La Plata County.
• Since March 2007, Coloradans have submitted 1,000 complaints to state regulators asking for enforcement against companies.
• The COGCC has 15 inspectors who are charged with overseeing 45,793 wells. COGCC supervisors say 17,075 field inspections were done in 2010, up 71 percent from 9,991 inspections in 2009.
• COGCC enforcers scrambled this year to reduce a backlog of cases and say they're nearly ready to handle this year's spills.
Wildlife and Natural Areas have little defense over people with money. The bad economy has all but washed away human’s concern over clean and air water versus jobs. Both are in precious short supply right now and an empty belly is difficult to argue with. The short sightedness of this problem will result in oil today with polluted water tomorrow. Areas of the state are already dealing with problems over contaminated wells and streams.
It may also be helpful to visit the COGCC website, select database and then view the inspection\incident page. Select the “spill\release” radial button (maximize the number of records to 1,000 for longer listings) and look at the frequency of contaminations to ground and surface water.
End article released from the Denver Post by Bruce Finley.
The process of fracking is a different subject altogether. Know that I don’t support this process for many reasons. Lawsuits over poor cleanup, leftover chemicals and possibly even seismic activity are coming to light and I have posted links to those situations below.
Drill baby drill…just stay away from the water. Good luck and good fishing.