Governor announces fracking fluid plans

Hickenlooper to enforce rule on disclosure of Colorado gas and oil drilling practices

DENVER – Gov. John Hickenlooper announced plans Tuesday to require more disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids, even as he offered a full-throated defense of the gas industry.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission already requires companies to disclose their fracking formulas to state regulators and doctors if there is an emergency, but the information is not public.

Hickenlooper wants the oil and gas commission to strengthen its disclosure rule by the end of the year, he told the audience at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association convention. A stronger rule will help the industry, he said.

“Everybody in this room understands that hydraulic fracturing doesn’t connect to the groundwater,” said the Democrat and former petroleum geologist. “It’s almost inconceivable that we would ever contaminate, through the fracking process, the groundwater.”

He blamed inaccuracies and misinformation in the media – he named The New York Times three times – for public anxiety about fracking.

Drillers help gas and oil flow out of their wells by injecting high-pressure hydraulic fracturing fluids – a mix of water, sand and chemicals – to break open underground rock formations. Many companies hold the chemical makeup of their fluids as a trade secret.

The secrecy has helped stir public fears that fracking fluids can poison drinking water wells, Hickenlooper said.

“The best way to fight back on that kind of misinformation is to be transparent,” he said.

He did not offer details on what the new rule could be, and he said he has not talked to oil and gas commission commissioners about it. He appointed four new commissioners to the nine-person panel last Friday.

Colorado Oil and Gas Association President Tisha Conoly Schuller said she will urge that the new rule build on Frac Focus, a voluntary website that many companies are using to publicly report the content of their fracking fluids. Texas, which has one of the country’s strongest public disclosure laws, requires participation in Frac Focus or a similar website.

Also Tuesday, Hickenlooper said his administration has struck an agreement with COGA to have gas companies pay for water well sampling both before and after the drilling of nearby gas wells.

The state already has a similar program in Southwest Colorado, and it has satisfied regulators that gas drilling is not contaminating water wells, said David Neslin, director of the oil and gas commission. Gas and oil companies will hire independent companies to do the water monitoring.

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