Western Resource Advocates is pushing for better protection of groundwater with new state rulemaking process for hydraulic fracturing

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A week or so ago the review of Colorado’s oil and gas production and exploration rules by the State Review of Oil & Natural Gas Environmental Regulations (STRONGER) was cited by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission as part of their basis for a new rulemaking effort for hydraulic fracturing.

Here’s the release from Western Resource Advocates (Jason Bane):

Following the release of the Colorado Hydraulic Fracturing State Review, Western Resource Advocates is calling on Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to do more to protect Colorado’s citizens and water from the threat of fracking oil and gas wells.

A public-private committee dubbed STRONGER1 released an in-depth review2 of the Colorado hydraulic fracturing regulatory program on Friday, Oct. 28. The committee recognized several positive aspects of Colorado’s 2007 oil and gas rulemaking, but noted five specific areas of concern—most importantly the need to a) better protect groundwater quality, and b) to better understand where the industry will find the millions of gallons of water needed for fracking (and what that means for the environment and for other water users in Colorado).

The most significant piece of the STRONGER report is about what is not included. The report does not address Colorado’s draft disclosure rule for fracking chemicals; a proposal to allow the oil and gas industry to self-regulate on its FRAC-Focus website; or the need to increase residential setback requirements from the current minimum levels (150 feet for rural areas; 350 feet for urban areas). These issues are vital to ensure the safety of all Coloradans, regardless of where they live, and some need to be undertaken immediately.

“There is an urgent need to increase Colorado’s residential setbacks,” said Mike Chiropolos, Lands Program Director at Western Resource Advocates (WRA). “The single most important thing that Colorado can do to protect homeowners in the gas patch is to increase the distance between drilling rigs and our homes.”

There are currently 45,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado, and more than 5,000 new permits were approved in 2010 alone. The STRONGER report will help set the stage for potential reforms and regulations of fracking in 2012.

More coverage from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

Dubbed the Colorado Hydraulic Fracturing State Review (pdf), the independent private-public review had been cited by some observers as a possible impetus for Gov. John Hickenlooper somewhat reluctantly agreeing this summer that the state oil and gas regulatory agency should draft a public disclosure rule for fracking chemicals.

That rulemaking process by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is under way, with a draft disclosure rule scheduled to be released and published in the Colorado Register (pdf) on Nov. 10. Hearings are slated for December, and COGCC regulators hope to have a rule finalized by the end of the year.

One of the revised rules Colorado adopted in 2008 after a long and contentious rulemaking process was a regulation requiring companies to keep an inventory of chemicals onsite during drilling and fracking operations and make that inventory available to regulators and healthcare professionals upon request.

“This rule allows government officials and medical professionals to investigate and address allegations of chemical contamination associated with hydraulic fracturing, while protecting proprietary information,” the STRONGER report states.

But the report went on to raise concerns about water supplies for fracking (up to a million gallons per well) and recommended a comprehensive state evaluation of available water resources as they related to fracking operations, which occur in about 90 percent of natural gas wells.

“Given the significant water supply issues in this arid region, this project should also include an evaluation of whether or not availability of water for hydraulic fracturing is an issue and, in the event that water supply is an issue, how best to maximize water reuse and recycling for oil and gas hydraulic fracturing,” the report states in its executive summary.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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