Denver: Hydraulic fracturing disclosure rulemaking moved to Tuesday, December 13


Here’s the release from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (Todd Hartman):

The Parties to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s hydraulic fracturing disclosure rulemaking are engaged in discussions to attempt to resolve the remaining rulemaking issues. To allow these discussions to continue, the continuation of the Rulemaking Hearing will move from 8:00 a.m. Monday at the COGCC hearing room, to 8:00 a.m. Tuesday at the COGCC hearing room. The COGCC hearing room is on the 8th floor of the Chancery building at 1120 Lincoln St. in Denver.

The Commission’s regular December hearing will still commence at 1:00 p.m. in Greeley, on Monday Dec. 12, as previously scheduled. The Greeley meeting will be held at the Weld County Administration Building, 1150 O Street.

More coverage from The Wall Street Journal (Stephanie Simon And Daniel Gilbert). From the article:

The proposed Colorado regulations also would allow companies to withhold some chemical names from public disclosure, since trade secrets are protected by both federal and state law. But at an emotional 11-hour hearing last week, environmental activists pleaded with state officials to limit that privilege. The activists renewed that call on Friday, in light of the EPA’s findings in Wyoming. “That should be a gut check for the state,” said Mike Chiropolos of Western Resource Advocates, an environmental group in Boulder, Colo…

Industry executives in Colorado say they do support some mandatory disclosure. But they have resisted some of the specific proposals pushed by environmentalists, such as a requirement that they publicly disclose the concentration of each chemical in their fracking fluid. They say that would in effect give a recipe book to rivals looking to copy their technique.

The state’s regulatory body, the nine-member Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, will debate the issue on Tuesday. Also up for debate: whether private citizens should be able to challenge drilling companies over their use of the trade-secret privilege to withhold chemical names.

More coverage from Alan Prendergast writing for Westword. From the article:

The EPA draft report comes after three years of resident complaints about fouled drinking water around the town of Pavilion in west-central Wyoming, where the gas giant Encana operates 169 production wells. Monitoring wells detected numerous chemical compounds used in the fluids energy companies inject into the ground to force out pockets of oil and gas, including benzene and toluene. “Given the area’s complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to groundwater contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking water wells over time,” the agency noted in a statement on the report.

Environmental activists contend that the Pavilion results show that the industry’s claims about the safety of the process are overblown. While supporters of fracking say the chemicals are injected thousands of feet below aquifers and can’t possibly reach them, the Wyoming wells were fracked at a shallow level, around a thousand feet below the surface, and the casing that’s supposed to protect the groundwater went down less than 400 feet.

But at least Wyoming officials know what toxic chemicals the company was using. The Cowboy State passed a law last year requiring the companies to disclose their fracking recipes, while Colorado is still mulling over such a measure.

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

Colorado’s conservation community wants to make sure oil and gas regulators get it right the first time Tuesday when they decide on a new hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure rule. Otherwise, they say state officials should keep working on the new rule.

And getting it right means taking into consideration new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) findings in Pavillion, Wyo., showing chemicals used in fracking present in groundwater testing wells near where residents have been warned not to drink their tainted well water.

Getting it right also means pre-disclosure of chemicals before fracking (which is required in Wyoming and Montana), full disclosure of any toxic chemicals (no trade secret exemptions) and full public access (requiring immediate website access so the public can sort by type of chemical, date and location of a frack job). In its draft rule, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) may not require full sorting on until 2013.

Most of all, says former oil and gas commissioner Trési Houpt, the COGCC should not adopt an inadequate rule on Tuesday in hopes that it can later revisit and correct deficiencies.

More coverage from Joe Moylan writing for the Craig Daily Press. From the article:

“The Environmental Protection Agency and the COGCC are both on public record stating there has never been a case of fracking polluting a water source. I think there is some public misconception that there is this great risk and I think there is a middle ground between the extreme environmental viewpoint and common sense.” — Tom Gray, Moffat County Commissioner[…]

Gov. John Hickenlooper has said oil and natural gas companies need to be up front with state residents about the potential danger hydraulic fracturing poses to ground water reserves. Currently, oil and natural gas companies can voluntarily disclose the fluids used in fracking at The governor wants to make reporting mandatory…

However, the Colorado Environmental Coalition believes the draft rule includes a loophole that would allow oil and natural gas companies to hide certain chemicals from the public by listing them as trade secrets. “We understand the need for trade secrets,” CEC energy organizer Charlie Montgomery said. “Every business needs trade secrets, but we are looking for some type of approval process. The way the rule is currently drafted allows companies to simply ask for the exemption and they’ll get it.”

David Ludlam, executive director of The West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, believes the rule is appropriate in its drafted form. “Stakeholders operating in good faith recognize that all Colorado businesses have reasonable legal protections of research and inventions,” Ludlam said. “Stakeholders not operating in good faith might be tempted to ignore the fact that citizens will have a very clear pathway to challenge trade secrets they believe are not valid…

The CEC, Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, National Wildlife Federation, San Juan Citizens Alliance and High Country Citizens Alliance pressed the COGCC to close the trade secret loophole through its collective legal representative Earth Justice during Monday’s meeting.

More coverage from the Dallas Business Journal (Matt Joyce). From the article:

Encana Corp. takes exception to an Environmental Protection Agency report that suggests a link between hydraulic fracturing and contaminated groundwater in Pavillion, Wyo., and says the town’s poor water quality has been known since before natural gas development took place there…

Encana has used hydraulic fracturing – the same drilling technique used to develop natural gas in the Barnett Shale of north Texas – to drill natural gas wells in the Pavillion area. Encana sold its Barnett Shale assets in November.

Meanwhile the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District is laying out new rules for selling water for hydraulic fracturing operations, according to Kirk Siegler writing for KUNC. From the article:

New regulations proposed by Northern Water would ensure that its water is only being leased to fracking companies for use within the agency’s strict boundaries in the South Platte River basin. Much of Northern’s jurisdiction also lies within Weld County where state regulators have permitted some 500 new wells this year alone. “What we’re trying to do is just be proactive,” said Eric Wilkenson, general manager for Northern. “We’ve got a new situation developing that is going to result in an increased water demand, so to address that in a proactive way, we want to put rules and regulations and procedures in place so that we can handle that.”[…]

But oil industry representatives and officials from area cities including Greeley told Wilkenson and the rest of his board Friday that the new regulations are so punitive they could halt the leasing of water for fracking, and curtail economic growth. “This remarkable technology that could help supply domestic energy for many many years to come could be at risk if reliable water supplies are not available to do that,” said Kent Holsinger of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

More oil and gas coverage here.

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