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New fracking rules under consideration

CEC: Potential loophole would block intended transparency

Joe Moylan

Quotable:

“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

Quotable:

“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

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission heard testimony for more than 10 hours Dec. 5 in its consideration of a proposed rule intended to provide greater transparency concerning chemicals used in mineral fracking.



Fracking is the process of pumping fluids into the ground to break up rock and release oil and natural gas deposits.

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 http://www.fracfocus.com.

The governor wants to make reporting mandatory.

In response, the commission drafted a rule that would require oil and natural gas companies to publish public information on the chemicals they intend to use when fracking.

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.

“This is why COGA supports language to show how such a challenge process works.”

Ludlam also believes that if the CEC and other environmental groups attempt to block the rule as written, it will handcuff researchers working on environmentally sensitive energy technologies.

“Without basic protections for their inventions and patents, our scientists will be less able to develop the next generation of impact-reducing technologies,” Ludlam said.

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said fracking has been practiced for more than 40 years and the rule might be a moot point because there has never been a documented case of ground water pollution resulting from mineral extraction.

“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,” Gray said. “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.”

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.

The COGCC did not vote on the proposed rule. Deliberations are scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday at The Chancery Building in Denver, 1120 Lincoln St., Suite 801.


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