Gov. Hickenlooper defends stand on drill fracking
BOULDER — Gov. John Hickenlooper says he is trying to be impartial on issues involving oil and gas production in Colorado, including the industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing to reach natural gas deposits.
In a lecture Thursday at the University of Colorado, the former geologist said he is constantly attacked for being in the pocket of oil and gas, which he said is not the case.
According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Hickenlooper said the science on the impact of fracking is far from settled and the focus should be on getting better facts.
“I am constantly attacked now for being in the pocket of oil and gas, or somehow subservient to their philosophy or their wish,” he said. “The Quakers have a term called ‘fair witness,’ someone who comes in and they don’t have an ax to grind ... and that is what I try to be.”
Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is a gas drilling process that blasts chemical-laden water deep into the ground. Supporters say the process is safe, while opponents say the technique pollutes groundwater.
Hickenlooper said that once there is an accepted set of facts about fracking, opponents and proponents can have a reasonable discussion.
Hickenlooper said science has made fracking more effective and safer than it was before, with some large oil companies claiming they are nearing a point where 100 percent of the fracking fluid can be recycled. He said scientists still don’t know the impacts of wells on the air, with many opponents claiming gases such as methane leak from wells, damaging air quality and creating health concerns for nearby residents.
“If we find unhealthy air quality around a community and something coming out of a well that is an issue, we will put the brakes on faster than you can imagine,” he said.
Earlier this year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency that regulates the industry, approved rules making Colorado the first state to require energy companies to do groundwater testing both before and after they drill wells.
However, the commission also has filed a lawsuit against Longmont for banning fracking, angering officials who said it is a local issue.
“When you ban fracking, you really say you are going to supersede the state’s authority,” Hickenlooper said.
The governor said surface property rights and subsurface property rights often conflict, and banning fracking would deprive some mineral rights holders access to their property.