Coalition: Incidents point to need for improved oil, gas rules
A coalition of citizen groups on Thursday cited water-contamination incidents in Colorado and other states in calling for improved regulation of the oil and gas industry.
The Western Organization of Resource Councils, a seven-state network of community groups including the Western Colorado Congress, pointed to last winter’s natural gas liquids leak at Parachute Creek and the oil and gas spills that occurred during September’s Front Range flooding in a report.
It focuses on what WORC contends is inadequate regulation in Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota and Montana that can contribute to water contamination.
WCC member and Battlement Mesa resident Bob Arrington said in a teleconference that the concern in Colorado is exacerbated by the fact that its waters all flow from the state.
“Our water problems can soon become other states’ problems,” he said.
WORC contends that ideally, comprehensive national standards would apply to oil and gas development. But with that not likely to happen any time soon, it falls to states to adopt and properly implement such standards and they’ve failed to do so, it says.
“These standards need to be enforced. There’s very little enforcement in any of our states,” said rancher Bob LaResche of the Powder River Basin Resource Council in Wyoming.
In addition to the Colorado incidents, the report points to ones such as a pipeline leak in North Dakota in September in which more than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled in a field, and a 2011 spill of oil from an Exxon pipeline into the Yellowstone River in Montana.
Last winter, a ruptured pressure gauge on a pipeline leaving Williams’ natural gas processing plant outside Parachute led to an estimated 10,000 gallons of natural gas liquids entering soil and groundwater, for a time contaminating the creek.
In September, tens of thousands of gallons of oil and produced water flowed from ruptured tanks and other damaged oil and gas facilities during the Front Range flooding.
Arrington noted that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in 2008 put off action to adopt regulations for operations near waterways.
The Colorado Department of Natural Resources declined to comment on the WORC report. But state officials have said actions such as companies shutting in wells minimized the flood contamination and they’ve found no measurable levels of pollutants from oil and gas spills in waterways affected by the flooding.
WORC wants better monitoring and testing of facilities such as pipelines and processes such as hydraulic fracturing. Colorado has begun requiring baseline tests of nearby groundwater before fracking begins.