Colorado regulators eye EPA study of drilling in Wyo.

Colorado oil and gas regulators have been in touch with their counterparts in Wyoming about a new Environmental Protection Agency study of contaminants in drinking water in one drilling field in that state.

Dave Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, spoke about that Wyoming study last week at the Northwest Colorado Oil & Gas Forum in Rifle. The study found possible drilling-related contaminants, including a substance sometimes used to hydraulically fracture oil and gas wells.

“This is something that we have been following, and we will be looking into. It’s more complicated than the press has suggested, and the connection to (fracturing) is not as clear as some of the press reports have suggested,” Neslin said.

The EPA found or tentatively identified contaminants in 11 of 39 water wells it studied in Pavillion, Wyo. These include methane in eight wells, and 2-butoxyethanol, or 2-BE, in three wells. Sometimes used in fracturing as a foaming agent, 2-BE also is used in household cleaning products and other applications.

The EPA has found no specific contamination source connected to oil and gas activities in Pavillion.

Don Chaplin, who lives east of Silt, asked Neslin about the study. In an interview later, Chaplin said Colorado’s oil and gas rules may be adequate to protect water supplies now, but not necessarily in the future. He considers the EPA study “perhaps a wake-up call” and said the state should consider revising its rules as it learns more from the Wyoming situation.

“I don’t want my well compromised. Nor do I want any of the water resources in the area compromised by natural gas exploration,” he said.

Neslin said several new Colorado oil and gas rules are designed to address concerns about water supply protection. These include requirements to report results of pressure testing related to fracturing operations, to abide by minimum operational setbacks from public drinking water supplies, and to keep chemical inventories that must be made available under appropriate circumstances.

Rules already were in place regarding well casing and cementing and the protection of groundwater, Neslin said.

The chemical inventory requirement applies when more than 500 pounds of a chemical are used or stored on a well site. State oil and gas commissioner Tresi Houpt said Colorado may have to evaluate whether that threshold is low enough to be adequate for some chemicals.


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