Disclosure rules good for Colorado

The science of hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — has changed in the three years since Colorado adopted the toughest-in-the-nation rules on oil and gas drilling, including fracking.

So has the industry’s attitude about disclosing information about the components that make up the fracking fluids. Industry has become more willing to disclose fracking information as states across the country have adopted or are considering new rules on fracking transparency.

That’s why a draft of new regulations for fracking transparency, released this week by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, have been developed largely in cooperation with the energy industry, not in opposition to it, said David Neslin, executive director for the commission.

The new rules should go a long way toward alleviating public concerns about the sort of chemicals being used in fracking, the process that is helping to recover ever-more oil and gas from different rock formations.

When combined with a voluntary program initiated this month by the industry group, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, to monitor well water before and after drilling each well, the rules should provide better information about the details and impacts of fracking.

The draft rules build on voluntary disclosure efforts that many drilling companies have already embraced through the website, http://www.fracfocus.org. The site was created by a coalition of state regulatory agencies and governors from several energy-rich states. There, companies post information about the fracking compounds used at each of their well sites. Members of the public can search for information about fracking by a given well number, a location or a company name.

Colorado’s draft rules propose to use that same website, but disclosure of information would be mandatory, and more information would be available than is currently listed on the site.

Neslin said the draft rules would require not just drilling companies, but their suppliers to disclose fracking materials. All chemicals would have to be disclosed, not just ones listed as hazardous by the federal government he said. There would be an exemption for materials that are considered proprietary information, or trade secrets. But companies would still have to make that information available to the state and to health care professionals, if requested.

Additionally, Colorado officials hope to work with other states involved in http://www.fracfocus.org to make it so people can also search by chemical and by the time period in which a well was drilled.

The draft rules appear to be a sound approach to significantly increasing transparency regarding fracking in Colorado, something that Gov. John Hickenlooper has said is one of his goals.

We hope the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission adopts the new rules next month, and implements them in February, as is planned. They demonstrate that Colorado remains a leader in monitoring, and working with the oil and gas industry.


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