GJ woman defends industry at fracking hearing

DENVER — Mariah Raney traveled all the way from Grand Junction to Denver to deliver a simple message Tuesday.

The oil and gas industry is economically important to families such as hers, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should consider the industry’s job and tax benefits as it moves forward with a study of the possible groundwater and other effects of hydraulic fracturing by energy companies, she told EPA officials.

Raney was one of some 250 people who attended the second of four public meetings the EPA is holding in different parts of the country to seek guidance on how it should go forward with its study.

Raney said she has a brother-in-law who works as a welder in the industry and other family members who work in areas such as education and health care that benefit from taxes generated by oil and gas development.

“I don’t think that people realize it’s important to everybody’s family,” Raney said later in an interview. “Every time you flip on your lights it’s important to your family.”

But others from Colorado and beyond told the EPA that oil and gas development has had a negative effect on their families.

“We can no longer drink our water due to safety concerns with constituents in the water,” said John Fenton, a Wyoming rancher.

Las Animas County resident Tracy Dahl said fracturing on an adjacent property at the end of June fouled his water supply.

“The gas operator denies any responsibility for what happened despite the obvious correlation,” he said.

But another Las Animas County resident, Karen Salapich, said she saw no change in water quality and quantity from drilling where she lives.

“Other landowners in our area have reported the same — no change,” she said.

David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, told the EPA the state has found no verified incident of hydraulic fracturing harming groundwater.

Industry representatives from as far as North Dakota defended the safety of producing oil and gas by underground injection of high-pressure fluids to fracture formations, and spoke of the necessity of the practice for energy development. They also welcomed the EPA study, but urged that its focus not be expanded beyond groundwater concerns to look at issues such as air quality.

The EPA held a recent meeting in Texas attended by some 600 people, and it plans two more, in Pennsylvania and New York. It hopes to begin its study early next year and release initial results by late 2012.


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