Debate begins over new fracking study

A Colorado study suggesting air pollution from hydraulic fracturing and other oil and gas operations endangers nearby residents drew fire from a national pro-fracking organization that says its methodology is faulty.

But while Energy In Depth criticized the study, based on air sampling near well pads in Garfield County, a resident in drilling country south of Silt said it confirms the kind of health impacts she has been coping with for a long time.

“It’s about time,” said Dee Hoffmeister. “You get a little tired of complaining and telling about it, and nobody listens.”

The soon-to-be-published study by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Denver found both non-cancer and cancer risks increase for residents living within a half-mile of wells.

Energy In Depth, a campaign by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, on Tuesday issued study criticisms that included:

■ The cancer risk identified for residents near wells is no greater than the risk for Americans as a whole.

■ Air samples were taken near well pads about a mile from Interstate 70, and exposures to benzene, a carcinogen of concern in the report, are known to increase near major roadways because benzene also is emitted from vehicles.

■ At least some of the samples were taken before the 2009 implementation of new Colorado oil and gas rules, which include a requirement to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds by as much as 95 percent.

The study’s lead author, Lisa McKenzie, couldn’t be reached Tuesday for comment about the criticisms.

The study says the greatest health risk it identified involves exposures to pollutants during hydraulic fracturing and other well-completion activities. These pollutants can cause effects such as eye irritation, headaches, sore throats and difficulty breathing, it says.

Hoffmeister said she has experienced dizziness and breathing problems and even passed out due to fumes from oil and gas development.

“It wasn’t just me. It was a lot of other people around our area that were having the same effects, and (other victims) are all over the country. They’re all over the world,” she said.

The new study makes use of data from previous research the School of Public Health did for Garfield County, but the new work wasn’t sanctioned by the county, said Jim Rada, the county’s environmental health manager.

He said the new study makes clear it makes assumptions and there are limitations to its conclusions, “so you’ve got to be careful in how you interpret it.”

Rada and David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association, said the new study restates what the study for the county found.

Garfield commissioners cut that study short, and Ludlam said one reason was because state public health officials criticized the study and supporting data now being used again in the new study.


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Life is full of risks. We cannot make ourselves immune from them. Energy is a necessary part of our lives. An occasional fracking job does not pose as much of a health threat as one day of walking in downtown Denver air pollution. And guess what, your body is amazing…it will deal with it. After all, do you realize how many billions of radioactive particles from space and the sun pass thru your body every second, and yet, we don’t drop dead from it.

People need to start thinking from perspectives that are not fear based. If you want energy to run your car, furnace, stove or to keep your lights on, then certain tolerances have to be accepted in energy producing areas. It’s just a fact of life. Our environment is already 80% cleaner than it was in the 1960’s, and energy companies are being more environmentally friendly than ever before.

All the self-serving, money seeking, fear mongering attacks toward the energy industry just drive costs of everything up and we all end up paying for it.

Life IS full of risks, but some risks can be mitigaged. Requiring energy companies, who are already the richest companies on this planet, to spend a little money to protect the health of our local citizens will do little to their pocket books, and help those of us who live here breathe better, and feel more secure in the water we drink and the food we grow. I’m curious which money seeking attacks against the energy industry have been successful? Or is that a figment of someone’s imagination?

@MTM: Please provide some source or citation or support for this very specific claim.

“Our environment is already 80% cleaner than it was in the 1960’s”

In Response to the previous two posters:

Money seeking attacks, successful or not, cost tons of money. Mobilization of attorneys, research studies, public relations campaigns, court hearings, congressional hearings, time lost on projects, etc. These costs are factored into profit / loss ratios by companies, and ways are found to pass these costs along to the consumer and we all end up paying for it. They are not just absorbed.

I heard (and believe) the 80% cleaner environment in the USA on a TV news report, and I apologize for not remembering which one, so I cannot quote it. However, common sense supports this. Since the 1960’s, intense EPA regulation has helped force large polluting factories nationwide to shut down and move to Mexico or China or elsewhere to remain competitive, and ruined the manufacturing base that used to be the backbone of our society. Power generating plants have had to install extensive emission controls on their plants,(costs passed onto the consumers) gasoline / diesel has been reformulated so much that the auto industry has had to re-design the internal combustion engine dozens of times, and now cars cannot even run without a catalytic converter or computer. (costs passed onto the consumers) I could continue citing these kinds of examples ad nauseaum.

I have worked in the energy field for 20+ years. If you compare what went on when I started at wellsites in 1979, to how wellsites are managed today, 80% is a very conservative figure of improvement.

The younger people on the environmental bandwagon today seem to have no appreciation for what is being done. They cannot be satisfied, and it is never enough. I suggest they do a little historical research on pollution from the 1950’s to today to see what has been and is being done. They may develop some gratitude for what we have done rather than complain about what is not being done.

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