Hickenlooper looking for consistency, fairness in federal, state fracking rules

DEAN HUMPHREY/The Daily Sentinel—Gov. John Hickenlooper runs into an acquaintance Monday at the old Mesa County Courthouse in downtown Grand Junction: Boland Unfug, 10, whose mother, County Administrator Chantal Unfug, served on Hicklenlooper’s staff when he was Denver mayor. Hickenlooper’s legislative assistant, Cally King, right, sorts bills that the governor was about to sign.

Through a lot of behind-the-scenes discussions, Gov. John Hickenlooper helped persuade the Bureau of Land Management to consider hydraulic fracturing disclosure rules that are similar to Colorado’s, the governor said Monday.

Now the Democratic governor is trying to get Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and BLM officials to do one more thing: create a single permit application form that the BLM and all Western states would use in disclosing that information.

Hickenlooper said doing so would save drilling companies a lot of time and money, and make it easier for citizens who track fracking issues to follow what companies are doing no matter where they drill.

“It will have the logo of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the logo of the BLM, on one form,” the governor told The Daily Sentinel editorial board. “No one’s agreed to this, but I have gotten a lot of people to look at it.”

The governor also said he thinks neighboring states would do the same, saying drillers there share similar concerns as Colorado producers when it comes to the state and federal regulations they must comply with before pumping fracking fluids into a well to free trapped natural gas.

Earlier this year, the BLM announced new draft rules requiring public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on all public and Indian lands. After much discussion, however, the agency has since revised them.

Several states had an input in those revisions, but it was Colorado’s current fracking regulations on which the BLM’s new proposed rules are based, Hickenlooper said.

“It’s interesting, our fracking disclosure regulations are now something Utah is moving towards, and I expect Wyoming will, too,” the governor said. “We’re all trying to get the best case that’s fair and everyone can live with, and as we do that then why shouldn’t the federal government be a partner?”

The proposed new BLM rules include two additional provisions that Colorado already has or is in the process of approving, including ensuring that fracking fluids are not escaping into water supplies and drillers have proper procedures for handling fluids that return to the surface.

Hickenlooper said he’s confident his office will be able to work something out with neighboring states, the BLM and Interior Department officials on the single-form idea.


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I agree that it would be nice to have consistency between federal and state regulations and applications when it comes to oil and gas. The national focus on fracking fluids may have muddied the waters, when it comes to regulations, however. Fracking fluids are only one type of risk posed by the industry—there are others. As an example, pumping spent fluids back into the ground may eventually pollute ground water, if my understanding of a recent meeting with a geologist is accurate. I wish I had a comprehensive list of all the things that could pose a risk to human health, along with potential regulations to minimize the risk, so that I could publicly start beating that drum.

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