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DeGette Pushes For More Regulation Of Hydraulic Fracturing

PLATTEVILLE, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado Congresswoman Rep. Diana DeGette says federal regulation of a new drilling technique that uses fluid pressure to break open shale in the ground needs to be more strict.

With hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” companies in the state are going after previously untapped energy reserves of oil and gas in deep underground formations called the Niobrara.

The first oil and gas development done in Colorado was done in sand and it was a relatively easy process because the material was so easily penetrated, but the Niobrara is a lot more challenging because it’s a harder medium.

A report issued last weekend by DeGette along with fellow Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts states that cancer-causing liquids are being injected into the ground at an alarming rate in parts of the state with hydraulic fracturing. It shows 1.5 million gallons were injected in Colorado during a recent four year period.

LINK: Committee Democrats Release New Report Detailing Hydraulic Fracturing Products

There are some concerns those liquids could contaminate groundwater supplies.

One thing is for certain: hydraulic fracturing has triggered a frenzy on the Front Range.

Noble Energy is one of the larger operators, currently with about 6,500 producing wells on the Niobrara. The company says only 1 percent of their fracking fluid is potentially hazardous.

Company spokesman Dan Kelly told CBS4’s Paul Day Noble is taking multiple steps to protect the groundwater.

“We understand it is one of those boogeyman-type things, but we’ve done it for years,” Kelly said as he showed Day metal pipes that act as a barrier to contamination.

Added to the pipe, he explains, will be a thick liner of concrete for double protection.

“This is what we use to contain those upper water aquifers to protect all fresh water acquifers in every operation we do out here,” Kelly said.

DeGette told CBS4’s Day drilling methods are never foolproof.

“If the casing of the well drilling rig cracks or breaks, then it can seep out,” DeGette said.

Noble Energy insists the fluid they use and the process is safe.

“There are no instances where fracturing has infiltrated any water zones,” Kelly said.

“I hope that’s true — that there fracking fluid is not seeping out,” DeGette said.

DeGette is sponsoring new legislation to require energy companies to report any problems with groundwater contamination. Currently oil and gas companies are the only industry exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“The problem is if there is contamination often times you don’t find it out directly, so people might be getting sick but they don’t know where it’s coming front,” DeGette said.

Increased drilling is tapping a much needed supply of domestic, not foreign, energy, and it’s a big driver of the Colorado economy. DeGette told CBS4 she supports hydraulic fracturing on the Front Range but wants to make sure it’s safe for the environment. That’s why she says there should be a new law requiring the industry to say exactly what’s being pumped underground.

Statement From Noble Energy

Jonathan Ekstrom, a spokesman for Noble Energy, shared the following comments after CBS4 aired this story:

“A couple of minor corrections I need to point out. 1) We actually use cement, not concrete as you stated, in our wells. It’s a small difference, but an important one to our guys. 2) With regard to the Safe Water Drinking Act exemption, fracing has been exempt from the Underground Injection Control (UIC) program of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) since 1974 because Congress determined then, and with subsequent updates of the law, that the UIC program was not applicable to fracing. However, industry must comply with the SDWA when the frac fluids are returned to the surface. Additionally, like all procedures surrounding the development of energy, hydraulic fracturing is already covered by hundreds of regulations. The Safe Drinking Water Act exemption for hydraulic fracturing does not eliminate the EPA’s ability to become involved if necessary.”

  • scott thompson

    Are they still going to be drilling in Elbert County? If so, where in the county?

  • Jerk Store

    Enjoy yuour flambale water from your tap. The yucky stuff just burns away.

  • David

    Another uninformed Republican, watch the movie Gasland and become a bit more informed instead of just following the party line.

    • geobill

      That movie is a fraud and so poorly researched. Gas from the sink in the film is not from fraccing. It may be from older oil and gas wells or maybe from an aquifer that has natural gas in it which can happen especially if there is coal in the aquifer. Fraccing is not an issue mainly because it is separated by a lot of rock under huge pressure. Oil and gas zones contain toxic chemicals and so fracturig chemicals are not an issue because these fluids are not meant to be drunk. Fraccing has been used for at least 50 years and is not new technology.

    • Reverend Wright

      So I should watch a lefty film about a water well that was drilled through a coalbed? That magical burning water?
      Maybe when I watch “Gasland” I should see “Farenheit 911” next right?

      De Gette is a lefty hack in the mold of Schroeder.. hence she is from the same district. Gays` welfare rats, enviro nuts.

  • B. Dover

    Seems a little suspicious that the oil and gas industries are exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, don’t ya think? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the incestuous relationship between the industry and government, would it? I hope it is safe, but these agency officials and industry pitchmen have a troubling history or manipulating facts or just outright lying – in case you never noticed.

    • geobill

      i used to know why they are exempt but here is my recollection or at east partially. Some quick research indicates that the exemption keeps wells from being classified as UIC (underground injection control) wells and to this I say thank God. The UIC regulations are horrible and not pertinent to oil and gas operations. I believe the UIC regs were initiated because waste disposal companies had a bad enough record of contamination. Sometimes these wells were poorly run and some accepted illegal hazardous waste. In addition very old (60 to 120 year old) industrial operations including manufactured gas plants (converting coal to natural as at utility plants) would dispose of toxic chemicals in pits, shallow wells and deeper wells. So the EPA recognized that these operations had a propensity to be dirty birds and so regulated them strictly. Oil and gas wells are very regulated by states under health/environmental departments and by oil and gas commission agencies. Oil and gas wells should not be regulated under these crazy UIC regulations because they are truly different.

  • gary miller

    they have been doing it for years!

    • Aly

      Yes, fracking has been going on for years. No, the fracking fluids have not been utilized for years, they are relatively new to the game. Also, why won’t they disclose the ingredients? That’s the troubling part. Your every day household cleaners are required to have a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) and you know what hazards they may pose if incorrectly used.

      • ac


        You can look on the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission website and very easily see what was used to frac any particular well. They are not secret.

      • geobill

        fraccing has been around since the early 1900s and yes frac fluids have been around too. In fact is was very common until about 30 years ago to use diesel in a frac fluid. The reason diesel was used was because it didn’t damage the rock formation like water did. Oil and gas zones contain oil which is like diesel and contains benzene, toluene, etc. You don’t want to drink oil and gas fluids because they are toxic. This is why I don’t understand the big uproar about frac fluids. Compared to oil and gas fluids frac fluids are nothing. Same thing with diesel fracs…who cares it can’t be worse than the oil. Just trying to use some common sense here. That is not to say that wells shouldnt be drilled propeerly and that surface management of fluids is not important…but fraccing is a non-issue.

  • DinoMo

    Obviously the writer of the story is unfamiliar with the industry (as is Ms. DeGette) when he said,

    “The first oil and gas development done in Colorado was done in sand and it was a relatively easy process because the material was so permeable, but the Niobrara is a lot more challenging because it’s rock.”

    There are thousands of wells in the state, and especially in the Denver Basin, that have been fracture stimulated over the last few decades in sandstone, shale and limestone “rock”. When oil and gas companies drill a well, they are required by law to isolate ground water aquifers from hydrocarbon reservoirs. As Ms. DeGette noted when she stated, “I hope that’s true — that there fracking fluid is not seeping out”, these wells have been drilled according to the law and have no evidence of leakage.

    This is not to say that aquifers have not been contaminated. However, most aquifer contamination has come from surface sources like leaking tanks at gas stations and industrial sites like the rifle scope manufacturing shop in south Denver or the chemical plant at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal.

    There probably is also an issue with the borehole integrity of very old oil wells (the oil and gas industry is over 100 years old in Colorado and many wells were drilled before regulations had been formulated early in the last century). This can be a problem and is a possible source of natural gas in domestic wells.

    Instead of looking into a real problem like identification and remediation of old wells, Ms. DeGette has focused on something that sounds like a solution looking for a problem.

    • geobill

      very nicely said.

  • John

    For all the self-imposed “experts” you might want to read the report “Chemicals used in Hydraulic Fracturing”
    Also why is it that the oil and gas companies don’t want the public to know what they’re pumping into the ground? And if offshore drill rigs can use non-toxic chemicals, as required by marine regulations, to perform hydraulic fracturing, why can’t land based rigs do the same? Halliburton is one of the largest producers of fracking fluids and they had a hand in the 2005 SDWA exemption.

  • Hatty James

    Are you interested in hydraulics and the safety aspects of using this type of gear and saving money on all the testing you should be doing, then you must visit Thank you for your interest.

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