The more they drill, the more they spill. And the part about telling residents about it, not so much.
A Denver Post analysis of Colorado oil and gas spills so far in 2014 reveals that they are happening twice a day “and usually without anyone telling residents.”
That rate, 467 spills for the first 7 months of this year, suggests that the state will surpass last year’s record of 575, the paper reported, due to a surge in oil and gas development and more stringent reporting rules. The state oil and gas commission said that tougher enforcement is also a factor.
Colorado now has about 52,000 active oil and gas wells, with much of the recent growth occurring along the populous Front Range north and northeast of Denver. The rapid pace of drilling and its proximity to many communities has sparked a simmering revolt, with the prospect looming of an epic election season battle over ballot proposals to allow more local control of oil and gas development. A drive to obtain enough signatures to place those measures on the ballot will conclude on August 4.
Since 2010, the paper reported, about 21 percent of the nearly 2,500 reported spills have contaminated either ground or surface water.
New rules implemented this year by the oil and gas commission require operators to notify the agency whenever more than 210 gallons are released, a tougher requirement than the previous threshold of 840 gallons. Other parties that must be notified include the landowner where the spill takes place, state health officials if water is contaminated, and someone from local government.
But as the paper reports, “government officials generally don’t announce spills or otherwise notify nearby residents.”
That prompted a sharp response from Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “These oil and gas companies are engaging in a heavy industrial activity — right over the backyard fence in some instances. And with that comes the responsibility of telling people who could be affected when something goes wrong.”