The Fight Over Fracking in Colorado’s North Fork Valley

The Fight Over Fracking in Colorado’s North Fork Valley by Peter Heller, July 12, 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek
Despite assurances from industry leaders that it can regulate itself, there have been controversial messes—not just flaming faucets propaganda, but well-documented cases of air and groundwater contamination—and mounting concerns about threats to public health. A 2011 study of natural gas drilling emissions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Weld County found that wells are releasing twice as much methane as previously estimated, as well as surprisingly high emissions of the carcinogen benzene and other pollutants that are spiking in Denver’s air. … Also last year, the Environmental Protection Agency linked the contamination of an aquifer at Pavilion, Wyo., to nearby fracking. The leftover “produced water” is often briny and radioactive. … How do you frack right? Can it even be done? … “Doesn’t it take something like a million gallons for each gas well? We already have a moratorium on new water taps.” The shock in the gym felt like the pressure drop before a tornado. … We crossed the Colorado at the Una Bridge and turned upstream along a small county road. In two miles our way was blocked by a group of trucks. I blinked. One tanker truck, a semi, was being hoisted by a giant tow truck up a steep bank. Its cab was completely crushed. Two other tankers were parked beside it. They were pumpers. Big hoses ran down the bank and they were pumping up whatever had spilled out of the wrecked truck as fast as they could. There was no fire department, no sheriff, no hazmat, no police. I walked up and asked about the driver. “He alright?” A couple who seemed to be supervising said he’d gone to the hospital. Pointing to the hoses, I said: “Those are produced waters, huh? That came out of the well?” “Yup,” the man said. Then the woman shot me a look, suspicious and cold. “Who are you?” she demanded. “Just passing by,” I said. … As we drove away I called a reporter at the nearby Glenwood Springs Post Independent and told him where to find the wreck. “Oh, man, thanks!” he said. I suggested calling the hospital to ask about the driver. “Nah, they won’t cooperate,” the reporter said, referring to the Grand River Medical Center in Rifle. “They’re completely owned by the oil and gas companies.”

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