The hazards of hydraulic fracturing -- "fracking" -- for oil and gas have become much more widely known in the last couple of years in Colorado. People are now aware that fracking is spewing toxins into our air, contaminating our water supplies and making people sick, according to foodandwaterwatch.org and endocrinedisruption.org.
In Colorado, there are dozens of groups working for a moratorium and an ultimate ban. (Check out Protect Our Colorado, http://protectourcolorado.org/)
One of the problems is that protection of the public's health, safety and welfare have been secondary in the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the regulatory agency overseeing oil and gas development in the state.
A version of the Colorado House Bill 13-1269 that passed out of committee on March 28 amended the Colorado Oil and Gas Act and the mandate of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in significant ways. Section 1 of the bill amended the commission's mandate to ensure that the development of oil and gas resources protects public health, the environment and wildlife resources. Section 2 redefined "waste" to exclude reduced production that results from compliance with government regulation. Section 3 prohibited a newly appointed commissioner from being an employee, officer, or director of an oil and gas operator or service company.
Unfortunately, this version was watered down in the bill that passed the state House on Tuesday in that the bill allows employees of oil and gas to be appointed to the COGCC. Doing this weakens the main purpose of the bill -- to protect public health, the environment and wildlife. Having oil and gas employees on the COGCC is clearly a conflict of interest. The change is the result of intensive lobbying by the industry.
In spite of this change, the bill as a whole is still worth supporting.
The bill now goes to the state Senate for consideration and a vote.
Ask your state legislators to support the passage of HB 1269 in its initial form that included a ban of appointing paid employees of oil and gas to the COGCC (go to votesmart.org to get contact information for your legislators).
Ultimately, we need to follow Vermont's lead and ban fracking in our state. That may take some time to accomplish, but it's important that you let your state legislators know if you support this.
Carolyn Bninski is on the staff of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.