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Colorado Conservation Groups Call Out Gov. Hickenlooper for Misleading Oil & Gas Ads

Energy

Clean Water Action Colorado

On Feb. 27, 13 conservation groups delivered a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) expressing dismay over his claim in an oil and gas industry radio ad that "we have not had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing" since the overhaul of the state's oil and gas protections in 2008. In fact, there have been dozens of cases of groundwater contamination from oil and gas activity since 2008. The ad is sponsored by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the industry's main trade group.

"We are disappointed that the Governor lent his voice to a trade association advertisement that fails to tell the full story and leaves Coloradans with a false sense of security when it comes to groundwater contamination," said Elise Jones, executive director of Colorado Environmental Coalition. "The unmistakable takeaway message from the ad is 'don't worry, everything is ok' when it comes to water and oil and gas exploration. That is not the case. There are numerous documented cases of groundwater contamination since 2008. We should all be able to agree that there is more to be done to protect our air, land, and water from drilling."

Since 2008, numerous instances of groundwater contamination have resulted from releases of chemicals such as petroleum liquids and produced water used and generated during drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Accidental spills, corroded tanks and pipelines, and leaking containment pits have been implicated in numerous releases of toxic fluids, including carcinogenic hydrocarbons such as benzene. The Colorado oil and gas commission's own report, issued earlier this month, makes clear that contamination of groundwater remains an ongoing issue with oil and gas development. Similarly, a Denver Post analysis of state records for 2011 found 58 cases of groundwater pollution linked to spills and releases. Another Denver Post analysis of spill accidents dating backing to 2008 found an even greater number of groundwater incidents.

"Gov. Hickenlooper did the right thing last fall in leading the effort to bring transparency to industry's use of fracking chemicals," said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Colorado Conservation Voters. "He understood that full disclosure will allow us to make smart decisions about how to protect our world class environment when oil and gas drilling occurs. Given his support of transparency and full disclosure, it was particularly dismaying to hear such a misleading ad on the air. The good news is that the governor is a 'fix-it' leader. We urge him to get the misleading ad withdrawn and to redouble his commitment to protecting Colorado's water resources and communities."

“It’s simply inaccurate to state that oil and gas drilling isn’t contaminating ground water in Colorado," said Mike Freeman, staff attorney at Earthjustice. "The state’s own records show that spills and releases routinely affect ground water. Statements like those in the COGA ad will only hurt the state's efforts to show it is responsive to legitimate concerns about and gas development in Colorado communities.”

For the full letter to Gov. Hickenlooper, see below.

For more information, click here.

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Dear Gov. Hickenlooper,

Your administration played a critical role last year in creating one of the nation's strongest fracking disclosure rules. It was your goal of keeping Colorado citizens informed about fracking and your leadership in overseeing negotiations that got us across the finish line, delivering a big win for citizens and communities that have demanded the right to know what fracking chemicals are going into the ground.

That's why we were so surprised and disappointed to hear your recent radio ad on behalf of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group. The ad rightly recognizes Colorado's success in adopting protective rules in 2008 and 2011, but it creates a misleading picture about the overall safety of oil and gas development. Specifically, the ad claims that since 2008, "we have not had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing."

That assertion misleads the public by ignoring the high incidence of groundwater contamination from spills and releases of toxic chemicals at or near drilling sites. Since 2008, numerous instances of groundwater contamination have resulted from releases of chemicals such as petroleum liquids and produced water used and generated during drilling and hydraulic fracturing.  Accidental spills, corroded tanks and pipelines, and leaking containment pits have been implicated in numerous releases of toxic fluids, including carcinogenic hydrocarbons such as benzene. The Colorado oil and gas commission's October 2011 "Spills and Releases" report and its 2011 report  to CDPHE, issued earlier this month, make clear that contamination of groundwater remains an ongoing issue with oil and gas development.  Similarly, a Denver Post analysis of state records for 2011 found 58 cases of groundwater pollution linked to spills and releases.  Another Denver Post analysis of accidental spills dating back to 2008 found an even larger number of groundwater incidents.

The COGA ad leaves Coloradans with an inaccurate picture of the consequences of oil and gas drilling operations. While citizens should know how much progress we have made in adopting health and safety protections, they should also feel confident that the state recognizes and is working to minimize the inevitable impacts of oil and gas development.  A good first step toward building that confidence is to withdraw the COGA ad and to direct the oil and gas commission to adopt new and stronger protections for Colorado's water resources and communities, including increased mandatory setbacks of oil and gas wells from rivers and streams, and from homes.  No doubt we can all agree that it's vital to give Colorado citizens both an accurate picture of oil and gas development and the confidence that we are all working aggressively to mitigate its impacts.

Respectfully,

Clean Water Action

Checks and Balances

Colorado Conservation Voters

Colorado Environmental Coalition

Earthjustice

Environment Colorado

High Country Citizens Alliance

National Wildlife Federation

RouttCountyFrack.Org

Sierra Club, Roaring Fork Chapter

San Juan Citizens Alliance

Western Colorado Congress

Wilderness Workshop

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