Hickenlooper: State should encourage natural gas development | PostIndependent.com

Hickenlooper: State should encourage natural gas development

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Colorado should encourage continued development of natural gas, says Gov. John Hickenlooper, but state government should be holding the gas industry to “relentlessly high standards” in protecting the environment.

Hickenlooper’s comments came during his visit to Glenwood Springs Thursday. He met with the Garfield County commissioners and the Post Independent editorial board to discuss energy development.

In his meeting with the Post Independent, Hickenlooper declared that Colorado should encourage natural gas development.

“The thing that is key,” he said, “is to make sure we hold ourselves to relentlessly high standards in protecting the land and water and air” from contamination as a result of drilling activities.

In talking with the county commissioners, he agreed that state government should do all it can to encourage the use of natural gas to power public and private fleet vehicles, as well as private cars and trucks.

The result, said the governor, would be an economic boost to the state and to Garfield County, which is at the epicenter of the state’s natural gas industry, and would reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

If the U.S. spends, say, $500 billion on imported petroleum in 2011, Hickenlooper asked rhetorically, “What if we could save just $200 billion of that by switching to natural gas?”

He said he plans to get all 64 counties in the state working on converting their fleet vehicles to natural gas, and hopes the conversions will quickly expand to private cars, pickups and over-the-road trucks.

The governor expressed sympathy for the commissioners’ difficulties in dealing with critics of the natural gas drilling boom in Garfield County, which comes largely from residents concerned about the impacts of gas drilling activities in populated areas.

“I think we’re getting to the point where we’re starting to mollify them,” Hickenlooper said of those living near gas drilling operations.

He said he has pledged to not roll back oil and gas regulations approved by the state legislature in 2007 and put to work in 2008 by former Gov. Bill Ritter’s administration.

The newer regulations, enforced by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, are more strict than those governing the industry prior to 2008.

“People in the industry have tried to get me to repeal the rules, but I have said, ‘No, we are not going to do that.’ I have met with the gas industry CEOs and I have convinced them why we need to keep the rules. It gives them certainty about what is expected,” Hickenlooper said.

Questioned about the controversy over the release of information about chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, Hickenlooper said he feels confident the fluids are not released into aquifers during the drilling process and are mostly recovered and reused.

But he said drillers are still sometimes careless in handling the fluids at the surface, in the storage, transfer and trucking, and that fines should be increased to the point where operators take every precaution to avoid spills.

“We want natural gas drillers to be successful, and we also expect them to be considerate neighbors,” he said.

In a luncheon meeting with business leaders, the fracking fluid question was raised again by Glenwood Springs resident John Traul. Hickenlooper said the gas industry should reveal the chemical ingredients in the fluids, and he believes that eventually they will do so.

“Wyoming has already done that,” Hickenlooper said. “Each company that does a fracking job posts the basic ingredients of the fluids. We will get to that point, too.”

– Post Independent Editor Heather McGregor contributed to this report.


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