Oil and gas commission meets in Glenwood today, Wednesday | PostIndependent.com

Oil and gas commission meets in Glenwood today, Wednesday

John ColsonPost Independent staffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – State regulators of the oil and gas industry are meeting here today, at the Hotel Colorado, to talk about everything from atomic explosions underground to the possibility that oil and gas drilling is polluting area groundwater from deep below the surface.The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will be meeting on Wednesday, as well, and while there was no official agenda posted on the COGCC website for the second day of meetings, Garfield County officials expected to talk about a variety of topics.Among them may be a bill now before the U.S. Congress, known as the DeGette bill after its primary sponsor, Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Boulder.According to the agenda for today, the meeting will begin at 9 a.m. and proceed with routine matters until approximately 10:30 a.m. At that point, Garfield County Commissioner Trsi Houpt, who also is a member of the COGCC board, will give a talk about oil and gas issues in Garfield County.In the afternoon, the COGCC board will conduct a “review of report prepared by Dr. Geoffrey Thyne on Hydrogeologic Study in Garfield County.”That study, focused on the Mamm Creek area, found that methane has been detected in subsurface water in that area, which could be coming from deep underground wells drilled by the gas industry.Thyne and Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison, Judy Jordan, have recommended further study of the matter.According to the agenda, Thyne’s findings will be addressed by staff members working for the COGCC, and by industry representatives acting for the Bill Barrett Corp., EnCana Oil & Gas, and Williams Production, three companies active in the county’s oil and gas fields.Also on the agenda is discussion of another Thyne study, of the “West Divide Creek seep,” which describes a charge by Divide Creek resident Lisa Bracken that frac’ing in the basin near her home has polluted her groundwater supplies.The county commissioners earlier this year rejected Bracken’s requests to reinstate a moratorium on drilling in the Divide Creek area, which was imposed by the COGCC when EnCana Oil and Gas was fined a record $371,200 in 2004 after gas and benzene seeped to the surface and appeared in West Divide Creek.Testing by the COGCC and EnCana reportedly turned up no evidence supporting Bracken’s concerns. Bracken contends the COGCC hasn’t done enough and that drilling since the moratorium was lifted is causing new seeps. She and neighbor Jim Eubanks worry that planned hydraulic fracturing by EnCana in the area could contaminate water and change geologic conditions even as Thyne is drafting conclusions for his report.In a presentation to the county commissioners on Monday, Jordan said the DeGette bill, known as the FRAC (Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals) Act, which was proposed in Congress, would establish federal authority over certain aspects of the oil and gas industry that are now in the hands of the states.The name of the act is related to the practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or “frac’ing,” by which drilling companies inject a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well under high pressure, in order to break up the sand and rock formations deep underground and free up gas and oil trapped in the compressed formations.Critics of the process say it has potential for contaminating deep aquifers and streams that supply drinking water for people living in the area, and praise the FRAC Act for its provisions to force gas companies around the U.S. to reveal which chemicals are being used.The industry maintains that there have never been any studies that show such contamination, and argue that the recipe for their frac’ing fluids are proprietary information.In Colorado, where the COGCC already has regulations requiring companies to disclose the chemicals, but not the recipe, to state officials, the industry and others, including Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, argue that the state regulations are sufficient and that another layer of federal oversight is unnecessary.Supporters of DeGette’s bill counter that not all states with big gas booms under way have the same kind of laws in place, and that federal oversight is needed to ensure protection of public health and welfare.The COGCC meeting is open to the public.jcolson@postindependent.com

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