Denver, CO - As Colorado assesses the extent of pollution from gas drilling sites swamped by September's flood, a new report charges that since 2005, fracking operations in Colorado have generated 2.2 billion gallons of toxic wastewater. The Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center report "Fracking by the Numbers" is the first of its kind to measure the footprint of fracking in Colorado to date.
“The numbers don't lie—fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If fracking continues unchecked, these numbers will only get more dire,” said Lindsey Wilson, field associate from Environment Colorado. “At the very least we need to make sure that the oil and gas industry is subject to standard environmental laws, like our nation’s hazardous waste law.”
Water contamination—especially after the recent flooding across the front range—is a real concern. Cliff Willmeng, a trauma nurse who has been involved in East Boulder County’s efforts to ban fracking, was one of the first to document damaged oil and gas infrastructure during the Front Range’s historic floods. “All of these sites contain various amounts of hazardous industrial wastes that are capable of spilling into the waterways and onto agricultural land,” said Willmeng. “Many of these chemicals are carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and known endocrine disruptors.”
In addition, the “Fracking by the Numbers” report measures other key indicators of fracking threats in Colorado, including 38,150 tons of air pollution produced in 2012, and 23 million tons of global warming pollution since 2005.
The state of Colorado currently regulates oil and gas drilling, but several local communities have moved forward to ban fracking—even with the threat of lawsuits by the state looming over their heads.
“State officials must allow cities, towns, and counties to protect their own communities from the dangers that oil and gas development pose through local bans and restrictions on fracking,” said Boulder City Councilor Macon Cowles. “It is not just City Councilors who are concerned about fracking, but entire communities.”
Colorado ranks near the top of the list for all key indicators of fracking threats in the national data. In addition to the 2.2 billion gallons of toxic wastewater produced, 57,000 acres of land has been damaged by fracking since 2005—which is equivalent to one third of the acreage of Colorado’s state park system.
“The bottom line is this: The numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said Wilson. “For public health and our environment, we need to put a stop to fracking.”
At the federal level, the Obama administration received more than one million comments last month calling for much stronger protections from fracking for national forests and national parks. In addition, Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania (D-Scranton) has introduced the CLEANER Act (H.R. 2825)—a bill to close the loophole exempting oil and gas waste from the nation’s hazardous waste law.
“The data from today’s report shows that Coloradans are not protected from this dirty drilling,” said Wilson. “Federal officials must step in; they can start by keeping fracking out of our forests and closing the loophole exempting toxic fracking waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law.”
Environment Colorado is a state-based, citizen-supported, environmental advocacy organization, working towards a cleaner, greener, healthier future.