When it comes to environmental impacts from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, Colorado ranks among the three most negatively affected states in the country in most categories, according to a new report from the Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center.
And Colorado ranks second only to Texas in the report when it comes to certain indicators on the spread of fracking and its effects.
As of press time, the center was set to formally unveil its report, “Fracking by the Numbers: Key Impacts of Dirty Drilling at the State and National Level,” at an Oct. 3 event in downtown Denver featuring Boulder City Council member and environmental attorney Macon Cowles, Lafayette community activist and trauma nurse Cliff Willmeng and Environment Colorado field associate Lindsey Wilson.
The 46-page report breaks down fracking and its impacts by listing estimates for each state in categories such as number of fracked wells, wastewater produced and water used.
According to the center, Colorado has seen 18,168 new fracking wells drilled since 2005, trailing only Texas, which added 33,753 during that period. Wastewater produced in 2012 was the only category in the report in which Colorado evaded landing in the top three: There were 2.2 billion gallons of wastewater produced in Colorado, behind the 3 billion in New Mexico, the 12 billion in North Dakota and the 260 billion in Texas.
And according to the report, when it comes to the amount of water used for fracking since 2005, Colorado’s 26 billion gallons trails only Pennsylvania and Texas.
“The amount of water used for fracking in Colorado was enough to meet the water needs of nearly 200,000 Denver households for a year,” the report says.
The center also estimates air pollution caused by oil and gas operations, listing several types of emissions: particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sulphur dioxide and nitric oxide/nitrogen dioxide. Again, Colorado had the distinction of being in the top three in all five categories, along with North Dakota and Texas.
As for the methane emitted from wells, which experts say contributes to global warming more than carbon dioxide, the report says Colorado’s emissions from 2005 to 2012 are equivalent to 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, trailing only Texas’ 40 million metric tons. And this estimate is understated, according to the center.
Colorado also ranks second in the number of acres of land damaged by oil and gas operations, the report says, with 57,000 acres, compared to 130,000 in Texas.
The Environment Colorado center also outlines several policy recommendations in the report, suggesting that states, counties and municipalities enact outright bans on fracking “to protect the environment and public health.” States bordering areas seeing extensive oil and gas operations should bar the processing of fracking waste so that they don’t become “dumping grounds” for the practice, the report says, and government should reduce the environmental and health impacts of fracking by closing loopholes in environmental laws, prohibiting fracking near national parks/ forests and watersheds that provide drinking water and ending negative practices such as open waste pits and the use of toxic chemicals.
In addition, the center recommends that states and the Bureau of Land Management require “robust financial assurance from operators at every well site” to ensure that the taxpayers don’t end up on the hook for paying costs associated with fracking damage.
The report was written by Elizabeth Ridlington of the Frontier Group and John Rumpler of the Environment America Research & Policy Center. For more information, visit www.environmentcolorado.org.