Skip to main content

Nonexistent problem attracts a bevy of celebrity problem solvers, Part II

Part II, Columnists' Opinions

Ed Quillen, a semi-retired DENVER POST editor and frequent columnist, wrote a column, published 06/16/09, that related fraccing some Texas gas wells to the story of water injection into a disposal well in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) that resulted in numerous earthquakes in the Denver area.  In the RMA case, the injection was into naturally occurring (not hydraulic fracturing induced) faults or fractures in the granite "basement" of the Denver Basin.  The injected water "lubricated" the fault plane and facilitated some additional fault slippage resulting in earthquakes.  The injection zones were at greater than 12,000 feet below the surface and some 11,000+ feet below the primary Denver Area fresh water aquifers.  The granite basement was not fractured by the injections, this was not a "hydraulic fracturing" operation, the faults or fractures were already in place.  The shallow aquifers were never contaminated by the injected fluids.  Mr. Quillen, in the same article, speculates on the effects, or lack thereof, of the 1969 Rulison Project located near Parachute, Colorado, the center of Colorado's current natural gas drilling boom in the Piceance Basin.  At Rulison, the Atomic Energy Commission detonated a nuclear device at approximately 8400 fee below the surface to fracture "tight gas sands' that were not producible in commercial quantities using the, then current, fracture technology.  The result was a limited success.  A fractured "rubble zone" was created that was capable of producing gas at probable commercial quantities during limited testing.  The produced gas, however, was radioactive and not suitable for gas sales.  These same tight sand zones are, today, being hydraulically fractured into viable, commercial natural gas producers.  Shallow fresh water aquifers above the atomic bomb created fracture zone were not contaminated by radioactive gas nor are the same zones being contaminated by frac fluids in current operations.

Susan Greene, another DENVER POST columnist, recently published a column (06/09/2009) that referred to the exemption of frac fluids from the Safe Drinking Water Act as the "Halliburton Loophole" and the "Bush-Cheney Loophole."  Apparently, Ms. Greene so referenced this, as such, because Vice President Cheney was CEO of Halliburton in the 1990s.  Her column utilizes extensive quotations from various environmental activist groups such as "Because fracking (sp?) has gone virtually unregulated" and "nobody has looked for the right things" that belie the close regulation and supervision imposed by the individual state regulatory agencies.  Ms. Greene's column states that Colorado Governor Bill Ritter's recently enacted revised oil and gas regulations "has regulated fracking (sp?) far more than most governors..." The column then criticizes him for not, as yet, expanding these rules as "(they) don't go far enough" with an implication that he is seeking to avoid any further confrontation with the "industry that has vowed to oust him."

Under current rules, state regulatory agencies are responsible for regulating, monitoring and enforcing their individual rules concerning hydraulic fracture operations.  They publish and maintain reporting standards for the integrity of the casing and cement that protect the shallow aquifers, record the volume and type of fluids that are injected and respond to reports of contamination of surface or shallow groundwater.  As stated in Part 1, no verifiable instances of frac fluid contamination of drinking water supplies have been found.

The DeGette-Markey proposed legislation, co-sponsored by Representative Polis, seeks to impose a "one size fits all" standard and solution to a problem that doesn't exist.  Although certainly entitled to their opinions, the highly selective nature of the celebrity problem solvers' research and information on this subject can be characterized similarly to the aquifers and surface waters they purport to protect..."shallow."


  • Sharon Wilson 5 years ago

    The truth is:

    Currently Alabama is the only state in the US with special provisions to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The other states do not have specific fracturing rules; they rely on general drilling rules - casing, logs, pressure monitoring, waste disposal, etc. - to indirectly cover hydraulic fracturing.

    Colorado has a disclosure rule that is not specific to fracturing - it covers all chemicals used down hole - drilling, fracturing, completion, etc. New York and Pennsylvania also require disclosure of fracking chemicals, but no actual regulation.

    Legislation being considered by Congress would allow most states to remain the primary regulators of hydraulic fracturing, with flexibility as to their programs, but the legislation provides critical federal oversight - something that was lost when Congress passed the "Halliburton loophole" in 2005.