Thu August 16, 2012

Oil and Gas Leaders Wrapping up Statewide Meeting Today

Oil and gas executives meeting in Denver say more work needs to be done to gain the trust of the public over the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing. 

Industry leaders at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s annual meeting this week are calling for more engagement and dialog on the issue as drilling spreads into populated areas

Anadarko Petroleum's board chairman Jim Hackett says his industry wasn't doing a good job communicating its message until recently.  Though in a speech Wednesday, he quickly added more work needs to be done, especially along the northern Front Range; home to a huge expansion of drilling recently, and a growing outcry from some residents living amidst it.

To that end, Hackett concluded:

We need to continue to listen, we need to continue to respond to these concerns and help inform the public so people can parse what is hyperbole and better understand the important benefits and actual impacts of energy development. 

Environmental and citizens groups have raised concerns that fracking and the chemicals used in the drilling process have contaminated groundwater and led to surface spills at some drilling sites here and across the country.  While the focus inside the Colorado Convention Center was on dialog and more communication, outside the conference, protesters said they felt little of that was actually happening on the ground in their communities.

Anti-fracking activist Diana Caile of Boulder County put it this way in a report this morning on KUNC's Morning Edition

The state’s not regulating it, and in fact Governor Hickenlooper, who we like to call 'Governor Frackenlooper,' as a representative of the state, he’s telling people that there’s no instances of contamination.

But the state's oil and gas regulations have been tightened considerably since 2009, and Governor Hickenlooper won praise last year for brokering a compromise on a fracking public disclosure rule

It was at this same COGA conference where Governor Hickenlooper first announced that proposal and as the Denver Post reported this morning, the Governor has typically used this event as a forum for outlining his oil and gas agenda.

No sweeping announcements this year, but Hickenlooper did tell a handful of reporters yesterday that he plans to meet with the anti-fracking activists soon and tour communities experiencing the boom along the northern Front Range.  He didn't give an exact date but hinted it would be in the near future. 

Speaking to the state's lawsuit against the city of Longmont over its drilling rules, and more generally to the growing conflicts arising in communities that lie above the lucrative Niobrara shale formation, Hickenlooper said he's confident a reasonable compromise can still be reached, adding:

You know, what’s interesting, you go to Beverly Hills, California, right?  Beverly Hills, California that’s not inexpensive real estate and they’ve got old oil wells, pump jacks that are still there.  There’s a way to do it where it can fit in and be very unobtrusive. 

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