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Colorado Regulators Approve Fracking Disclosure Rule

KUNC file photo

Colorado regulators have adopted a new rule requiring oil and gas companies to make public the chemicals they use for hydraulically fracturing wells in the state; a move that followed a lengthy set of meetings and negotiations between the industry and conservation groups.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says the new rule makes Colorado the first state in the country to require companies to disclose all chemicals and concentration levels used in hydraulic fracturing, not just the hazardous materials.

Regulators had to weigh a lot of factors, according to COGCC member John Benton.

"How do we protect the public’s right to know what’s going on, and at the same time ensure that the industry can protect their proprietary information and be able to efficiently apply some chemical treatments," Benton said.

Colorado’s new “public disclosure” rule comes as new technologies surrounding the “fracking” of oil and gas wells have led to a drilling boom across the country, and amid a recent EPA report showing that fracking fluids may have contaminated groundwater at drill sites in Wyoming.

The oil and gas industry has long maintained the mix of chemicals it adds to sand and water to bore wells deep into the earth is proprietary.  But in Colorado at least, companies have come out in support of the new rule.

"The Commission's unanimous support for the new hydraulic fracturing disclosure rule is great news for Colorado," said Tisha Schuller, president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association in a statement.

Environmentalists, many of whom had called for the "trade secret" loop hole to be closed prior to Tuesday's meeting, also praised the compromise.

"While the conservation community did not get everything it wanted, Colorado’s disclosure rule provides a good foundation for ensuring that hydraulic fracturing is done safely in this state," said Earth Justice attorney Mike Freeman, also in a prepared statement.

KUNC state capitol reporter Bente Birkeland contributed to this report. 

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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