DENVER–An industry group has stepped up its public-information campaign in what may be a pivotal year in Colorado for the future of oil-and-gas development.
Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development unveiled Friday a new website, StudyFracking.com, aimed at providing “factual answers drawn from published academic, scientific and government studies” on hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking.
“As we listened to what Coloradans wanted to know most about fracking, we began compiling straightforward answers to get to the heart of their most pressing concerns,” said CRED spokesman Jon Haubert. “It became increasingly clear that false rumors had negatively skewed Coloradans’ impressions about fracking and they wanted access to factual information showing fracking has already been extensively researched and regulated.”
The informational push comes at a critical moment for the $29 billion oil-and-gas industry in Colorado. Anti-fracking activists, backed by left-wing group MoveOn.org, are working to place a measure on the November ballot that would allow local officials to ban hydraulic fracturing within their borders.
Meanwhile, Gov. John Hickenlooper has proposed new air-quality and methane-capture rules, which are supported by Anadarko, Encana and Noble Energy, as well as the Environmental Defense Fund. The state’s Air Quality Control Commission is slated to begin hearings Feb. 19 on the rules, which would be the toughest in the nation and the first to address methane leaks.
Even so, the Democrat-dominated state legislature, under pressure from environmental groups, is expected to advance its own restrictions on hydraulic fracturing. High on that list is increased penalties for spills and other infractions.
Hickenlooper said in his State of the State address last week that he would support stiffer penalties, although the governor, a longtime industry supporter, is likely to favor lower fines than those envisioned by Democratic legislators.
“We’ve said before that we’re committed to holding the oil companies to the highest standards to protect Coloradans and our air and water,” said Hickenlooper. “To that end, we are working with legislators, industry and the conservation community to ensure we pass a bill this year that will strengthen penalties for violations of permits and rules.”
Environmental groups opposed to oil-and-gas development have worked for years to discredit hydraulic fracturing, calling it harmful to the environment and public health, but industry officials have only recently begun to counter that campaign in the form of a major public-relations push.
Officials at Anadarko and Noble launched CRED last year during the anti-fracking campaigns in four Colorado cities. Voters in three of those towns–Boulder, Fort Collins and Lafayette–passed fracking moratoriums in November, while the results of a fourth election in Broomfield are still being challenged.
Among the data points on StudyFracking.com is that fracking has been used more than 1.2 million times to access oil and natural gas since 1947. Neither Colorado regulators nor those at the Environmental Protection Agency have ever linked fracking to groundwater contamination.
More than 90 percent of all U.S. wells undergo hydraulic fracturing, a process that typically takes place over three to four days in the life of a 30-year well.
The website also cites a 2013 study from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business showing that the oil-and-gas industry generated $29.6 billion for Colorado’s economy in 2012, a figure also cited by Hickenlooper in his annual State of the State speech.
“Collectively, that’s over 110,000 high-paying jobs and $1.6 billion in tax revenue for Colorado, making oil and natural gas development a financial cornerstone for state and local governments, schools, parks, roads, special districts and other critical services Coloradans all enjoy,” said a CRED press statement.
“At CRED, we’re very focused on what Coloradans know about fracking and closely watching several fronts, including legislation, litigation and a third front, ballot initiatives disguised as empowering local governments, but in reality are a means to stop oil and natural gas development, as well as many other industries across the state,” said Haubert.