Friday, September 2, 2011

Gov. John Hickenlooper Takes Questions From the Public - Fracking

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Interview Produced by Michelle P. Fulcher and Lee Hill

Time for our regular conversation with Governor John Hickenlooper. For the last month or so, we’ve been asking what questions you have for the governor. Many of you have joined our Public Insight Network to share those questions and concerns. On today’s show, he’s going to answer some of them.
The governor mentioned a site for pointing out inefficiencies in state government. Go to this site where you'll find a link to provide feedback.

Here's a transcript of the interview:

RYAN WARNER, Host: Governor, Thank you for being with us.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER, Colorado governor: Oh, glad to be back.

Warner: We've gotten questions, even some suggestions for you, and themes certainly emerged. We heard a lot about state employee pay and benefits. We're going to talk about that shortly. We also heard a lot about “fracking,” the process of injecting chemicals deep into the ground to free up oil and natural gas. Lots of people told us their fears of those chemicals contaminating water.
Here's a question from Philip Davis, who is a farmer who lives in Hotchkiss, Colorado, on the Western Slope.

PHILIP DAVIS, Hotchkiss farmer: What do you say to people of Garfield County, who believe that fracking has polluted their ground water and resulted in serious diseases? What do you say to the people of Mesa and Delta counties, who depend on a clean environment, who feel powerless against Big Oil and look to their state government to balance the scales and to protect our environment and who are confident that the environmental impacts of fracking are not adequately understood at this time?

Warner: Multi-part question there, but what do you say?

Hickenlooper: Well, there is a great deal of fear out there about fracking. People are-- don't understand it. They're concerned.

Warner: Is it justified?

Hickenlooper: I don't think so. Again, having spent five years as a geologist and really looked into this pretty hard, there was a number of stories in the New York Times, we can't find examples in Garfield County or anywhere in Colorado where fracking has gotten into groundwater.

Now there are a number of occasions where oil companies have been careless or made mistakes and frack fluid has gotten into a stream or a pond, gotten into our water, and my opinion is I think we should be even more vigilant and increase the fines on those things.

But the fracking itself, what you're doing is you're pushing a dense fluid, with, you know, minute grains of sand and silt into the formation. So the formation is already under tremendous pressure, but you're pushing this fluid out there and pushing open these micro-fractures. They're very, very small fractures. And then the silt gets in there and holds them open. So, then, when you stop pushing, all that frack fluid comes back up the pipe again. It doesn't sit there out in the formation.

So, the vast majority of it, 95% of it, comes back up the pipe, and most oil companies, the good oil and gas companies use it again. So they're recycling that water and they're not wasting it.

And one of the things we're doing in Colorado and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association
announced a month ago that we're going to do a baseline water sampling program. So before anyone drills a well, we're going to measure what the ground water is and look at the chemical analysis of it and at regular periods after that well is drilled, if it's fracked, go back and measure and look at that water quality again just to make sure that there is no communication.

Warner: Communication? You mean between the fracking fluid and water?

Hickenlooper: Yes. No communication between, exactly, where the frack fluid has been pushed into the formation and that somehow that didn't get up around the drill pipe and get into ground water.
We're working aggressively with the oil and gas community to convince them, push them, that all the components of the frack fluid should be revealed. They are at the well site now. We want to put them up on some sort of a website and right now, about 90% of the companies drilling already do that voluntarily. So, I don't think there's too much reason not to go ahead and get everybody to do it. And then doing this baseline water sampling is really going to allow us to make sure, to prove to people, that there is no polluting of ground water from fracking.

Warner: So you've got the baseline water testing. How soon would that go into place?

Hickenlooper: That's in place. They're starting it right now, as we speak.

Warner: Okay. And then the separate issue, which is disclosing fracking fluids, that will be a state rule, correct?

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