Weighing in on the governor’s ads

Over the last few days you might have heard or seen an ad that Gov. Hicklooper did with the oil and gas industry.  In the ads he says, “we have not had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing.”  Since 2008 we’ve had dozens and dozens of spills of toxic chemicals from oil and gas activity. Studies done by the State of Colorado show numerous instances of accidental discharges, corroded tanks and pipelines, and leaking containment pits have put toxic fluids in our groundwater, including carcinogenic hydrocarbons such as benzene.  “It’s simply inaccurate to state that oil and gas drilling isn’t contaminating ground water in Colorado,” said Mike Freeman, CEC board member. “The state’s own records show that spills and releases routinely affect ground water.  

CEC and many of our partners have worked hand in hand with the Hickenlooper administration to find compromise solutions that protect Colorado’s environment. Yesterday, CEC and our partners sent the following letter to Governor Hickenlooper. We hope he takes our message to heart and presents a more balanced voice on oil and gas issues in Colorado. Read more news coverage of the recent ad and our concerns here and here

February 27, 2012


Dear Gov. Hickenlooper,


Your administration played a critical role last year in creating one of the nation’s strongest fracking disclosure rules. It was your goal of keeping Colorado citizens informed about fracking and your leadership in overseeing negotiations that got us across the finish line, delivering a big win for citizens and communities that have demanded the right to know what fracking chemicals are going into the ground.

That’s why we were so surprised and disappointed to hear your recent radio ad on behalf of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group. The ad rightly recognizes Colorado’s success in adopting protective rules in 2008 and 2011, but it creates a misleading picture about the overall safety of oil and gas development. Specifically, the ad claims that since 2008, “we have not had one instance of groundwater contamination associated with drilling and hydraulic fracturing.”
That assertion misleads the public by ignoring the high incidence of groundwater contamination from spills and releases of toxic chemicals at or near drilling sites. Since 2008, numerous instances of groundwater contamination have resulted from releases of chemicals such as petroleum liquids and produced water used and generated during drilling and hydraulic fracturing.  Accidental spills, corroded tanks and pipelines, and leaking containment pits have been implicated in numerous releases of toxic fluids, including carcinogenic hydrocarbons such as benzene. The Colorado oil and gas commission’s October 2011 “Spills and Releases” report and its 2011 report  to CDPHE, issued earlier this month, make clear that contamination of groundwater remains an ongoing issue with oil and gas development.  Similarly, a Denver Post analysis of state records for 2011 found 58 cases of groundwater pollution linked to spills and releases.  Another Denver Post analysis of accidental spills dating back to 2008 found an even larger number of groundwater incidents.

The COGA ad leaves Coloradans with an inaccurate picture of the consequences of oil and gas drilling operations. While citizens should know how much progress we have made in adopting health and safety protections, they should also feel confident that the state recognizes and is working to minimize the inevitable impacts of oil and gas development.  A good first step toward building that confidence is to withdraw the COGA ad and to direct the oil and gas commission to adopt new and stronger protections for Colorado’s water resources and communities, including increased mandatory setbacks of oil and gas wells from rivers and streams, and from homes.  No doubt we can all agree that it’s vital to give Colorado citizens both an accurate picture of oil and gas development and the confidence that we are all working aggressively to mitigate its impacts.



Clean Water Action
Checks and Balances
Colorado Conservation Voters
Colorado Environmental Coalition
Environment Colorado
High Country Citizens Alliance
National Wildlife Federation
Sierra Club, Roaring Fork Chapter
San Juan Citizens Alliance
Western Colorado Congress
Wilderness Workshop