Reducing our footprint to preserve our soil

By Mark Cutright, Former COGCC Commissioner

If you have been to Fort Collins, chances are you have driven past one of the well sites existing in our community.  Travel south to Boulder and you’ll find houses and shopping malls in the middle of what was formerly the Boulder oil field.

Yet, despite these countless examples, many still worry that drilling threatens Colorado’s soil.

As a former Commissioner to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and an oil and gas industry employee, I am here to tell you that advances in oil and natural gas production and tough environmental regulations protect our land throughout the entire fracking process.

Here are the facts:

  • Reduced land disturbance during drilling:  An oil and gas site typically uses just 3-5 acres of land during the initial drilling and completion stage.  The transition to single-pad drilling techniques means each additional well might only require 0.1 additional acres.  Once the well begins producing, land use can be reduced to less than an acre.
  • Restoring land after drilling: Section 1000 of the COGCC rules requires operators to restore over 80% of original vegetative cover before producers can release the land back to the surface owner.  And, per COGCC rules, storm water management plans employ best management practices for protecting soil erosion that remain in place until vegetation is restored.

While these steps reduce impacts, the reality is that, like any industrial processes, surface spills sometimes happen. To prevent permanent soil contamination, bioremediation and microbes, which the EPA fully endorses, have been used for decades to effectively clean up spills.  The stringent state and federal regulations in place require full, measurable, remediation of all spill impacts.  And with advanced technology today, we’re producing more energy while greatly reducing chances and impacts of spills.

So next time someone tells you that fracking disrupts Colorado’s soil, challenge them to identify one former well site in his or her community. Thanks to reclamation, this is one challenge I guarantee you will win.

 

Real-time well groundwater monitoring

Colorado energy regulations curb spills

Scientists agree: Fracking doesn’t harm our water