New Online Tool Tracks Colorado’s Many Oil Spills


As the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reports, food for thought as the debate over "fracking" near Colorado's populated areas goes on:

The energy and environment research Center for Western Priorities this week released a map of oil-industry spills that have occurred in Colorado over the past 13 years. It’s a colorful map but it’s not very pretty.

The map is built on information compiled by the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and it’s dotted with 4,900 Colorado spill sites, which the group says amount to tens of millions of gallons of oil, drilling fluid and other toxic waste. The main sites of the spills come in the four corners of a square that runs between Grand Junction, Durango, Trinidad and Greeley. The vast majority of the spills come in the northern front range, in an area extending southwest from Greeley between Fort Collins, Boulder, Broomfield, Longmont and Lafayette. Those are the five cities that have drawn lawsuits from the industry and the state for voting over the last two years in support of municipal bans and moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing — the extraction technique where drillers blast millions of gallons of mixed sand, water and chemicals deep into underground rock formations to crack open fissures and release oil and gas.

At its related “Colorado Toxic Release Tracker,” the Center for Western Priorities reports that, since the beginning of the year, drillers reported 156 spills in the state. They reported 44 spills in March. So far, 6 percent of spills this year were reported to have contaminated water. Eighty-four spills occurred within 1,000 feet of surface water. Forty-two spills have occurred less than 50 feet from groundwater.

Looking casually at this sobering interactive map, it becomes really obvious why two of the northern Front Range's "L-Towns"–Lafayette and Longmont, along with Boulder, Broomfield and Fort Collins–have banned or passed moratoria on fracking within their boundaries. Fracking causes more problems than just surface spills, and spills aren't always directly related to the fracking process, but this map vividly illustrates the dirty, accident-prone industrial process going on every day in Colorado–in many cases just across the street or field from neighborhoods.

If you look at this report and still can't understand why local communities are tired of state regulators' outright contempt for their concerns, which has led to the "crisis" of ballot measures to give local communities real power to regulate oil and gas drilling, we respectfully submit that you are the one with the problem. Fracking isn't just an environmentally worrisome process of drilling, it's the fact that it brings drilling to places it hasn't been before–with all of drilling's attendant nastiness like surface spills and air pollution.

And as you can see, the industry's track record where they drill now isn't very good.

22 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. CaninesCanines says:

    Seems like there ought to be a lot of jobs created for oil-spill cleanups.

  2. langelomisteriosolangelomisterioso says:

    Since wingers don't believe evolution I suppose they're not going to stipulate that humans can just evolve to drink petroleum or petroleum-laced water, fracking fluids and such despite what Frackenlooper would have us believe.

  3. notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

    It would be interestin to see an overlay from USGS of seismic activity around the drilling sites. Not just here, but globally. I'm sure that cracking the planet to suck the gas out must be causeing a lot of "frack quakes" I still remember the tremors we used to feel from the military and defense industry pumping toxic crap into the ground at the Rocky Mountan Arsenal.

  4. Ross Cunniff says:

    Fortunately the Colorado Oil and Gas industry is heavily regulated with the strongest environmental protections in the country, so nothing bad could happen from all those spills.

    (excuse me, I need to go take a shower now)

  5. MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

    This is what a "Solar Spill" looks like:

  6. DawnPatrol says:

    Holy Frack!

    I'd love to see this map splashed all over local media.

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      I will be speaking to the presidents of every Colorado chapter of the League of Women Voters in about an hour. I will make sure they all are made aware of this website.

      • notaskinnycooknotaskinnycook says:

        Howd that go over, Duke?


        • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

          Very well, indeed. The League of Women Voters is very concerned about the issue of "fracking". They asked some of us from GJ to fill them in on what we have been doing vis a vis O&G activism.

          They were  receptive and eager to learn.

          As it happens, I am a board member of the GJ chapter of the League.

  7. Ray SpringfieldRay Springfield says:

    Plenty of folk ready to side with Rep. Polis on this. Western SLope folks dislike fracking. Many have been forced into it  by the State through the easement debacle by the bait  and switch policies of the state. How does one  value land at zweo? Just a question that the state forced on 600 farms. Who; would have thought when Bill Ritter was in office that 4 y6ears later we would go from the new energy capitol to the new Oklahoma?

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