September 3, 2014

Texas And Colorado Tackle Fracking In Their Own Way

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Inside Energy.

There are plenty of similarities in the ongoing fracking debate in Texas and Colorado, but the parallels end when it comes to how oil companies and politicians are dealing with the public’s questions. While concerned residents and anti-fracking groups fight to regulate or ban fracking, oil companies in each state have responded in their own way, as Zain Shauk and Bradley Olson reported for Bloomberg Business Week:

In Texas, drillers are doing their noisy in-your-face fracking as usual. Meanwhile, on a small farm about an hour from the Colorado Rocky Mountains, the oil industry is giving fracking a makeover, cutting back on rumbling trucks and tamping down on pollution.

Of course, the fracking battle is not limited to these two states. Various cities and counties across the country have passed 430 measures to ban or restrict the practice, according to Food and Water Watch. Some oil companies are taking measures to address community concerns and stop the issue from reaching election season.

Shauk and Olson cite some interesting solutions taking place in Colorado as a precursor to the last-minute compromise Gov. John Hickenlooper announced earlier this month:

At an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. drill site near Dacono, Colorado, swarms of trucks and flood lights are hidden behind a wall of hay bales, which soften the roar of diesel engines. Giant pits of murky wastewater have been eliminated using recycling and pipelines. The number of trucks and tanks needed in some locations has plunged to 50 from 400 in 2011.

The deal was reached with the condition that four ballot initiatives–two in favor of fracking and two against–were dropped. This averted an expensive election battle, but not everyone was happy about it.

The reverse is happening in Texas. Oil companies have not been quite so accommodating to the communities near drilling sites, but the residents of Denton will get to vote on the issue this November. Denton is sandwiched between two drilling sites, Shauk and Olson explain, and while the city issued new regulations in 2013 to keep wells at least 1,200 feet from homes, the problems continued:

In one Denton subdivision of brick homes and two-car driveways, privately held EagleRidge Energy LLC, didn’t inform residents when it began working with heavy equipment and oilfield machinery as close as 187 feet to backyards and windows in October 2013, according to Lindsey Baker, a spokeswoman for the city of Denton. Some homeowners felt their houses tremble during drilling, jarring pictures from the wall, while others struggled to sleep as powerful lights atop a rig blazed through their windows at night.

Denton residents launched a campaign to ban fracking in February and gathered enough votes on their petition to take the issue to vote on November 4.

Compromises and ballot measures can only do so much to appease concerned communities. The truth is there is no end in sight for the fracking debate. Just in Colorado, Longmont is appealing the decision to throw out the city’s fracking ban, concern about fracking-related earthquakes in Greeley continues and many people still have questions about the health risks of living near a drilling site.