Natural gas industry groups in Denver on Tuesday night asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit the scope of a federal study on the effects of hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracing).

EPA held the second of four public meetings to solicit comments about its upcoming study on how drinking water supplies may be affected by hydrofracing during natural gas extraction procedures. The first public hearing was held last week in Fort Worth, TX (see Daily GPI, July 12).

"Recently there have been questions raised about hydraulic fracturing and its potential impacts on water supplies and that's why we're here tonight," EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Research Task Force Leader Jeanne Briskin told the crowd, which included people from Colorado and neighboring states.

"It's safe," said Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Weld County, CO, commissioner. "In Weld County, where we have more than 30,000 wells, 19,000 active wells, more than any other county in the nation, we've never had any problems with hydraulic fracing," she said.

America's Natural Gas Alliance said in part that it supported a study that focused on how hydrofracing may affect drinking water. CEO Regina Hopper also asked EPA to allow it have some input on the advisory panel in reviewing hydrofracing data.

"History demonstrates that hydraulic fracturing can generate abundant, secure energy supplies without adverse consequences to drinking water," Hopper said.

"It's like robotics to the automotive industry; without fracing we can't develop most of the natural gas in the United States," Western Energy Alliance Director of Government Affairs Kathleen Sgamma said.

Dave Neslin, who directs the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee, said most of the state's 42,000 active wells rely on hydrofracing. The commission, he said, has investigated "hundreds" of groundwater complaints related to gas drilling, but to date it had found "no verifiable instance" that hydrofracing harmed groundwater.

Some opponents questioned the quality of their water supplies that are located near drilling sites -- but not all residents are concerned.

In Las Animas County, CO, where gas drilling is big business, resident Karen Salapich told the EPA that she had seen no change in water quality or quantity.

"Other landowners in our area have reported the same: no change," she said.

A third public hearing is scheduled next week in Canonsburg, PA, followed by an Aug. 12 hearing in Binghamton, NY.

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