Nine counties in Colorado have lined up against Democratic legislation — co-sponsored by a member of the state’s congressional delegation — that would put regulation of a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracing) in the hands of the federal government.

Garfield County last Monday joined Delta, Mesa, Moffat, Morgan, Rio Blanco, Washington, Weld and Yuma counties, as well as a growing number of Colorado municipalities and organizations, in passing language formally opposing HR 2766, the FRAC ACT — Fracking Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act (see NGI, June 15). The nine counties that oppose the federal legislation account for nearly 44% of the state’s gas production.

The House legislation, co-sponsored by Reps. Diana DeGette of Colorado and Maurice Hinchey of New York, would bring the practice of fracturing under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DeGette and other opponents contend that chemicals used in the hydrofracing process are polluting water sources. But the EPA has published reports under both Democratic and Republican leadership endorsing the safety of hydrofracing, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA).

Two Colorado counties that support the federal legislation — Pitkin and San Miguel — represent less than 1% of the state’s gas production. COGA noted that DeGette’s district has no gas activity.

Hydrofracing, which is used in almost all oil and gas shale wells, is a process in which fluids are injected at high pressure into underground rock formations to blast them open and increase the flow of fossil fuels. Legislation restricting hydrofracing could shut down production from the country’s prolific shale plays, producers told Congress this year (see NGI, June 8).

COGA said industry officials are concerned that exposing the processing to federal regulation would bring about lengthy permitting delays that would “cripple” domestic energy production. “People are very scared about what the bill will do to the natural gas industry in the state,” said COGA spokesman Nate Strauch.

Garfield County has produced more natural gas over the past three years than any other county in the state, as hydrofracing has opened the tight sands formations of the Piceance Basin, the producer group said. More than 307 Bcf of gas has been produced in Garfield County this year so far, according to COGA. It noted that the gas industry brings more than 70,000 jobs and $23 billion to the state.

A researcher at Houston’s Rice University last week told NGI that a lighter proppant could all but eliminate the worries associated with hydrofracing while simplifying the process and cutting producer costs (see related story).

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