New fracking regs: Will Hick's gas play allay locals' fears?

Governor John Hickenlooper.
Flanked by environmental leaders and energy industry executives, Governor John Hickenlooper has unveiled tough new regulations for reducing methane emissions and other pollution from oil and gas drilling across the state. Leaning hard on words like "partnership" and "shared interest," the governor stressed that the new rules would insure that "Colorado has the cleanest and safest oil and gas industry in the country" -- but whether that will be enough to quell concerns among local communities in the cross-hairs of the fracking boom is another matter.

This has been a rough year for Hickenlooper and his political allies, from the emphatic rejection of an education spending hike to the recall of two Democratic legislators over gun-control laws to the uproar over the governor's reprieve for death-penalty prospect Nathan Dunlap.

But one of the most alarming developments has been the growing skepticism at a community level over the state's ability to adequately regulate gas drilling.

An Encana drill rig.
Despite Hickenlooper's repeated assurances that his team is on top of the situation and threats to sue municipalities that try to ban fracking entirely -- and despite oil and gas interests spending more than $900,000 to try to defeat fracking moratoria this fall -- measures suspending new drilling activities passed in Fort Collins, Lafayette and Boulder. (At last report, a fourth moratorium in Broomfield appears to have passed by seventeen votes, but the recount hasn't yet been completed.)

The new proposed rules would appear to be just the thing to get voters to breathe easier, so to speak. They include monthly inspections on large sources of emissions; an accelerated schedule for detecting and repairing leaks in storage tanks, at well sites and at compressor stations; and other requirements for reducing hydrocarbons and other volatile organic compounds (VOC).

In all, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment estimates the new requirements will reduce VOC emissions from oil and gas production by about a third, or 92,000 tons a year -- more than the total VOC spewed by all the state's cars.

The plan was the subject of some heavy back-slapping at a press conference yesterday.

Continue for more about new fracking regulations in Colorado.

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