COMMERCE CITY — Suncor Energy is spraying Sand Creek water contaminated by its oil refinery into the air, trying to remove more cancer-causing benzene before the creek water flows into the South Platte River.
This poses a regulatory dilemma: Is it worse to release benzene into the air or into the water?
WESTCREEK — Pushing to accelerate nature’s healing, the U.S. Forest Service is deploying contract labor crews who this week began planting 146,000 more pine and fir trees — an effort to stabilize wildfire-ravaged mountainsides that slump into metro Denver water supplies.
But every new catastrophic wildfire adds to the blackened-dead acreage west of Colorado’s Front Range cities. And water providers face increasing costs — which are passed to residents in monthly water bills — as more eroding sediment descends across burned watershed and clogs reservoirs.
ERIE — This town is trying a new approach to protect residents riled by oil and gas drilling along Colorado’s Front Range: implementing local air- and water-quality rules.
Town officials are asking companies to let them review drilling plans for compatibility with local development. They’re demanding new drilling operations capture 100 percent of air emissions. They’ve begun using a $50,000 device that tests water for hydrocarbons.
Front Range farmers bidding for water to grow crops through the coming hot summer and possible drought face new competition from oil and gas drillers.
At Colorado’s premier auction for unallocated water this spring, companies that provide water for hydraulic fracturing at well sites were top bidders on supplies once claimed exclusively by farmers.
The prospect of tussling with energy industry giants over water leaves some farmers and environmentalists uneasy.