Oil and gas industry building giant walls to try to ease impact

MEAD — Oil and gas companies are erecting a new style of walls around drilling and frack sites as the boom expands into Front Range communities.

Made of earthen-color fabric on steel frames up to 32 feet high and 800 feet long, the walls shield industrial machinery from a high school and wetlands greenbelt in Greeley, prairie homes in Windsor, and kids riding bikes and skateboards in Mead.

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It is the latest innovation for companies equipped with horizontal drilling technology that are trying to solve a puzzle: how to extract more fossil fuels from under where people are living and minimize impact.

Oil spill crews racing against wintry storm

Cleanup crews raced against rain and snow Saturday night to keep a wrecked oil train along the South Platte River from leaking into the river, pumping oil from 28,000-gallon tankers.

An estimated 6,500 gallons of Niobrara crude oil spilled from the New York-bound 100-car train into the sandy banks of the South Platte — west of La Salle, about 45 miles north of Denver.

Union Pacific Railroad officials said they’ll excavate contaminated soil and replace it with clean soil.

Five of six derailed tankers had been hauled away, and crews were draining the last one.

Railroad workers replaced an 80-foot stretch of damaged track and were fixing a bridge.

No oil had been detected in the river, federal authorities said.

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Train hauling crude oil derails on banks of South Platte River

A crude oil train that derailed Friday morning south of Greeley — with six cars toppled along the South Platte River — for several hours was leaking at a rate estimated at 20 to 50 gallons per minute.

Environmental Protection Agency officials were dispatched to the scene. No oil has been confirmed in the river thanks to the work of Union Pacific Railroad responders.

The 100-car train loaded with niobrara crude derailed west of LaSalle near a bridge over the river.

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Scientists flying over Colorado oil boom find worse air pollution

Scientists have found that Colorado’s Front Range oil and gas boom has been emitting three times more methane than previously believed — 19.3 tons an hour — a climate-change problem that state officials hope new rules will address.

The scientists also measured industry emissions of cancer-causing benzene and smog-forming volatile organic compounds at levels up to seven times higher than government agencies have estimated.

Their study — done at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and partly supported by the Environmental Defense Fund — is based on data gathered in 2012 from aircraft flying over the drilling zones north of Denver.

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Colorado targets tire landfills and subsidies to bolster recycling

FOUNTAIN — Colorado’s role as a morgue for 60 million of the nation’s 100 million scrap tires is over: State lawmakers are shutting down tire landfills. A state-run $5.8 million subsidy program for tire recyclers also will end — by 2018 — under a bill that Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday he will sign into law.

Sprawling heaps of scrap tires — like the ones south of Colorado Springs and northeast of Denver at Hudson — are seen as environmental and health hazards. In addition to the fear of a large fire, the sites can act as havens for rats, rattlesnakes and virus-spreading mosquitoes. As well, support for the recycling subsidies soured among lawmakers after a questionable operator collected $578,246 in state funds and later was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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Colorado faces oil boom “death sentence” for soil, eyes microbe fix

Colorado’s intensifying oil and gas boom is taking a toll on soil — 200 gallons spilled per day seeping into once-fertile ground — that experts say could be ruinous.

The state’s approach has been to try to compel companies to excavate and haul the worst muck to landfills.

But with support from state regulators, oil companies increasingly are proposing to clean contaminated soil on site using mixing machinery and microbes. This may be cheaper for the industry — and could save and restore soil.

But it is not proven.

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