Spills releasing PCE, the cancer-causing chemical used in dry cleaning and metal degreasing, have produced at least 86 underground plumes across Colorado that are poisoning soil and water and fouling air inside buildings.
Cleaning up this chemical is a nightmare — a lesson in the limits of repairing environmental harm. The best that Colorado health enforcers and responsible parties have been able to do is keep the PCE they know about from reaching people.
Five state lawmakers and Colorado’s biggest oil and gas producers — Anadarko, Encana and Noble — stood behind rules to cut industry air pollution by more than 100,000 tons a year as regulators on Thursday dived into the details.
But some small and midsized companies raised concerns about costs of complying — estimated at $300 per ton of pollution. Colorado Oil and Gas Association president Tisha Schuller told the Air Quality Control Commission that helping companies stay in business must be “an important consideration” and that COGA may convey “ideas for improvement.”
State health officials rolled out groundbreaking rules for the oil and gas industry Monday to address worsening air pollution, including a requirement that companies control emissions of the greenhouse gas methane, linked to climate change.
The rules would force companies to capture 95 percent of all toxic pollutants and volatile organic compounds they emit.
Smog along Colorado’s Front Range is thickening again, exceeding federal standards, and government-backed scientists say the oil and gas boom is partly to blame.
If the industry expands, scientists at a conference this week said, air quality probably will deteriorate.
“It’s going to be harder to meet our clean-air requirements,” said Gabrielle Pétron, a researcher in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s global monitoring division.
State government enforcers increasingly are letting oil and gas companies that break rules do public service projects instead of imposing formal penalties.
The shift reflects evolving efforts by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to cope with expanding industrial operations in a way that demonstrably helps harmed communities.
The COGCC “continually seeks to put into practice a robust enforcement program,” COGCC director Matt Lepore wrote in response to Denver Post queries.
Frogs, toads and other amphibians are vanishing so fast nationwide that if the decline continues at the same rate, they’ll be gone from half their current habitats in 20 years, a federal study has found.
After 18 months of cleanup around Suncor’s oil refinery, contamination of the South Platte River is diminishing, but concentrations of cancer-causing benzene in the water remain six times higher than the national safety standard.
While Colorado’s drilling boom produces record amounts of gas and oil, the multiplying wells also are bringing up far greater quantities of a salty, toxic liquid waste — 15 billion gallons a year.
If cleaned properly, all that liquid could become safe water to restore rivers, irrigate food crops and sustain communities in an era of drought and declining water supplies. Or at least it could be reused by oil and gas companies to reduce their draw of fresh water from farmers and cities.
Cotter Corp. is preparing to brew a multimillion-gallon uranium cocktail in a mine shaft west of Denver — an innovation aimed at ending a threat to city water supplies.
If all goes well, mixing molasses and alcohol into a stream of filtered water pumped from the mine and discharged down Ralston Creek, and then re-injecting that mix into Cotter’s 2,000-foot-deep Schwartzwalder mine, will immobilize uranium tainting the creek.
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An underground plume of toxic hydrocarbons from an oil spill north of the Colorado River near Parachute has been spreading for 10 days, threatening to contaminate spring runoff.
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