U.S. Rep. Polis asks for congressional hearing on toxic spills after Colorado floods

State officials tracking numerous flood-related spills

A Sept. 17 Landsat 8 image shows South Platte River flooding near Greeley, Colorado. For more information on this image, please visit this NASA Earth Observatory website.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A spate of potentially dangerous spills from oil and gas producing facilities resulting from recent flooding in Colorado may be scrutinized under a congressional spotlight.

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR) hav asked the House Resources Committee to hold a hearing on oil and gas spills caused by the recent catastrophic floods in Colorado. 

“Not only have my constituents been dealing with damage to their homes, schools, and roads, they are increasingly concerned about the toxic spills that have occurred from the flooding of nearly 1,900 fracking wells in Colorado,” Polis said. “Congress must deal with this issue to ensure that natural disasters do not also become public health disasters.”

As of Sept. 24, state and industry officials were tracking 11 significant releases, with nine teams in the field, including:

  • A Noble location east of Kersey near Highway 34 and Highway 56 released 121 barrels;
  • A PDC location east of Greeley, near the intersection of  Highway 34 and the bypass for Highway 34 released 60 barrels;
  • A Mineral Resources location north and west of LaSalle released an unknown
  • volume.

According to the state, the 11 releases account, in total, for more than 822 barrels, or 34,524 gallons. The amount for two of these 11 releases is unknown. This  volume is approaching a volume equivalent to three, standard, 300-barrel  oil storage tanks.

“The more we know, the worse it gets, and it’s not over yet. The State of Colorado needs to continue inspecting and reporting, and then testing water and soil for contamination,” said Gary Wockner, a Colorado program director for Clean Water Action. “We support Rep. Polis’ proposal for a congressional hearing to investigate the oil, gas, and fracking spills and contamination caused by this industry,” Wockner said. “The State’s regulations are very weak — which is why this debacle and contamination occurred in the first place — and do not protect the public or the environment, and so federal oversight is sorely needed.”

“This is not a partisan issue,” said DeFazio. “People dealing with aftermath of a catastrophic natural disaster don’t need to worry that their health is at risk because of oil and gas spills. Congress needs to hold a hearing so we can assess the consequences of this flood and figure how to bring relief to the affected communities.”  

In a letter to Resource Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), the representatives cited reports from state and federal agencies tracking oil and gas spills and leaks that threaten public health and local drinking water.  

 “In addition to extensive damage to homes, buildings, public lands, and infrastructure, floodwaters inundated an area heavily concentrated with oil and gas development. As a result of the flood, nearly 1,900 wells in Colorado were ‘shut in’ last week to stop the flow of oil and natural gas and to hopefully prevent potential spills and leakage. Despite industry efforts to minimize contamination events, there have still been well-documented instances of leaking and spills from tanks, wells, and pipelines.
“We are concerned that these spills and leaks may pose health risks to individuals who are already dealing with damage and destruction to their homes and property. As Congress continues to consider policies to expand domestic oil and gas production, we would benefit from learning more about how disasters like this can impact local communities, states, and federal regulators. We respectfully request that you hold a committee hearing as soon as possible so that we may fully understand the potential grave consequences resulting from this flood,” they wrote. 
Polis and DeFazio went on to add that the Committee and Congress would benefit from hearing firsthand accounts from local elected officials, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, EPA response teams, experts in oil and gas technology and innovation, and conservation advocates.

3 thoughts on “U.S. Rep. Polis asks for congressional hearing on toxic spills after Colorado floods

  1. Do Polis and DeFazio even have high school diplomas? Their ignorance about the subject is dwarfed only by their extreme left wing scare-mongering message.

    – The spills are not a debacle. Less than 1,000 barrels spilled? The amount of crude will barely be detectable in the trillions of barrels of water that were involved in the flooding.
    – The oil spilled isn’t nearly as toxic as the raw sewage that was released (several thousand times the quantity of petroleum products). Where’s the call for a congressional hearing on this debacle???
    – Hey Wockner! The State’s regulations didn’t cause the contamination. Do you realize that there was a severe flood that occurred? Do you think that regulations caused the water treatment plants to overflow and release millions of gallons of toxic waste too?

    Lets hope Congress doesn’t spend one dime wasting the taxpayers money on this boondoggle. Not every disaster should be a chance for the left to take advantage and capitalize with voters. The time and money should go to help the victims of the flood.

  2. This should lead to an appraisal of how close wells should be allowed in the riparian zone. The ground water from rivers actually extends much further out than the edge of the river. In the flood areas we’re talking about a lot of soil which will be contaminated for a long time to come.

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