Has Fracking Contaminated Your Drinking Water?

February 1 2011, 11:30 AM

Opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," have long held that the process, used to extract oil and gas from the earth, can be harmful to public health, and is responsible for flammable drinking water. The accusations have riled oil and gas companies that inject water, sand, and chemicals into gas wells to fracture sandstone formations and loosen gas and oil reserves.

Now, a yearlong investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce Committee says three of the largest hydraulic fracturing companies violated the Safe Drinking Water Act by using diesel fuel (including roughly 1.3 million gallons in Colorado) to extract resources, writes the Denver Post. U.S. Representative Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, has called on the Environmental Protection Agency "to determine whether the public has been put at risk." Since 2009, DeGette and Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, have fought to force the oil-and-gas industry to reveal the specific chemicals used in fracking, notes the Colorado Independent.

Meanwhile, the political climate hasn't stopped Cnooc Ltd., China's largest offshore energy producer, from paying $570 million for a one-third stake in Chesapeake Energy's Niobrara shale project in Colorado and Wyoming, a deal that's expected to accelerate drilling—and revive jobs, according to the Post.

And in the state Legislature, Colorado Republicans are challenging renewable energy requirements, claiming they hurt consumers. A state Senate bill would remove a mandate requiring utilities to obtain 30 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020. Instead, utilities would have to provide 10 percent, a standard they already meet, reports 9News. None of this seems to matter at Colorado State University, which is implementing one of the largest university-run solar systems in the country, according to another article in the Post.