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Know the West

A frackin' mess


I am convinced that hydraulic fracturing poses a significant threat to the quality of our drinking water, and that the legal framework governing this practice is piecemeal and inadequate at best (HCN, 11/23/09). As a Colorado resident, I am proud that Gov. Ritter stood up to the weighty industry influence here and demanded more protection for public health and the environment. It still remains to be seen if the new regulations will be enforced in a way that will really make a difference. A state-by-state approach pales in comparison to the power that the federal government could exercise, especially considering that most of this activity is occurring on federal land. The federal government needs to set a regulatory floor by removing the Safe Drinking Water Act exemption, and requiring at least that the industry disclose the substances used and the amount used in each well.

Obama has approved a bill that calls for the EPA to re-study the effects of fracking, but your story didn't mention the fact that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 required the federal government to complete such a study and make the results publicly available by 2006. In 2007, WildEarth Guardians, the Sierra Club and others sued the Department of the Interior over this missed deadline. The groups have now adopted a wait-and-see approach because of the latest developments and change in administration.

Pete Johnson
Fort Collins, Colorado