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DENVER I Spills from oil and gas operations in Colorado reached 712 last year, according to the 2014 Toxic Release Tracker issued Thursday by the Center for Western Priorities (CWP).
The new data reveal that oil and gas companies were responsible for two spills every day in the state, together releasing more than 1 million gallons of oil and other chemicals.
“This is the third year we’ve tracked oil and gas spills in Colorado, and it’s a continuing reminder that the benefits of today’s oil boom come alongside significant risks to Colorado’s communities and outdoor spaces,” said Greg Zimmerman, the policy director at CWP.
The Toxic Release Tracker summarizes publicly available data on spills that occurred in Colorado in 2014. Key findings include: 11 percent of spills resulted in water contamination; 203 spills occurred within 1,500 feet of a building, such as a school or home; 51 spills contained more than 5 barrels, or 210 gallons, of oil; and five operators were responsible for the majority of spills
The Toxic Release Tracker results come two days before Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Oil and Gas Task Force holds its final public meeting in Greeley. The Task Force has been meeting since September of last year to determine how best to balance Colorado’s energy boom with the need to safeguard communities and landscapes.
“The Oil and Gas Task Force has a rare opportunity to provide leadership and strike a balance between oil and gas development and the long-term well-being of Colorado’s communities and our renowned lands,” Zimmerman said. “The risk of spills is one of the major ways that residents in the oil patch bear a disproportionate burden from the state’s energy boom. It’s precisely why they deserve a say in how and where development takes place.”
As of January 2014, oil and gas companies had reported 495 spills for 2013 (this number was later adjusted to 600 spills). Companies reported 402 spills in 2012. The spike in spills from oil and gas operations in Colorado can be attributed to a lower spills reporting threshold, which took effect during the summer of 2013, and to increased oil and gas activity.
While data compiled by the Toxic Release Tracker is publicly available, information on spills often does not make it to the impacted communities. To increase public awareness, the Toxic Release Tracker will be shareable via social media and available on the CWP website for use by local governments and community associations.