June 10, 2008

Colorado's Chemical Injection: Public Right to Know

The Public Has a Right To Know what Chemicals are Used

Currently, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is drafting state drilling standards that would require oil and gas companies to keep an inventory of all chemicals "by chemical name, used, stored, or released" in the drilling process. The inventory would include "how much of each chemical was used, how it was used, and when it was used."

While this requirement would be a major step forward, the proposed rule should be strengthened by requiring companies to list "specific volumes and concentrations" of chemicals used rather than simply "how much" of the chemicals they use (OGAP Proposed Changes 2008).

In addition, the draft rules do not specify that the public can access the chemical inventory, only that companies must keep it "in a readily retrievable and reviewable format" and that "the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment may obtain information provided to the [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation] Commission in a chemical inventory upon written request to the Commission."

The rules should be changed to require the companies to make public the chemicals they are using through the Commission's web site and through local first responders to increase public knowledge and for immediate access in the case of accidents or spills.

Colorado should follow the example of Klickitat County in Washington State that recently required a natural gas company that drills in Colorado to disclose the chemicals the company would use before drilling in Klickitat County. The county also required the company, Denver-based Delta Petroleum, to give local officials three days advance notice before adding new chemicals to its operations. This type of advance notice should be a model for Colorado. Under the agreement, Delta Petroleum provided a list of 76 substances to Klickitat county, some of which appear to be product names rather than more informative chemical ingredients of the products. (Download chemical page from agreement betwen Klickitat County and Delta Energy [PDF], or the entire document [PDF].)

The state should also have the ability to prohibit the use of any chemicals used in drilling -- a right that the Klickitat County planning department has under the agreement with Delta. Among the prohibited substances is 2-BE, also known as 2-butoxyethanol or ethelyne glycol monobutyl ether, a chemical found in at least 6 products used by natural gas companies in Colorado.