Colorado is known for its natural beauty – both aboveground and below.
The state has had oil on record since 1876. With its natural resources, Colorado’s oil and gas refineries wanted to take advantage of the fossil fuel reserves now that the extraction process exists. This is colloquially called “fracking.”
Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – has been used for more than 65 years, but it only became a point of contention within recent decades because of its combination with horizontal drilling and the apparent environmental impact. This has set protesters ablaze, who claim that it poisons drinking water, pollutes the air and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. It also allegedly causes injuries such as burning eyes, nausea, bloody noses and headaches.
Fracking is the process of injecting a highly pressurized mixture of water, sand and chemicals (the water and sand making up 95% of the composition) deep underground to fracture rock and release natural gases and crude oil. Critics claim the 5% chemical makeup harms the environment, while proponents say it is a harmless agent that has no effect on the land around it. However, small earthquakes tend to follow injection of the water into rock beds.
Proponents of fracking have fired back, saying that technological advances have made the process much safer. Furthermore, this newfound ability to reach natural oil and gas stores meant an economic boon to the state. Significant growth enriched the local economy, leading to increased capital investments, royalties and leases, and additional tax revenue.
However, a study has linked fracking and natural gas drilling with a pattern of drinking water contamination so intense that faucet water could be lit on fire.
Protestors have tried for multiple years to put fracking on the state ballot, but to no avail.
The pro-fracking lobby has fought back fiercely, arguing that any restrictions on the process would be a constraint against private property rights. The Colorado Supreme Court leaned toward the pro-fracking side and invalidated two cities’ bans on hydraulic fracturing, ruling that state law preempted local law.
However, toxic tort lawsuits related to fracking are popping up.
Private citizens can bring claims for negligence, private nuisance, trespass, strict liability or even medical monitoring – when an injury hasn’t shown up yet, but it likely will, and the defendant should pay to monitor the plaintiff’s condition because of his negligent actions.
This is still a fairly new area of law, so we will have to wait and see who budges first.
Check out our new basic guide to toxic torts in Colorado.
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