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Democrat: Hold oil companies liable for earthquakes

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A lawmaker in Colorado is proposing that oil companies be held liable for earthquakes.

 

The idea from Rep. Joe Salazar, a Democrat from Adams County on the north edge of the Denver metropolitan area, is being seen mostly as a political statement, because it is not expected to gain support in the Republican-controlled state Senate.

 

But Salazar said it’s time to start working on the problem. He said his plan would hold drillers responsible for property damage or physical injury if it can be shown their actions triggered an earthquake.

 

Colorado Public Radio noted earthquakes have been linked previously to the practice of injecting wastewater into the ground and hydraulic fracturing.

 

Nick Adams’ book, “The American Boomerang: How The World’s Greatest Turnaround Nation Will Do It Again,” is endorsed by the likes of Dr. Ben Carson, Glenn Beck, Dick Morris, Gov. Mike Huckabee and Dennis Prager

 

Five years ago, Westword.com recounted how the U.S. government used a 12,000-foot deep well drilled at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal to dispose of waste liquids from chemical weapons. Following the installation of the well, more than 1,300 earthquakes were recorded at one point between January 1963 and Aug. 9, 1967.

 

While most were small, one in 1963 broke 118 window panes and cracked a parking lot at the site.

 

They maxed out with a 5.3 quake reported in Northglenn, where widespread minor damage was reported.

 

The Army estimated about 165 million gallons of waste was pumped into the well over the years, including metals, chlorides and toxic organics.

 

“The injected fluids had very little potential for reaching the surface or useable groundwater supply since the injection point had 11,900 feet of rock above it and was sealed at the opening,” the report said. “The Army discontinued use of the well in Feb. 1966 because of the possibility that the fluid injection was triggering earthquakes in the area.”

 

Salazar said in the CPR report his constituents are insisting on action.

 

“These were people who were concerned for their children,” Salazar said. “They were concerned for their community. They were concerned about the environment. They’re concerned about their clean water and clean air.”

 

However, Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, says proving liability would be difficult. And he pointed out that the state already has environmental regulations that must be followed.

 

CBS reported that while there is suspicion of a link between liquid pumped into the ground and quakes, there is no definitive proof of the connection. And the connection to removing oil and gas from the ground is even more tenuous.

 

But CBS reported that under the bill, an oil and gas company would have to prove that it didn’t cause the earthquake.

 

The energy industry obviously opposes the bill.

 

The London Guardian noted that since 2014, Colorado has experienced just one earthquake linked to wastewater disposal, in the heavily drilled Weld County.

 

The report said critics were describing Salazar’s plan as “unscientific” and warning its language “would put the energy industry on the hook for any earthquake unless they can prove themselves innocent.”

 

Nick Adams’ book, “The American Boomerang: How The World’s Greatest Turnaround Nation Will Do It Again,” is endorsed by the likes of Dr. Ben Carson, Glenn Beck, Dick Morris, Gov. Mike Huckabee and Dennis Prager

 

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