Madeleine Smith: Fracking differences West to East: Colorado versus Pennsylvania

Colorado, Pennsylvania and other states have made strides in trying to regulate fracking on private and public lands through taxation, chemical disclosure and drilling site inspections to avoid environmental and water contamination, as well as create more transparency for the public.

The biggest struggle for states has been creating and enforcing policies that not only benefit the economy and industry, but also comply with citizens’ safety concerns.  Federal regulations are beginning to seem more and more outdated and inconsistent, creating turmoil as to how states should be regulating to protect everyone.  Regulation at the state level often involves more detailed and stringent rules that those proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), especially in areas where fracking affects more densely populated areas such as Boulder, Colorado, and the many towns in the Marcellus Shale play in Pennsylvania.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and the Office of Oil and Gas Management in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection are two of the primary regulators at the state level, but power is spread over a number of different organizations, which compounds the complications of fracking regulation. 

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission works to maintain balanced regulation and attempts to connect all parties affected by fracking under common, fair guidelines consistent with local, state and federal regulations.  Colorado has been ranked in the top 10 oil and gas producing states for decades, but the state’s traditionally “green” mindset has raised a call by many citizens to stop or at least curb fracking activity (Wittmeyer, 2013). Pennsylvania’s Office of Oil and Gas Management boasts a similar mission but is much more focused on making information, resources and reports available for public use rather than acting as a central control center for all regulators.

The Pennsylvania Office of Oil and Gas Management is extremely effective at providing a plethora of information in an organized manner while finding information from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation is much more difficult.  The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), a nationally recognized trade association, is the main source of public information in Colorado.  Between Colorado and Pennsylvania, the hierarchy of command within the state is extremely different.  These inconsistencies in delegating regulatory responsibility serve as a primary roadblock in creating an efficient enforcement model for fracking.