Saturday, September 28, 2013

After the floods in Colorado, a deluge of worry about leaking oil

Jack Healy in the New York Times: When floodwaters surged into Colorado’s drilling center, they swamped wells, broke pipes and swept huge oil tanks off their foundations. The state has counted a dozen “notable” spills stemming from the catastrophic floods this month.

 Now, as the waters drain east and regulators move to assess the environmental toll, the sight of drowning oil wells has inflamed the emotional debate over the West’s new resource rush. It is a familiar argument here in a state where oil wells dot farmers’ fields and ragged peaks still bear the scars of century-old gold and silver mines.

 There are about 20,000 oil and gas wells across Weld County, and about 1,900 of them had to be closed off — “shut in” in industry parlance — as the floodwaters coursed down from the mountains and spread out across the plains, inundating entire communities.

 Images of toppled oil tanks and dark sheens on the water created impressions of an environmental calamity, but state officials say the damage appears to be limited. About 37,380 gallons have spilled so far — an amount, energy officials point out, that would fill up about five percent of an Olympic-size swimming pool...

Sandbags for the Colorado flood, with the Colorado National Guard helping. Photo by Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares, public domain

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