Fracking in Colorado

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Energy production in Colorado looks differently than it did 153 years ago. The advent of environmental regulations, coupled with the oil and natural gas industry’s investment in technology, have moved Colorado to the forefront of responsible energy production.

Boulder Oil Field: Pre-Fracking

Oil was first discovered in Colorado near Canon City in 1860.  In 1901, Boulder became home to one of Colorado’s first “gushers,” where more than 200 wells were drilled without the benefit of today’s stringent environmental regulations.

Today, much of that oil field includes the Boulder Reservoir, open space, upscale development, and the McKenzie Well site, which has been designated a national historic landmark. The discovery of oil in Boulder helped put this prominent town on the map, sparking its growth and the eventual establishment of the University of Colorado, one of Colorado’s top research and teaching universities.  (Source: National Register of Historic Places)

Fracking: Putting Colorado on the Path toResponsible Energy Development

In the late 1940s energy producers began fracking oil and natural gas wells in Colorado.  Since then fracking has become a commonly used process. To date, more than 1.2 million wells have been fracked across the United States and 90% of oil and natural gas wells are now fracked during their lifespan.

Yet, fracking looks different than it did in the 1940s. Stringent state and federal regulations and advancements in fracking technology and horizontal drilling have increased energy production to a historic high while decreasing environmental impact.

Advances in Fracking Technology

Advances in Fracking Technology Have Lead To:

  • Significantly Decreased Surface Area: The average well site today is 30% smaller than it was in 1970 and can access up to 60 times more below-ground area.
  • Fewer Wells and More Energy: Today, oil and natural gas companies can access roughly 10 times the amount of energy from one-tenth of the number of wells that they could in the past.
  • Reduced Air Emissions: Modern day oil and natural gas rigs are more efficient and now run on clean-burning natural gas. This is just one of the many ways fracking has helped lower carbon emissions to nearly 20-year lows. (Source: President Obama, June 25, 2013)


Cooperation between Colorado state and local leaders has led to some of the strictest environmental regulations in the United States.

  • First-in-Nation Methane Regulations.  In February, the oil and natural gas industry, environmental groups and the Hickenlooper Administration teamed up to pass the strictest air quality regulations in the nation. Once implemented, these regulations that will reduce emissions by more than 60,000 tons a year. (, 2014)
  • Transparency. Before drilling, oil and natural gas companies are required to work with local governments and nearby residents to ensure their energy and environmental needs are met and address any concerns.
  • What’s in Fracking Fluid? The COGCC requires producers disclose fracking fluid’s contents on  Any trade secrets that are withheld must be submitted to the COGCC and emergency professionals so they can address potential spills or contamination.
  • Strong Wells. State law requires that each individual well be encased in several separate layers of steel and cement to ensure that fracking fluid does not penetrate past the wellbore into our drinking water sources.
  • Mandatory Groundwater Program. Colorado was the first state to require pre and post-drilling water sampling. (COGCC, 2013)
  • Reclamation. Colorado regulations require that oil and natural gas producers restore land to its pre-drilling condition.

A More Vibrant Economy


The oil and natural gas industry has helped drive Colorado’s economy for over 60 years. According to the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder, in 2012 alone, Colorado’s oil and natural gas industry supported:

  • $29.6 billion in economic activity in Colorado.
  • $1.6 billion in tax revenues for things like schools, law enforcement, first responders, parks, roads, bridges and infrastructure.
  • 110,000 Colorado jobs to the state.
  • $81.5 million in severance tax revenue to the Department of Natural Resources to help protect wildlife and forestry and conserve water.


Fracking helps keep Colorado’s energy prices approximately 23% below the national average and saves households $1,200 per a year. By 2015, analysts project consumer energy savings will grow to more than $3,000 per year. (EIA, 2014, IHS, 2013)


The University of Colorado at Boulder Leeds School of Business predicts that a statewide ban on fracking would eliminate an estimated 68,000 Colorado jobs and $567 million in yearly tax revenue in the first five years. And over 25 years we would lose:

  • 93,000 jobs
  • $985 million in yearly tax revenue
  • $316 billion in GDP
  • $1,250 in annual per capita income


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