Colorado congressman embroiled in fracking dispute

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm •  Published: August 22, 2013
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DENVER (AP) — A Colorado congressman who complained about a fracking rig next to his vacation property says he got no preferential treatment from state regulators who fined the drilling company.

In fact, Democratic Rep. Jared Polis says the $26,000 fine for improper drilling near his northern Colorado land wasn't steep enough.

Polis discovered a drilling operation on property next to his vacation retreat last month. Polis has long voiced concerns about the public health impact of the drilling procedure known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and he filed a lawsuit against the producer, Sundance Energy. Polis said the drilling rig was too tall and too close to his land, among other complaints.

Polis later withdrew his lawsuit, telling supporters in an email that "the rules are biased toward the oil and gas industry." But he did file a complaint with Colorado's Oil & Gas Conservation Commission by Aug. 6. Just two weeks later, the agency fined Sundance $26,000 and ordered it to meet with Polis to talk about reducing noise and dust.

In an interview Thursday, Polis told The Associated Press the fine was "just a slap on the wrist" given the potential financial rewards from what he called an illegally placed well.

"What's to stop them from drilling anywhere if all they face is a $26,000 fine?" Polis said. "You're up against a Goliath, and as a homeowner you don't have a lot of options."

Sundance Energy didn't return messages seeking comment Thursday.

Colorado officials insist the Polis case wasn't expedited because he is a member of Congress.

Todd Hartman, a spokesman with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said all citizen complaints about oil and natural gas drilling are "top priority" and are investigated within 24 to 48 hours. He called the Polis case "pretty cut-and-dried, with a straightforward set of facts."