Colorado lawmaker wants oil, gas companies to pay for quake damage caused by drilling

Rep. Joseph Salazar says he is being proactive

THORNTON, Colo. - A Colorado lawmaker wants oil and gas companies to pay for any property loss or damage caused by drilling activities – including earthquakes.

"What we're seeing is that fracking activities have been definitively linked to earthquakes," said Rep. Joseph Salazar, D-Thornton. “This bill proposes exactly what is proposed with every other industry — that they are held liable and responsible for their activities if it results in personal injury or property damage as a result of their activities.”

Salazar is taking a stand after people in his district found out about a plan for a 15- to 20-well drilling operation in their neighborhood.

But the bill is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate, where opponents say there are already protections in place.

RELATED: Earthquakes linked to fracking; new guidelines set up for drilling states

"I just don’t see the need of this,” said Sen. John Cooke. “It’s not good for rural Colorado, and it’s not good for Colorado’s economy.”

Cooke also questioned whether the science definitively shows a link between drilling operations and earthquakes.

“Until I can see absolutely scientific proof, I don’t think it’s responsible to hold private business responsible for Mother Nature,” said Cooke.

Seismologists at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center said there have been a few cases where fracking is linked to earthquakes, but there is a stronger connection between wastewater injection sites, often used in drilling operations.

“It is possible to have a link between an earthquake and pumping of deep water fluid, but it’s very hard to link a specific earthquake to a specific well,” said Paul Earle, a seismologist with the USGS. “But it can be done if you have good monitoring of both the injection and the earthquakes in the region.”

Salazar said the bottom line is that the oil industry needs to be held accountable.

"I guess the message to the industry is do it safer, do it smarter,” said Salazar. ” And I will keep proposing this until it passes."

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