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CO Hunting, Fishing Lands Threatened by Oil & Gas Spills

May 31, 2011

BOULDER, Colo. - People may commonly think oil and gas spills only happen off coastlines, but a new report finds that Colorado's Piceance Basin averages about 100 spills every year. The state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission says most of the spills are relatively small, but the analysis from The Bull Moose Sportsmen's Alliance (BMSA), which looked at Garfield, Rio Blanca and Mesa counties, found that 5.6 million gallons of oil and gas fluids were spilled in that region over the last 10 years, raising concerns about the effect on wildlife-related tourism.

Gaspar Perricone of the Alliance says many of the spills were caused by faulty equipment, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is taking steps to improve federal leasing policies.

"That'll hold the industry to a standard that limits the amount of spills and is addressed in a way that will have the ultimate impact of reducing the number from what we've seen over the last decade."

Perricone says the region, prized by hunters and anglers, is home to Colorado's cutthroat trout and the two largest elk herds in America. According to the report, hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related activities support more than 34,000 full-time jobs in Colorado, while generating $3 billion worth of economic activity a year.

Perricone would like to see a balance between the needs of the energy industry and those of hunters and anglers.

"This can be done in parallel, and energy production certainly needs to be taken into consideration when we consider the use of all of our lands. We need to make sure we consider both of the interests as we move forward in the development of our natural resources."

The study analyzed oil and gas company spill reports submitted to the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2001 to 2010.

The BMSA report can be found at bit.ly/mn7yKJ

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO