Fracking primer: State seeks to address uproar over drilling process

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Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" -- pumping massive amounts of water mixed with toxic chemicals into tight formations to extract oil and gas -- remains a sore subject among environmentalists, neighbors of drilling rigs and some lawmakers, even as energy industry boosters insist it's safe.

Don't believe any of the above? Then how about the regulators?

Colorado has lagged behind other states (even Wyoming), in getting a handle on the growing use of fracking and requiring companies to disclose the chemicals found in the heady brew they pump into the ground. But the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, mindful of the "increasing public interest during the past year" in the practice, has decided to provide an online storehouse of info about fracking and links to other sites here.

Along with the standard Frequently Asked Questions sort of material, you'll find the COGCC's rebuttal to the activist documentary Gasland (which featured some Colorado homeowners whose water supply was contaminated with methane gas); a summary of a recent state investigation into the use of diesel fuel in fracking; some helpful Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management links; Halliburton's recipe for its fracking operations in Colorado; and more.

All of this isn't easy to digest, but it's worth a plunge if you have any interest in the future health of the state's water supply. According to the COGCC's own data, Colorado continues to lead the region in drilling starts, with 608 news wells started in the first quarter of 2011, up 15 percent from 2010. That sounds like a lot of potential for surface accidents and possible contamination of groundwater -- but what the frack do we know? Follow the links and see what you think.

More from our Politics archive: "Gas-drilling oversight bill killed by the House: What's the fracking point?"

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