As Americans prepare to kick back, honor our troops and begin the unofficial start of summer, one group is saying energy production is making it harder to enjoy Memorial Day.

A report by the Bull Moose Sportsman Alliance says the number of oil spills and gas leaks in Colorado has made it harder for sportsmen to enjoy the great outdoors during long weekends. Hunting and angling a way of life in Colorado, and it is also a key part of the state’s economy. “Annual spending by Colorado sportsmen is 2.5 times more than the combined revenues of the Colorado Rockies, the Denver Broncos and the Denver Nuggets ($1.2 billion vs. $463 million), according to a study conducted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.”

So what's the biggest threat to one of Colorado's biggest draws? The following statistics explain the cost of spills from oil and gas production.

More than 1,000 spills in 10 years

Oil and gas companies operating in Garfield, Rio Blanco and Mesa counties in northwest Colorado have reported nearly 1,000 spills that released about 5.6 million gallons of wastewater, oil and other fluids and chemicals from 2001 to 2010, an analysis of state oil and gas spill data reveals. Less than half of the spilled fluids during that 10-year period were recovered. The analysis also reveals that groundwater and surface water have been tainted in at least 77 separate spills in the three counties.


More than 5 million gallons spilled

The Bull Moose report says that in Colorado's Garfield County, the total amount of fluids spilled was about 3.5 million gallons. Of that, 1.5 million gallons were recovered, leaving 1.9 million gallons unrecovered. In Rio Blanco County, more than 2 million gallons of fluids have been spilled with 1.4 million recovered, leaving half a million gallons unrecovered. In Mesa County, there have been about 130,000 gallons of fluids spilled during the last 10 years, with 113,736 recovered and 16, 464 unrecovered.

What’s being spilled

The three counties mentioned in the study saw huge amounts of water spilled and alarming amounts of oil spilled. More than 5 million gallons of water — an incredibly precious resource in the West — has been jettisoned since 2001. Garfield County, where a lot of hydraulic fracturing takes place, lost more than 3 million gallons, while Rio Blanco and Mesa County combine to lose about 2 million gallons.

The cause

Most of these failures are due to either human error or equipment failures, according to the report. In Rio Blanco County, two thirds of spills are caused by equipment failures. In Garfield County, human failure accounts for about a third of spills, and equipment failures are about even with that figure. The numbers are lower in Mesa County.

So for those out West planning to hunt and fish over the long weekend, perhaps they should think twice about how what they catch or hunt might be affected by these spills. After all, all that stuff has to go somewhere.

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