Bennet, Markey Push for Support for Colorado "Produced Water"? Efforts

Byproduct of Oil and Gas Production Could Help Boost Water Supplies for Drought-Stricken Communities Letter to Salazar urges support from Interior Department to Help Fund Previously Enacted Grant Program

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Congresswoman Betsy Markey are seeking funding for local efforts to turn "produced water" into a resource that could benefit drought-stricken communities and help ease the demand for water in Colorado and the West.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Bennet and Markey urged the Secretary to allocate funding from the Interior Department's FY 2009 discretionary budget towards produced water demonstration grant projects. The lawmakers also stated a commitment to work with Congress over the coming year to acquire additional funding in FY 2010 for a grant program created under the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008.

Produced water is by far the largest volume byproduct or waste stream associated with oil and gas exploration and production. According to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, approximately 15-20 billion barrels of produced water are generated each year in the United States from nearly a million wells.

Currently, produced water is an environmental hazard and an impediment to efficient energy production, especially in the Colorado River Basin, which also faces a chronic shortage of freshwater. Reclamation of produced water for beneficial uses could help address all of these problems. Some facilities for treating produced water have proven successful, but the use of the technology is not widespread.

The full text of the Bennet-Markey letter to Interior Secretary Salazar is included below:

The Honorable Ken Salazar
Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

Re: Produced Waters Study and Grant Program

Dear Secretary Salazar:

While in the U.S. Senate, you sponsored legislation that was enacted as part of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008 (Sec. 514, Public Law 110-229), authorizing the Department of the Interior to undertake a study and demonstration grant program to facilitate the development of technology for the reclamation of water that is the byproduct of oil and gas production.

As you are keenly aware, this impaired "produced water" is not only fast becoming an impediment to the domestic production of oil and gas, but is also an environmental liability to the State of Colorado and many parts of the West. The current methods used to dispose of these impaired waters is to either inject them back into deep aquifers (a very expensive, time-consuming process) or simply release them into our sensitive streams and rivers, causing harm to fish and wildlife as well as downstream water uses.

We in the West know that water has always been scarce, and it will become even more scarce in the future given all the uncertainties and pressures on our water resources today: climate change, drought, population growth, and environmental needs.

The purpose of your broadly supported legislation was to stimulate private investment in technologies and facilities that can make produced water a valuable asset rather than an environmental liability by treating it for irrigation and other beneficial purposes.

The produced water grant program created by Congress will be an important initial step in proving that these water treatment technologies can work through targeted demonstration projects. In fact, we recently received a letter from Mr. Dick Wolfe, State Engineer, Division of Water Resources, State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources in support of our efforts to fund this grant program. A copy of the letter is enclosed.

We are committed to actively working with the Congress to find the necessary dollars in the upcoming FY 2010 appropriations process to fund demonstration project grants, and we are asking for your assistance in making a similar commitment for the current fiscal year, FY 2009. It is imperative that some funding be made available now for pre-construction planning and design work for these demonstration projects in order that they may commence construction during the coming fiscal year.

With the emphasis on job creation, economic "green" growth, and domestic energy production, especially the production of natural gas as the alternative fuel of the future to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, getting these demonstration projects on the quickest path to construction and operation is, in my opinion, consistent with the Obama Administration's economic and environmental policies. Moreover, adding much needed fresh water supplies to drought-stricken Western communities and industries would also help the Administration's efforts to revive our struggling economy and unemployment situation.

We look forward to working with you and the Obama Administration in getting the produced water demonstration grant program up and running soon to benefit our State of Colorado, the West, and the Nation as a whole.


Michael F. Bennet. United States Senator

Betsy Markey, United States Representative (CO-4)