State panel nixes testimony on chemical exposure
DENVER ” A nurse who says she became gravely ill after treating a gas-field worker wanted to tell her story to a panel considering new state oil and gas regulations, but was prevented after industry representatives objected.
Cathy Behr, a nurse at Mercy Regional Medial Center in Durango, said she fell ill in April after helping the man, who was soaked in unknown chemicals.
She wanted to share her experience this week with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which is holding hearings on a proposed overhaul of how oil and gas is regulated.
But the commission voted 5-4 against letting Behr testify because her name was added late to the witness list.
Durango attorney Tom Dugan, representing industry trade groups and Halliburton, said she shouldn’t be allowed to testify because industry officials didn’t have time to prepare a response.
Among the proposed rules the commission is considering is one that would require oil and gas companies to keep an inventory of the chemicals they use and disclose to the state what the chemicals are.
Some of that information is available in safety data required by the federal government at well sites, but companies have resisted mandatory reporting because of concerns about proprietary information.
Behr told The Durango Herald that she ran into that problem when doctors treating her tried to find out what chemicals the gas-field worker had been working with.
At the time, she was suffering from liver, heart and lung failure in the intensive care unit.
The supervisor of the sick worker who showed up at Mercy’s emergency room gave doctors a Materials Safety Data Sheet, the federally required paperwork, to the medical staff.
But the sheet didn’t have enough detailed information, Behr said.
She said the doctor guessed at how to treat her.
“It was the right guess, because slowly I started getting better,” she said.
Oil and gas companies use sand, water and other material and chemicals in drilling and other operations. Companies also use chemicals in hydraulic fracturing, or “frac’ing,” to crack open tight sands underground and make it easier to recover oil and gas.
Other chemicals are used to reduce friction.
During the commission hearing Wednesday, Dale Davis of Halliburton said the company protects its frac-fluid formula because it boosts production by 20 percent to 30 percent.
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