Denver’s Fox 31 wants you to believe that (a) Colorado isn’t doing enough to monitor energy development and that (b) the TV station had a hard time working with WPX.
Neither point is true. We’ll expose the inconvenient facts that were ignored or missed. Either way, in their own words they “dug deep for months” and still didn’t get it right.
Fox reported that “companies like WPX only have a 10% chance of being inspected in a given year.” Let’s look at the numbers.
In 2015, WPX’s operations in Colorado were inspected by state regulators roughly 1,500 times. That’s right, 1,500.
That equates to four inspections every single day of the year. Put another way, at least one of our sites was inspected every two hours during a typical work day.
The director of the state’s primary oil/gas enforcement agency is on the record saying just about the same thing.
In a print interview published on Oct. 23, COGCC Director Matt Lepore said that “thanks to the increased authority and budget coming out of 2014 task force changes, the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission has more than doubled its enforcement staff.”
In the news coverage, “he said that the COGCC inspected 30,000 wells last year, and generally can inspect wells at least once every 15 months,” adding that “I don’t feel like there are dark things going unseen.”
To us, that’s closer to a 100% chance of being inspected, not 10%. Let the record note that we provided Mr. Lepore’s comments to Fox.
But those facts were contrary to the story Fox wanted to tell, so they relied solely on remarks from a different state agency (the CDPHE) that covers all industries in Colorado, not just oil and gas like the state’s primary enforcement arm, the COGCC.
Lepore’s reference to 2014 is critical, too. That’s when the state (a) increased maximum fines by not just double, triple or quadruple, but 15 times higher (b) gave regulators authority to revoke permits and (c) doubled the number of enforcement staff.
That info is hiding in plain site via (a) state records (b) media coverage and (c) content we provided to the station. In fact, here’s one of the hits on our first Google search. Just because Fox’s Problem Solver Joe St. George was working in a different media market in 2014 doesn’t make the omission excusable.
Fox’s story highlighted a desire to “start a conversation” about oil and gas.
Actually, WPX has had thousands of conversations in Colorado about natural resources via the tours we’ve given to schools, environmental groups and basically anyone who asked.
In 2007, we also founded an organization on the Western Slope called Community Counts that fosters open lines of communication between residents and operators.
We were first contacted by Fox on Wednesday, Sept. 7. We responded the next morning via email, saying, “We’ll be happy to talk with you about your story over the phone today and answer any questions you have.”
We then had a series of conversations by phone and email over the next six weeks. And yes, we tried to talk in-person, too, but when a schedule conflict arose we offered to do a taped phone interview instead. Preferable? Of course not. Still accessible? Completely.
Unbeknownst to WPX, Fox had already sought out media credentials to a technical conference in Denver where a WPX employee from North Dakota was going to speak. This happened three days before we informed them about our need to do a “phoner.”
We also learned that Fox asked for those credentials to the event to “talk with companies about their water technology and why it’s important.”
According to first-hand accounts, only one thing happened. Our North Dakota employee was ambushed by a camera and a microphone – an employee whose presentation highlighted that he had worked in Pennsylvania and North Dakota, not Colorado.
No notice. No time to allow our person to prepare. No request to WPX’s press office to speak with an employee (like every other media outlet does). Just the evidence of a tactic widely criticized and denounced within most media circles.
Mere hours later, Fox conducted the regularly-scheduled phone interview with WPX’s spokesman, never making mention of the ambush interview. Wonder why.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Fox, to no surprise, emphasized some of our imperfections, including a recent $99,000 fine for housekeeping items we fixed to prevent erosion, the height of berms, the placement of hay bales and to prevent mud from tracking on a county road.
But like Paul Harvey says, what about the rest of the story? For starters, we always care about doing the right thing. Compliance is everyone’s job at WPX. As we say in our core values: if we miss the mark, we’ll learn from it and get better.
Second, the story mentioned spills, but didn’t tell you how many hundreds of millions of gallons we keep safe and secure in our systems (even though we provided those stats, too). Our success rate for keeping water and fluids where they’re supposed to be – in pipes, tanks, equipment and trucks – averaged 99.9% in Colorado.
Third, we’re doing a lot right. Federal officials, state regulators and trade groups have publicly praised our innovations, best practices and environmental protection measures in Colorado roughly two dozen times. See for yourself.
But the last word here deserves to go to our neighbors and landowners who worked with us for years in Colorado. You can see and hear their stories in these videos: