Colorado Senator Defends Fracking, Says 'Burning Water' Helped Native Americans

Equipment used for the extraction of natural gas is viewed at a hydraulic fracturing site on June 19, 2012 in South Montrose, Pennsylvania. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, stimulates gas production by injecting wells with high volumes of chemical-laced water in order to free-up pockets of natural gas below. The process is controversial with critics saying it could poison water supplies, while the natural-gas industry says it's been used safely for decades. While New York State has yet to decide whether to allow franking, Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering whether to allow limited franking for communities along the pennsylvania border that want it. Economically struggling Binghamton had passed a drilling ban which prohibits any exploration or extraction of natural gas in the city for the next two years. The Marcellus Shale Gas Feld extends through parts of New York State, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia and could hold up to 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.   (National Journal)

A Colorado state legislator has dismissed concerns about hydraulic fracturing polluting water with methane as "propaganda," saying that it's natural to have methane in water.

In fact, state Sen. Randy Baumgardner said that methane actually helped Native Americans.

"If you go back in history and look at how the Indians traveled, they traveled to the burning waters," Baumgardner said in a video posted by the site Right Wing Watch. "And that was methane in the waters and that was for warmth in the wintertime. So a lot of people, if they just trace back the history, they'll know how a lot of this is propaganda."

The comments were made in an interview for the program "Pray in Jesus Name," which is run by former Navy chaplain and state House candidate Gordon Klingenschmitt at the Western Conservative Summit.

In a follow-up email, Baumgardner said that he was referring to "hot springs," which he said his grandmother called "burning waters." The bacteria in the geothermally heated hot springs can produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas, but the natural phenomenon is different from the potential to have methane from a gas well pollute a water source.

While some methane does occur naturally in groundwater, there have long been concerns that natural-gas production will pollute ground- and drinking-water sources with the gas. A study from Duke University last June found that drinking-water wells near natural-gas sites in Pennsylvania and New York were more likely to show elevated levels of methane.

The documentary Gasland built on those concerns with a famous scene where Colorado residents lit their tap water on fire (critics of the film have said that the methane at those water sources was naturally occurring).

Baumgardner has served in the state Senate since 2012 and served four years in the state House. He led an unsuccessful bid to defeat incumbent Mark Udall, a Democrat, in the U.S. Senate race, but failed to win the Republican nomination over Rep. Cory Gardner. In an interview with The Denver Post, he acknowledged that he was an underdog in the race.

Watch Baumgardner's comments here: