DENVER - Gov. John Hickenlooper said media outlets took him out of context when he told a U.S. Senate committee this week that he drank hydraulic fracturing fluid.
The comments struck a nerve with environmentalists, who have become increasingly frustrated with the governor for - in their eyes - ignoring the potential pollution from the widely used technique of extracting gas and oil.
Hickenlooper testified Tuesday to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources about Colorado's regulation and promotion of natural gas. He repeated a story he has told often in Colorado about meeting with Halliburton executives over a rule to require companies to disclose the chemical makeup of their frack fluids.
"We sat down with executives from Halliburton. They have a frack fluid that's made out of food additives. You can drink it. We did drink it around the table, almost ritual-like, in a funny way," Hickenlooper said.
He went on to say that Colorado wrote its rules to protect Halliburton's intellectual property.
"If we were overly zealous in forcing them to disclose what they created, they wouldn't bring it into our state," Hickenlooper said.
The comment drew fire from Conservation Colorado.
"We're astounded that Gov. Hickenlooper would use a national platform to give the impression that frack fluid is safe for public health. The industry has a track record of misleading the public about the fact that its fracking fluid contains numerous toxic chemicals," said Carrie Curtiss, the group's deputy director, in a news release.
Hickenlooper defended his testimony Thursday, saying news reports ignored the context of the discussion on intellectual property.
"It wasn't intended as a political statement. It was intended as a description of the honest efforts the industry's trying to make to have an industrial fluid that is totally harmless to the environment," the governor told reporters.
Halliburton is not using the safe-to-drink frack fluid right now because it's too expensive, he said Thursday.
"I don't think there's any frack fluid right now that I'm aware of that people are using commercially that you want to drink," Hickenlooper said.
Video from his testimony shows Hickenlooper did not mention that the safe frack fluid was not being used in Colorado because of cost.