Historic air regs proposed for Colorado

by Frank Smith, WCC Director of Organizing

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) has proposed rules that would reduce emissions from oil & gas operations and facilities, ranging from well-head and pipeline to storage tanks and compressors.

Proposed rules would reduce smog-causing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) by roughly 92,000 tons/year, and capture leaking methane that is a potent greenhouse gas.

If passed, Colorado would be the first in the nation to regulate oil & gas development for both climate-contributing and ozone-forming gases.

Speak up for Clean Air!

Join other WCC members on February 19-21, as we travel to Aurora for the AQCC’s hearings on the proposed new rules.  February 19th is a Citizen Comment Day!  You may attend in-person, call in or write. To RSVP for WCC’s trip, or for more info, contact Frank Smith at (970) 256-7650 or [email protected]

The primary health risk when living near oil & gas is exposure to toxic fumes and localized air pollution. In fact, studies in Colorado have found oil & gas development responsible for increased levels of benzene and other air toxics.

The new rules are good news for places in western Colorado where we have frequent winter inversions and a “brown cloud” over some valleys. Places like Mesa County’s Grand Valley have seen the brown clouds settle for weeks at a time, resulting in unhealthy conditions.

Ozone pollution causes respiratory problems (shortness of breath, wheezing, congestion) and can even lead to premature death after prolonged exposure. Further, high levels of ozone have been connected to agricultural production loss by federal experts.

If that’s not enough, new air quality rules make economic sense.  Three companies already support the proposed rules because plugging leaks keep hydrocarbons in the pipeline. Anadarko Petroleum, Encana USA and Noble Energy all support the proposal, but a group of industry representatives and five Western Slope counties (Mesa, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat and Montezuma) are working to undermine those efforts.

WCC is teaming up with folks on both sides of the Continental Divide for these critical rules. WCC members in Mesa, Garfield, Routt and Ouray Counties have gone before their local officials to either ask for support of the rules, or to hold them accountable for siding with industry above public health of their residents.

We are formal parties in the processes with Weld Air & Water, and we’re teaming-up with other great groups like Western Colorado Conservation Center, Conservation Colorado, Citizens for a Healthy Community, and the Oil & Gas Accountability Project.

We’re glad to see such steps taken but more needs to be done.  Let’s better protect people, communities and homes by increasing standards—especially if oil & gas development is allowed within a quarter-mile of people.

There needs to be more inspections to detect leaks and faster repair times.  We’re asking for a publicly available database and website to post and review inspection reports as well as violations. And finally, we’re pushing for new rules to apply across the whole state, including western Colorado.

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