Counties with air quality problems oppose new rules

by Bob Arrington, Battlement Concerned Citizens and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance

To whom it may concern (and it should be everybody),

I have been working with the data for the State Air Quality hearings and new rules. Here is what is happening:

Clean air is a resource that is every American’s right. There is no provision that the oil & gas industry or any other can pollute up to set standards. If the technology and management practice allows control of emissions, they must be used and can be required by regulations.

Everyone learns as a child that there are no man-made laws or political bounds on where air and wind will flow, only the forces of nature will prevail. Because of this, people work and agree together on limiting the amount of atmospheric emission of pollutants. What is made in Utah (or even China) affects the western slope of Colorado, and what western Colorado makes affects the eastern slope and Kansas and beyond.

A marker of this pollution is ozone, which is created when Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) mix with Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) and are subject to Ultra Violet light (UV). VOC + NOX + UV = O3 or ozone.

Other emissions involve, among others:

  • Methane that is 36 times as bad as CO2 as greenhouse gas.
  • Benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, methanol, acrolein, acetaldehyde, toluene, xylene and hexanes are among the hazardous pollutants released in the VOC’s.

Garfield County is the highest in the state in terms of these hazardous emissions followed by Rio Blanco County.

Ozone damages people, animals, plants, and material items. With a value over 75 parts per billion (ppb) of ozone in a prescribed time and sampling, an area garners a “non-attainment” classification, resulting in such things as vehicle emission programs, burning restrictions, and other mandated warnings or restrictions.

Rangely, Colorado, reached non-attainment of 75 ppb and, as many were quick to point out, “It’s Utah’s fault!” without ever mentioning the contribution made by local oil and gas development in the area.

Rio Blanco County has a problem.

Likewise, Utah contributes to Grand Junction’s levels and Grand Junction contributes to its own problems. But if you track up through Colbran to the divide of 300 and 300 E. Rd., and check the ozone readings, you find higher readings than Grand Junction. The pattern shows increases in levels from Saddle Horn Campground to Palisade Water Plant to 300 Road, the latter two having spikes going above the 75 ppb standard.

Mesa County has a problem.

Garfield County touts its readings of below 75 ppb in Rifle (even with spikes as high as 78 ppb), but for some reason also ignores Dry Hollow in the Silt area, which went to 77 ppb before monitoring stopped in 2008. Garfield seemingly didn’t look at Sunlight and Spring Valley monitoring - Sunlight spiking to 86 ppb in 2010 and many spikes from 75 to 82 ppb in 2011 before monitoring ended. And, Spring Valley had a spike to 75 in 2010 and spikes to 76  in 2011 before monitoring ended. Meanwhile, in the “pristine” Flat Top Wilderness Area of Rd 8a over Ripple Creek Pass in 2007, readings hit 75 ppb and matched Rifle in 2010 and 2011. There were only three summer sample periods.

Garfield County has a problem.

The unwitting participant, as far as oil and gas development goes, is Pitkin County. Aspen airport had summer 2010 and 2011 readings slightly less than Rifle in the same period. Aspen Mountain didn’t fare that well. Up under the upper lift terminals, the readings spiked to 76 ppb in 2008 and ran peaking close to 70 ppb and going up to 75 ppb spikes in 2012. But it seems Pitkin may really be furnishing the NOX lacking from the Thompson Divide and Divide Creek VOC sources with help from Mesa County’s background ozone. Higher elevations may expedite ozone formation with higher UV levels and snow reflectivity.

Pitkin County has a problem.

Yet 3 out of 4 of these counties do not feel they have a problem because they are considering speaking against the Air Quality rule that would that would address the greatest contributing source of these unnecessary emissions.  A rule, which three companies (EnCana, Noble, and Anadarko) have found has economic benefit and so endorsed its enactment.

How do you feel about the air you will have to breathe?

Bob Arrington, P.E.


Comments are closed.