Air quality group petitions BLM for drilling standards

The Bureau of Land Management should require the best-available technology on drilling in Mesa County, a Grand Valley organization says.

Citizens for Clean Air turned in a petition calling on the agency to include high-level requirements as the agency considers how best to manage the 1.2 million acres of lands it administers.

If the BLM fails to require the best-available technology in the exploration and production process, it will contribute to worsening air quality in the Grand Valley, Charles Kerr, a member of Citizens for Clean air, said as the organization turned in a petition with 393 signatures.

The agency is proposing adaptive management for air quality in the once-every-two-decades rewrite of its resource management plan.

“I would call it wait and see,” Kerr said.

The BLM describes adaptive management as management “in which decisions are made as part of an ongoing science-based process” that involves testing, monitoring, and evaluating applied strategies resulting in improved management policy and practices.

BLM should move quickly to require energy companies to use modern diesel engines to drive drill bits into the earth in search of oil and natural gas, as well as monitor the network of pipes and joints and other equipment, Kerr said.

Oil and gas companies such as Encana Corp., WPX Energy and British Petroleum already employ a variety of techniques to capture what are known as fugitive emissions — and have saved millions of dollars in the process — Kerr said.

Other operators, however, don’t have modern equipment or are unwilling to invest in it, Kerr said.

That’s where the BLM “should make it a requirement near where people live,” he said.

In any case, higher standards are needed to prevent the degradation of the air in the Grand Valley to the point that it violates standards for ozone and particulate matter.

In addition to the 1 million acres it manages in Mesa, Delta and Garfield counties, the agency also manages minerals that lie below land administered by the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.


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