Citizen groups: Tighten air standards near homes
Several Western Slope and Front Range citizen groups have formally called on the state to tighten proposed oil and gas air pollution rules through specific protections near homes.
The groups make their request to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission as it prepares for a Feb. 19-21 hearing on the proposed rules. The proposal would make Colorado the first state to specifically seek to limit emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in oil and gas operations.
The groups say in their letter that the proposed rules address global air-quality concerns related to climate change, and regional air quality through volatile organic compound reductions to limit ground-level ozone.
But they add, “The draft regulations fail to address the most pressing concern for the families living closest to the oil and gas development: toxic releases and their potential to harm the health of nearby residents.”
They are urging the commission to require any oil and gas facility within a quarter-mile of buildings or outdoor activity areas to limit VOCs to two tons per year, undergo more frequent inspections, and be required to make faster repairs in the case of major leaks.
“When they’re getting closer to people or areas where people congregate or any of those types of things, they need to step it up even more,” said Battlement Mesa resident Bob Arrington, who helped prepare the citizen group comments.
In crafting new drilling setback rules, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission recently decided oil and gas companies can operate closer to homes if they mitigate more impacts. The same thinking should apply for air pollution, said Arrington, who is concerned about emissions from drilling near Battlement Mesa.
The Western Colorado Congress, Citizens for Clean Air, the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, Weld Air and Water, the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley and the Paonia-based Western Slope Conservation Center submitted the comments.
The Colorado Petroleum Association and the Colorado Oil & Gas Association say they support aspects of the proposal but they contend the state has underestimated the cost of compliance. They and Garfield County also are questioning the idea of uniform statewide rules, when rural Colorado doesn’t generally face the ozone problem the Front Range does.
But Arrington said statewide rules are warranted, and said Garfield County ranks at the top statewide in the terms of the amount of emissions of many hazardous air pollutants specifically from oil and gas operations.
“It goes back to that old thing, the air doesn’t abide by fences. It goes where it wants to go. Once you put that pollution in the air it’s going to affect someplace,” he said.