GarCo stance on air quality rules debated

Several Garfield County residents on Monday called on county commissioners to toughen their stance on proposed new state rules regarding air pollution from oil and gas development.

The state Air Quality Control Commission is scheduled to consider stricter rules late next month.

County commissioners have questioned the costs versus benefits of taking a statewide, blanket approach to emissions limits when problems with ozone are mostly limited to the Front Range.

Kirby Wynn, the county’s oil and gas liaison, told commissioners Monday that the state air-quality regulators are telling him the county has never had an issue in terms of approaching violation levels for ozone.

He also said levels of oil and gas air pollutants such as benzene have decreased since 2008. Wynn said that according to the state, the decreases have not been because of the slowdown in drilling, since they involve sources that stay in place for decades, but instead have been because of industry advances in technology and regulations that already have been implemented.

“It’s just good to see that there’s been some positive effect,” he said.

But Bob Arrington of Battlement Mesa said that although ozone levels in the county haven’t exceeded the federal 75 parts-per-billion threshold regularly enough to put it in violation, ozone has been above that level. He also noted that consideration is being given to reducing that threshold, which some other counties have set at 65 ppb or less.

Leslie Robinson, president of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said it’s better to address the problem before it reaches the point where an auto emissions inspection program is required.

Robinson also said that even if the county isn’t in violation, its oil and gas emissions can contribute to problems elsewhere.

“We would like to remind you that air knows no boundaries,” she said.

Arrington also questioned whether air pollution is actually decreasing in the county, pointing to what he said are visible clouds of pollutants in the western part of the county.

“It is not the same as it was when I used to go fishing up here by a long shot,” said Arrington, who’s now a retiree.

County commissioners are still planning to work on more detailed comments on the proposed rules. Meanwhile, Commissioner Mike Samson said commissioners are concerned about air quality and have spent a lot of money monitoring pollution. And Commissioner Tom Jankovsky pointed to the benefit that has resulted from the increasing use of natural gas rather than coal in power plants.

“This industry has provided huge improvements to the quality of air in this nation,” he said.


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