Garfield backs short-term air-quality study by EPA

A week after cutting short a health-impact study of proposed drilling in Battlement Mesa, the Garfield County Commission decided to back a more focused look at how air pollution from oil and gas drilling operations might affect that community and other gas-patch residents.

Commissioners voted 2–1 Monday to endorse a state Department of Public Health and Environment application for $500,000 to $750,000 in Environmental Protection Agency funding to evaluate short-term risks of emissions from well pads and related trucking operations.

Commissioner Mike Samson said he thought it would be wise to participate “so that we can get a better monitoring of the air because that’s one of the things that seems to be a little lacking and needs a little more work.”

Commissioners last week decided to end in its draft stage a study of potential impacts of a plan by Antero Resources to drill as many as 200 wells at Battlement Mesa. Commissioners were concerned the study was dragging on, becoming politicized and incurring increasing costs, but its findings to date still will be considered in addressing possible drilling impacts there. Still, Samson said, commissioners are taking “a lot of heat” over the decision.

That study, by the Colorado School of Public Health, preliminarily concluded residents would likely be affected by air pollution from well development, among other impacts.

Garfield County Public Health staff say the study now being proposed would address a gap by focusing on short-term risks rather than long-term air quality.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he supports the idea of getting better data about how emissions from well pads disperse and might affect air quality at Battlement Mesa. He said his only concern about the new study is whether the School of Public Health, which would be a partner in it, could participate in an unbiased way. The health impact study drew industry criticism over some of its conclusions and recommendations.

Jim Rada, the county’s environmental health manager, said the state Health Department’s oversight would ensure an unbiased result.

Commissioner John Martin said if another study is needed, the EPA should do it.

“If it’s their responsibility, we should insist that they do it without this grant process,” he said. “… That’s their job, not our job to monitor it and then tell ‘em what we found.”

But he said he wouldn’t oppose the grant’s requirement that Rada help in the study if it goes forward.


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