Western Slope residents must fight state Air Quality Control Commission

By Ray Scott

Western Colorado’s energy- producing counties are never ones to avoid a fight. And join a fight they did this month, by acquiring party status in Colorado’s latest round of Denver-based oil and gas regulations.

When the governor’s Air Quality Control Commission visited Grand Junction last summer to hear from our community about air quality, the members of the commission clearly didn’t bother to listen. And why would they? When eight of the nine air commissioners share a Denver area zip code, it results in a strange but convenient loss of hearing that occurs at the Continental Divide.

Thank goodness the county commissioners of Mesa, Moffat, Garfield, Rio Blanco and Montezuma Counties are giving our community a voice in these onerous regulations. They can help tell the air commission our story of natural gas and its history of improving local air quality and economies.

Last week, The Daily Sentinel reported on the Asbury natural gas storage facility just a stone’s throw north of Grand Junction. As important as this field is today for storing natural gas, the Asbury wells were even more important in 1949. For it was the Asbury field, drilled by the Amerada Petroleum Corporation, that produced Grand Junction’s first commercial natural gas wells in 1950.

Before 1950, primitive coal furnaces heated just about every home and business in Grand Junction. We’re not talking about the clean-coal technologies of today. Think grandma’s coal-burning stove — thousands of them. Local newspapers then published pictures of morning skies as black as night during the heating season.

However, by 1952 the Asbury wells were flowing natural gas into the city limits and lines for conversion to natural gas wrapped around the block. Fruit orchards switched oil-burning smudge pots to natural gas. Businesses and homes converted to natural gas by the thousands. And the polluting manufactured-gas plant originally located at today’s Greyhound Bus station boarded its windows. Natural gas played an important role in improving local air quality then, and it will continue to do so into the future. Or so we hope.

The latest new swath of regulations proposed by Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission — the third major oil and gas regulation overhaul in six years — have been written for, by and to the benefit of Downtown Denver. These new rules suppose oil wells within Colorado’s brown cloud non-attainment area should be treated the exact same way as a natural gas wells producing in western Colorado, a hundred miles from the nearest town.

This is just sloppy, lazy policy-making and is an example of Denver politicians and political appointees penalizing rural Colorado again and again and again.

But today is a new day. Five Western Slope energy-producing counties joined the fight and are poised to blow the whistle. And rightly so. With local drilling-rig activities falling from nearly 100 in 2008 to four today, taking a rule written for Denver and applying it in rural Colorado represents a bad brand of economic insanity.

These costly regulations will make a bad situation worse in our community by adding yet another cumbersome layer of regulations on our local businesses, regulations that have little to no measurable environmental and/or health benefits.

Members of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration recently toured western Colorado, making promises to listen more closely to rural issues. They used the phrase “lean in and listen.” Now it’s time to see if the governor’s appointees to the Air Quality Control Commission have a stomach for doing the same.

In the coming months, solid leaders from our Western Slope county commissioners will be asking the Air Quality Control Commission not to institute a Denver-based, one-size-fits-all regulation on our local natural gas companies, just as they did last fall with the Bureau of Land Management and the greater-sage grouse. As they once again stand up, I’ll be standing by their side, doing all I can in making sure Denver’s air problems are not the demise of our local economy.

If the Air Quality Control Commission steamrolls five western Colorado counties and the interests of our rural economy, and if applying regulations statewide meant to control the Denver-area brown cloud, without deference to our rural communities, sets a new precedent, voters should look at the commission and the governor and ask just who appointed these folks?

State Rep. Ray Scott represents Mesa County and House District 55 in the state Legislature. He is a Republican candidate for the state Senate.

 

 

Western Colorado’s energy producing counties are never ones to avoid a fight. And join a fight they did this month, by acquiring party status in Colorado’s latest round of Denver-based oil and gas regulations.

When the governor’s Air Quality Control Commission visited Grand Junction last summer to hear from our community about air quality, the members of the commission clearly didn’t bother to listen. And why would they? When eight of the nine air commissioners share a Denver area zip code it results in a strange but convenient loss of hearing that occurs at the continental divide.

Thank goodness the county commissioners of Mesa, Moffat, Garfield, Rio Blanco and Montezuma Counties are giving our community a voice in these onerous regulations. They can help tell the air commission our story of natural gas and its history of improving local air quality and economies.

Last week, The Daily Sentinel reported on the Asbury natural gas storage facility just a stone’s throw north of Grand Junction. As important as this field is today for storing natural gas, the Asbury wells were even more important in 1949. For it was the Asbury field, drilled by the Amerada Petroleum Corporation, that produced Grand Junction’s first commercial natural gas wells in 1950.

Before 1950, primitive coal furnaces heated just about every home and business in Grand Junction. We’re not talking about the clean-coal technologies of today. Think grandma’s coal-burning stove — thousands of them. Local newspapers then published pictures of morning skies as black as night during the heating season.

However, by 1952 the Asbury wells were flowing natural gas into the city limits and lines for conversion to natural gas wrapped around the block. Fruit orchards switched oil-burning smudge pots to natural gas. Businesses and homes converted to natural gas by the thousands. And the polluting manufactured-gas plant originally located at today’s Greyhound Bus station boarded its windows. Natural played an important role in improving local air quality then, and it will continue to do so into the future. Or so we hope.

The latest new swath of regulations proposed by Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission — the third major oil and gas regulation overhaul in six years — have been written for, by and to the benefit of Downtown Denver. These new rules suppose oil wells within Colorado’s brown cloud non-attainment area should be treated the exact same way as a natural gas wells producing in western Colorado a hundred miles from the nearest town.

This is just sloppy, lazy policy making and is an example of Denver politicians and political appointees penalizing rural Colorado again and again and again.

But today is a new day. Five Western Slope energy-producing counties joined the fight and are poised to blow the whistle. And rightly so. With local drilling-rig activities falling from nearly 100 in 2008 to four today, taking a rule written for Denver and applying it in rural Colorado represents a bad brand of economic insanity. These costly regulations make a bad situation worse in our community by adding yet another cumbersome layer of regulations on our local businesses, regulations that have little to no measurable environmental and or health benefits.

Members of Hickenlooper’s administration recently toured western Colorado, making promises to listen more closely to rural issues. They used the phrase “lean in and listen.” Now it’s time to see if the governor’s appointees to the Air Quality Control Commission have a stomach for doing the same.

In the coming months, solid leaders from our Western Slope county commissioners will be asking the Air Quality Control Commission not to institute a Denver-based, one-size-fits-all regulation on our local natural gas companies, just as they did last fall with the Bureau of Land Management and the greater-sage grouse. As they once again stand up I’ll be standing by their side, doing all I can in making sure Denver’s air problems are not the demise of our local economy.

If the Air Quality Control Commission steamrolls five western Colorado Counties and the interests of our rural economy, and if applying regulations statewide meant to control the Denver-area brown cloud, without deference to our rural communities, sets a new precedent, voters should look at the commission and the governor and ask just who appointed these folks?

 

State Rep. Ray Scott represents Mesa County and House District 55 in the state Legislature. He is a Republican candidate for the state Senate.



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House District 55’s Representative (and would-be District 7’s Senator) Ray Scott’s latest piece of incumbent campaign literature (“Western Slope residents must fight state Air Quality Control Commission”) – published gratis as a “guest column” by the Sentinel—  affords ample insight into the contrast between Republican Scott and his Democratic challenger, nationally-recognized economic development expert Claudette Konola.

In 1950, Grand Junction’s municipal population was only 14, 504 – compared to an estimated 59,899 in 2012 (a 413% increase).  Similarly, Mesa County’s population in 1950 was 38,794 – compared to 147,848 in 2012 (a 381% increase).

Nevertheless, as Asbury natural gas began flowing into Grand Junction in the 1950s, there were undoubtedly some local “conservatives” who stridently proclaimed that the conversion to natural gas was “destroying jobs” in the coal industry and putting local delivery services out of business, thereby increasing unemployment and threatening “small businesses”.

There were also likely some coal industry shills who looked at the darkened morning sky and insisted that “government is the problem” – even as taxpayers (presumably) funded the acquisition of rights of way and the installation of infrastructure.  At some point, local building codes (“regulations”) were enacted to insure the safety of gas delivery systems.

Meanwhile, the extractive industries proved to be “boom or bust”—and the most stable sources of local jobs became local governments and the medical community.

More recently, attracted by its cleaner air, unique geography, and medical facilities (like the local VA Medical Center), military (and other) retirees flocked to the Grand Valley—contributing to a more diversified economy and heightened concerns about air quality.

Thus, hopefully, Mesa County’s “party status” will constructively contribute to crafting sensible rules—rather than serve as an obstructive vehicle for “throwback” promoters of oil & gas interests (like Scott)  – that will adequately protect public health.

What an incredible article by our Representative Ray Scott in today’s Sentinel. Last time I checked we, the public, were paying him to serve us. His article this morning could easily have been written by a representative of the energy industry? Everywhere I go in this community I hear people complaining about our air quality, some people having serious health repercussions with respiratory ailments beyond just being an annoyance. Scott seems to imply that people in less populated areas don’t need clean air to breathe. Apparently we are a hardier breed. He further seems to imply that clean air is somehow a detriment to employment, particularly locally. May I remind him that there is a nationwide glut of natural gas and production will only take place where it can be done for the least expense and that doesn’t include production in our area. The cost of production locally is the result of natural conditions not oppressive regulations. 
For Scott’s suggestion that we fight the Air Quality Control Commission is outrageous in the face of the facts. We live in an area that is subject to inversions during the winter time that holds the bad air in for days and weeks at a time. We also can’t seem to let go of the practice of open burning and using fireplace burning for heat. Scott is correct in the importance of natural gas for heating. Fireplaces are nice but in a sensitive area such as ours gas logs work well and can be just as welcoming as a nice fire in the fireplace.
Representative Scott needs to pay attention to his true constituents, the public, and stop being a lackey, water carrier for the energy industry. Fortunately he will have a very credible opponent in the upcoming election. He should be shown the door.
John Borgen, 

__._,_.___

Ah yes, does anyone remember the Vernal Utah summit – the illegal meeting for the Garfield commishs. Hosted by O&G, these guys got their marching orders and have been in lock step ever since.
But let us take a look at Scott’s sophomoric piece. He builds a high school like “fight theme and a typical pub “fear this” strawman. “Behold, the DENVERites are at the gate!” Rah, Rah, Rah, OUR team can beat their team!
This isn’t a Denver problem, it is a problem for every person in the areas of O&G production. Your health and well-being are the prices being paid. Rangeley this last year was beset with ozone (it was Utah’s fault said the protectors of O&G). Garfield is the highest in the state for O&G produced hazardous air pollutants which include benzene. Ozone, the BETX emissions, the NOXs, SO2s, and, yes, CO2s are unhealthy for people, livestock, wild game, and crops. NOXs not going into Ozone making become acid rain along with SO2s and CO2s. Ozone and SO2s are pulmonary damaging chemicals and Ozone damages plants as well. The acid rains damage everything.
The push here is not coming from State politics or the rivalries of Scott’s paranoia, it is coming from revised EPA standards coming down for the national well-being. Many of the big operators have signed on to these changes. One reason being that for much of their stuff they are already compliant. This can be seen in the pollutant inventories being lower on the front range with 2/3 more production than the western slope. The pollutant inventories show the western slope operators have not done as much in restricting and gathering pollutants and now they are leaders in the state in emmissions.
Garfield was notified by the State early in 2013 about their problems, but have decided to evidently ignore or side with O&G that profit is more important than people’s health and well-being.
  See picture and chart at: http://fromthestyx.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/back-in-the-ozone-again/

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