New air quality standards could have costly impact on businesses

Businesses in the Grand Valley will find themselves dealing with more regulation and possibly buying new emissions-control equipment if Mesa County’s air quality falls below new standards in coming years.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will set an ozone standard between 60 and 70 parts per billion, down from the current threshold of 75 parts per billion.

The new standard will be announced later this year.

Application of the new standard is at least a year away, because three years of monitoring are required before standards can be applied. This summer will be the third in which the Grand Valley’s air quality is monitored.

If the Grand Valley’s pollution levels exceed standards, many businesses that now are unregulated will find that at a minimum they need to obtain permits and might have to purchase equipment that would capture volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

“People might need to pay a little more attention to emissions, and they might have to put up a little money” to reduce the pollutants, said Adam Berig, a project engineer with Olsson & Associates, an environmental-compliance firm with offices in Grand Junction and on the Front Range.

New reporting requirements will be one of the first steps taken when monitoring detects excessive levels of smog, Berig said.

“If we go to non-attainment, the limits are dropped,” Berig said. “Then you have to apply for a permit.”

Businesses that now report two tons of emissions per year would have to report emissions half that large to the air pollution control division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Berig said.

Companies needing to control emissions would be required to install what is termed reasonably available control technology, Berig said.

The natural-gas industry stands to be affected, he said.

Condensate tanks on well sites might need equipment to flare off emissions, and other equipment might be needed to limit emissions from engines, Berig said.

Paint booths might be required to install vapor-recovery systems, as well, he said.

The presence of the energy industry in the Grand Valley will make it easier to prepare for a more regulated economy, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke said.

“When it comes to environmental compliance, we’re seeing that as kind of a growth industry,” Schwenke said. “I view it more as a zero-sum game, because then we’ll have companies that won’t come (to Grand Junction) because they’d be emitting too much.”


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