Guide for air, drilling sought

Seeking better information to guide policy decisions, two state agencies on Wednesday said they will launch what they’re calling a significant study of emissions tied to oil and gas development.

The announcement by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment comes as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this week has been considering more stringent rules regarding minimum setbacks between drilling and building. Much of the testimony before the commission has focused on the potential health impacts of air pollution near drilling, and on the few studies that now exist, some of them based on data gathered in Garfield County, that attempt to address that question.

Testimony this week “reinforced the views of experts for both industry and the conservation community that more and better science is needed related to oil and gas emissions,” a press release from the two departments said.

The new study is expected to occur from this summer until June 2016 and will provide information on oil and gas emission characteristics and how the emissions travel in areas along the northern Front Range. A second phase expected to start in 2016 would assess possible health effects of those emissions.

The CDPHE plans to contract with Colorado State University to conduct the study. The first phase would be similar to another study now being led by CSU and focusing on oil and gas emissions in Garfield County. That study is being funded by a $1 million contribution from the county and another $800,000 from several energy companies.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, as part of his budget request to the Joint Budget Committee, will seek $1.3 million from the oil and gas commission’s Environmental Response Fund to provide initial funding for the Front Range study. That fund is generated from proceeds from oil and gas development.

“This study marks another important step in our aggressive efforts to ensure oil and gas development is conducted with the highest standards of environmental protection,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director Mike King said in the release.

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