The new rules, approved by air quality regulators, are intended to keep the oil and gas industry on track to meet state-mandated cuts in emissions to cut pollution and address the effects of climate change.
The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission on Friday approved regulations that are seen as a major step forward in meeting the goals outlined in the state’s law. Environmental and community organizations have said the new rules could be a national example for other state and federal regulators to follow.
The regulations target emissions of methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, pollutants that build up to ground-level ozone, which creates haze along the front range and health problems.
Zorro Walker, general counsel for Western Resource Advocates, an environmental organization, said the commission’s large-scale adoption of the State Air Pollution Control Division’s proposal requires more frequent inspections of oil and gas sites, which reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in Colorado. Will go a long way to reduce it.
“With these rules, Colorado again sets the bar for what nation-leading methane protection should look like. These rules will ensure that approximately 12,000 small, leak-prone Every well, including wells, should be inspected, which can lead to heavy emissions.
New rules increase how often oil and gas sites must be inspected for leaks and emissions. Low yielding wells will now be inspected once in a lifetime, at least annually.
High yielding wells will be inspected half-yearly instead of annual inspection and others will move from quarterly to bi-monthly. Leaks in disproportionately affected communities should be fixed in five days.
Industry representatives questioned the need for more frequent inspections, saying that the process was delayed as new proposals were added, not allowing sufficient time to assess the impacts.
“Proven innovation and commitment by Colorado’s oil and natural gas workers will make these rules work, but make no mistake, the adopted rules will still add $140 million a year to the cost of doing business, according to state estimates.” Dan Haley, CEO and President of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement.
The new rules are also a response to a 2021 law requiring special attention to emissions and pollution in communities that have been disproportionately affected by oil and gas operations. Communities are often in low-income areas and have higher populations of people of color.
The commission faced a January 1 deadline to pass rules directing the oil and gas industry to cut emissions by at least 26% by 2025 and 60% by 2030, based on 2005 levels. Most agree that the industry is on track to meet the 2025 target, but more is needed to realize the next objective.
To help achieve the 2030 target, state regulators proposed an approach that combines more direct regulations and called an intensification program, which allows companies to come up with a plan to further reduce emissions. gives instructions. Some organizations, including members of the Environmental Justice Coalition, argued against granting exemptions to oil and gas operators to formulate their plans.
Mountain to Womxon co-director Renee Millard-Chacon said Indigenous communities and people of color want to see environmental and public health restored in areas that have been hit hard by pollution and industrial operations.
“That regulation doesn’t address that at all. It basically reduces a little bit more harm in communities that are already on the front lines,” Millard-Chacon said.
Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, said more frequent inspections of well sites for leaks and emissions are needed, but the intensification program will allow for increased oil and gas production, resulting in more heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Will be
“How can Colorado claim effective climate action while overseeing projected decade-long growth in oil and gas production?” Nichols asked in an email to The Denver Post.
Expressing concern, Alice Jones, a member of the commission, voted for a joint plan of direct regulation and allowing companies to develop their own plans. She said a program to verify that companies are making the necessary emissions cuts is important.
The Commission is expected to consider the makeup of a verification program in 2023.
“I would love if we could solve a global climate crisis and continue to produce oil and gas at the same level, but that’s what caused the crisis. It’s a fool’s belief,” Jones said. “At some point we have to deal with this issue.”
Robin Wiley, the division’s chief strategy officer, said the plan proposed by Air Pollution Control Department staff and approved by the commission considers some increase in production over the next few years.
“But it considers that production will be cleaner faster and result in less greenhouse gas per unit of production,” Wiley said.
The division believes the industry will still be on track to meet its 60% reduction target by 2030, Wiley said.
“What we don’t think is realistic is that there will be some massive increase in oil and gas production that will in no way be useful to the intensity target,” Wiley said. “I don’t think that’s a realistic scenario given the trajectory of production over the past decade or so.”
Lynn Granger, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute-Colorado, called the emissions intensity program “the centerpiece” of the new regulations. It gives companies the flexibility to be proactive and innovative, it said in a statement.