Some environmental groups are gearing up for a fight against proposed changes to emissions regulations on the oil and gas industry.
Weld Air and Water and the Colorado Progressive Coalition issued press releases this week citing concerns that the proposed changes to emissions regulations in the state don’t go far enough to regulate the oil and gas industry.
But state officials at the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division say no formal draft rules will be released until November and they will not comment on the draft until then. The division in the last few months has sought comment from those involved based on a loose draft set of rules forwarded to “stakeholders.”
The division will issue a formal draft, taking into account suggestions from those stakeholders, in November, with a rule-making process to begin in February, said Christopher Dann, spokesman for the Air Pollution Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The environmental groups, however, have already sharpened their pencils for a revamp.
“The new regulations (Gov. John) Hickenlooper’s team is recommending will continue to allow significant amounts of methane to escape into Coloradoan’s air,” Progress Now’s Joe Boven stated in a news release this week. “A recent study found that air pollution is a stronger environmental cause of cancer than second-hand smoke, yet while eliminating smoking from public facilities has gained momentum, this proposal would reduce many regulations for oil and gas emissions.”
Weld Air and Water members wrote they were “bitterly disappointed” at the proposed language in the rules.
“This proposal fails to solve any of our state’s pressing air quality problems,” said Matt Sura, an attorney who is representing communities in the rule-making process, in a news release. “These regulations do nothing to address the threat of toxic emissions of oil and gas facilities that are near homes. The proposed regulations will also be ineffective at bringing down dangerous levels of smog and ozone on the Front Range, and do little to reduce methane emissions that contribute to climate change.”
Current rules regarding emissions control are tailored around reducing emissions so that 90 percent are controlled; the rules contain extensive documentation of emissions control equipment. The new rules will implement new Environmental Protection Agency rules.
“State and federal air quality laws do not currently require formal self-inspections to the degree that the state is going to propose,” said Will Allison, director of the Air Pollution Control Division, in an e-mail response to questions. “For example, the use of infrared cameras is an emerging technology that improves upon existing inspection methods. The proposal will include a statewide leak inspection and repair program to further reduce emissions and complement the existing inspection framework. The proposal will be one of the first of its kind in the country, and will significantly strengthen existing rules.”
Doug Flanders, of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said Colorado has some of the toughest regulations on the industry throughout the country.
“Common sense and innovative standards are necessary to control air pollution, which is exactly why the new EPA rules, which CDPHE’s air rulemaking will implement, are based on Colorado existing rules and regulations,” Flanders wrote in an email. “As we have found in Colorado, there are positive aspects of the draft rule that promote conservation through the capture of natural gas and the resulting emissions reductions, and while methane is not considered an ozone precursor, it is captured by these devices as well.”
The environmental groups say the draft language would only weaken existing state law because they require inspections of tanks, based on their sizes, quarterly to annually. The groups say they will advocate for monthly inspections instead.
Emission controls on oil and gas companies have been in existence for the last decade in the state, updated every few years with more restrictions, but required storage tank inspections haven’t yet been a part of the mix. Operators are required to weekly inspect their emissions control equipment, according to the existing rules.
The environmental groups say they will seek more frequent inspections, quicker turnarounds on required repairs, and greater emissions control standards for wells within a quarter mile of homes and schools.