On Dec. 17, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) will meet in Denver to vote on new and amended statewide regulations of the oil and gas industry, which are designed to cut methane and ozone emissions in all aspects of oil and gas production, including drilling, storage and transport.
Prior to that meeting, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Rifle City Hall, the public will have the opportunity to share their sentiments on air quality protections with the AQCC, and we strongly urge Roaring Fork Valley residents to attend.
Here’s why it matters:
Pitkin County residents have a big stake in the decisions the AQCC is making. We have built our economy and our lives around a healthy environment, and it is critical that the AQCC take action to protect our local, regional and state-wide air quality.
With an economy that is built around year-round tourism and recreation, the residents of Pitkin County — and the entire Roaring Fork Valley — recognize of the need to protect air quality and mitigate factors causing climate change, and residents overwhelmingly support statewide regulations to limit methane and ozone emissions from oil and gas wells and production.
The effects of climate change accelerated by methane emissions may have a big economic impact on the Western Slope with several factors. First, longer, more intense wildfire seasons threaten our health and homes, as well as our year-round tourism economy. Second, shorter, less predictable winters affect our ski and winter recreation industry. These climate-related challenges are not some future threat that climatologists are predicting. They are here now.
Ozone, along with methane, is one of the harmful gasses that leaks from wells. The consequences of exposure to ozone can be significant, forcing healthy adults to alter their lifestyles and threatening the health of elderly residents and children. In fact, ozone can trigger asthma attacks, worsen other respiratory diseases such as emphysema, and increase the risk of heart attacks and heart disease.
The new regulations that the AQCC is voting address important issues, including the following:
· Increased leak detection and repair (LDAR): Currently on the Western Slope, low-producing wells only need to be inspected once in their entire life, while on the Front Range, there are more stringent LDAR requirements, which have dramatically cut emissions. The new rules would require semi-annual inspections statewide. We deserve the same protections on the Western Slope.
· Find and fix statewide: The proposed rules would require operators to inspect pneumatic devices that are notoriously leaky and fix them immediately.
· Increased controls on storage tanks, which like wells, are a major source of methane and ozone emissions.
· Expanding the requirement to employ best management practices to well-plugging activities.
These are common sense rules that need to be applied across the state to be effective.
Please consider making the drive to Rifle on Tuesday so your voice can be heard. Let the state know that all Coloradans deserve to breathe clean air and live in a healthy climate.
Alternatively, you can email the AQCC at firstname.lastname@example.org. Following is suggested language:
• I support the proposed rules on methane pollution. It makes sense to require better monitoring and leak detection, better equipment inspections, and better protection for homes and schools.
• I support keeping the proposed 2021 compliance date for all Western Slope well sites. Don’t delay this for any size tank and I support the twice-annual leak detection and repair cycle for all well sites. The state’s own data show that doing this will stop a significant amount of leakage of methane and dangerous VOCs.
• The new rules need to take methane pollution on the Western Slope seriously. We know these rules can work because they already are making a difference on the Front Range. It’s time for rural Colorado communities to get the same air quality, economic, and quality of life benefits.
• Climate change is already harming my community. Methane is one of the worst carbon pollutants. We can and should do a better job of reducing this pollution.
The AQCC has the opportunity to act now to protect air quality and the climate throughout Colorado. We urge them to adopt strong statewide regulations.
Greg Poschman is chair of the Pitkin County Board of Commissioners.