Glenwood urges air-quality standards for gas industry | AspenTimes.com

Glenwood urges air-quality standards for gas industry

Dennis Webb
Glenwood Springs correspondent

Worried about Glenwood Springs’ status as a community downwind of natural gas development, City Council on Thursday night supported applying new air quality standards to the industry.

However, council members called for the standards to go even further than is now being considered by the state, saying local limits should be as stringent as those proposed for the Front Range.

“We should have the same protections that other parts of the state have,” said Mayor Bruce Christensen.

In 2004, the state began requiring the industry to reduce emissions from condensate tanks, dehydrators and compressor stations. But the requirement applied only to the Denver metropolitan area and northeastern Colorado because ozone emissions there were close to or exceeded Environmental Protection Agency levels. The industry’s production of smog-producing compounds is unregulated elsewhere in the state.

The new rules would be statewide. However, the condensate tank limits would be tougher for the Denver area. The industry there would have to control emissions for tanks emitting more than 11 tons of volatile organic compounds per year starting next year, and the threshold would fall to six tons per year in 2012.

Elsewhere in the state, the rule would apply only to tanks emitting more than 20 tons of volatile organic compounds per year, with no lower threshold to follow.

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Patrick Barker, an organizer for the 3,000-member Western Colorado Congress citizens group, told City Council on Thursday that the WCC is encouraging the state Air Quality Control Commission to apply the same standards statewide “and say what’s good enough for the Front Range is good enough out here, especially in Garfield County because we’re in the heart of it.”

Garfield County is at the center of the state’s current natural gas development boom. Barker said state data indicates that oil and gas operations are responsible for 95 percent of the county’s smog-forming compounds from stationary sources.

Automobiles also are a major contributor to smog levels. However, according to Barker, one 1,200-horsepower engine used to compress natural gas creates the same amount of smog-producing pollutants as more than 8,000 cars.

Councilwoman Kris Chadwick called the industry’s air pollution “very disturbing.”

“I think it’s critical to address this on the Western Slope because it’s not only a quality of life issue, it’s a health and safety issue for those who live here,” she said.

Christensen said the city did its part to try to reduce smog in town years ago by banning fireplaces, and it also should be protected from pollution originating elsewhere.

Garfield County commissioners recently endorsed the new smog standards for oil and gas production as they are being proposed by the state Air Pollution Control Division, Barker said. He said the WCC supports those standards in principle, but wants them to go further. Besides calling for uniform statewide standards, it wants to see tighter pollution limits for all existing compressor engines of more than 500 horsepower implemented by July 1, 2008, earlier than proposed by the state.

Barker said the city of Rifle also supported the WCC in its position this week, and the towns of Carbondale and Silt have indicated they plan to offer their support. The organization has yet to approach the towns of New Castle and Parachute.

Three council members were absent Thursday. Councilman Larry Beckwith joined Christensen and Chadwick in backing the WCC position. Councilwoman Chris McGovern voted no, explaining that she would like to hear from those on the other side of the issue. She earlier had asked acting City Attorney Karl Hanlon whether it was proper for her to vote on the issue because she receives oil and gas royalties, and Hanlon told her that wouldn’t be a conflict of interest.

Barker said the AQCC is scheduled to act on the rule changes Nov. 16-17. He said the industry supports them, and he doubts the state will back the WCC proposal, but he hopes to get local communities on record as supporting it. He worries that once the new rules pass, it will be hard to pass stricter ones in the future.

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