Improvements have been made and can continue to be made in efforts to reduce air pollution, even as Colorado’s population grows and oil and gas drilling continues, according to Colorado’s top oil and gas trade group.
Claiming "significant reductions" in ozone-causing emissions from the state's energy industry, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) has launched an initiative to tout the gains to date called “Clear the Air: the Facts on CEO,” aka Climate, Emissions and Ozone. The website is to include videos and additional information in July.
According to COGA, the state’s exploration and production industry over the past six years has cut by almost half emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the Denver metropolitan area and the North Front Range Ozone Nonattainment Area, even as oil production has quadrupled statewide.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) said even with air pollution challenges associated with increasing population, ozone levels "have improved over time." Since 2011, oil and gas VOCs have fallen per day from 280 tons to 154 tons.
COGA President Dan Haley attributed recent progress to cut emissions in the oil patch to a combination of "technological innovation, regulatory initiatives and industry leadership." He said the state and industry "need to keep this momentum going."
The COGA initiative is aimed at helping Colorado officials and society "make good decisions,” he said. Resources would be available online regarding ozone and related topics.
COGA also is participating with the Regional Air Quality Council in a public education initiative, "Simple Steps/Better Air.” Ozone is a secondary pollutant formed when VOCs and nitrogen oxides (NOx) combine in the presence of sunlight and heat.
Data from CDPHE's Colorado Air Pollution Control Division show that in 2012 there were more than 60 days when ozone exceeded the state’s standard in the Denver/Northern Front Range area as levels were higher than an average of 70 parts/billion (ppb) over an eight-hour period.
In the past three years, the number of days exceeding the standard fell to less than 30 each year, with only 12 in 2016 exceeding a less stringent 2008 standard of 75 ppb.
"This means that not only are the number of days over the standard going down, the magnitude of the exceedances is also decreasing, which can be attributed in part to regional efforts to reduce emissions of NOx and VOCs," said a COGA spokesperson.
Haley said COGA plans to continue to work with state officials to continue emissions reductions.