Colorado’s energy industry and environmental groups have thrown their support behind more stringent air quality monitoring for smaller oil and natural gas facilities operating in the Front Range.
The Air Quality Control Commission of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) last week voted unanimously to increase the monitoring frequency of the smaller wells in the greater Denver area and north into Weld County, the heart of Denver-Julesburg Basin’s oil and gas production. The nonattainment ozone area exceeds federal standards.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), as well as the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), jointly supported the action, noting they had worked collaboratively with the AQCC "to achieve compromise in several key areas, and we jointly support approval of these revisions." The groups said the tougher rules would lead to "meaningful emissions reductions."
Revisions include increased leak inspections frequency for certain facilities; an upgraded inspection approach for pneumatic controllers; and a mutual commitment to seek potential areas for more cost-effective hydrocarbon reductions.
Small wells are slated to be checked annually versus a check only once in the well’s lifetime. Slightly larger wells would be checked twice each year versus once a year.
"Colorado has the most technologically advanced, strictly regulated, and well-controlled oil and natural gas operations anywhere in the country, and we continue to get better," said COGA CEO Dan Haley.
EDF's Dan Grossman, national director of state programs, said the collaboration was indication that regulators, industry and environmental groups are "capable of putting politics aside" to make progress on reducing pollution from the oil and gas sector.
"There is still more work to do, but approaching policy initiatives in this manner benefits Coloradans," Grossman said.
Separately, two DPHE divisions earlier this month established an oil and gas health information response group to provide a one-stop resource for residents with concerns about health effects from operations in their communities. The collaborative effort is between the Air Pollution Control and Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology divisions includes experts in oil and gas operations, air quality measurement, exposure assessment, toxicology, environmental medicine and health communications.
The group's main goals are to provide quick responses to citizens and local government health concerns; monitor/analyze oil and gas health trends; apply state-of-the-art air quality measurement and risk assessment to citizen concerns; and effectively communicate the group's findings and any health risks uncovered.