Colorado is proposing a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Pollution Reduction Roadmap for the next decade, with fossil fuel use by cars and methane emissions from oil and gas operations squarely in the crosshairs.

annual change CO2 emissions

The draft plan issued Wednesday targets a 26% reduction in total GHG pollution from 2005 levels by 2025, and a 50% reduction by 2030. 

These goals, along with a longer-term objective to slash emissions 90% by 2050, were first established under House Bill 1261 passed in 2019. The legislation is known as the Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution, aka the Climate Action Plan. Last year also saw the passage of Senate Bill 181, which specifically strengthened environmental oversight of the oil and gas industry.

The draft analysis “shows transportation is now the leading source of GHG emissions in Colorado followed by electricity generation, oil and gas development and buildings,” Gov. Jared Polis’ office said.

Citing the need for “a swift transition to renewable energy and bold climate action,” Polis said the roadmap “will help guide the critical efforts necessary to reap the full benefits of boldly and equitably transitioning to a clean energy economy.”

According to the analysis, oil and gas sector emissions include fugitive methane emissions from upstream and downstream operations, as well as on-site combustion of fossil fuels in industrial operations.

“Achieving the 2030 goals will rely on deep reductions in pollution from electricity generation by continuing the transition to renewable energy, as well as deep reductions in methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, which makes up the largest source of noncombustion emissions in the state,” the authors said.

The draft document “makes clear the importance of reducing emissions from oil and gas development and methane, and promoting conservation and restoration to sequester more carbon in our forests, grasslands and natural areas,” said Colorado Department of Natural Resources executive director Dan Gibbs.

Colorado’s oil production grew nearly six-fold between 2009 and 2019, mainly from the advent of horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing.

“The oil and gas sector is a significant source of pollution in Colorado and production has been growing since 2005 (at least until the industry downturn starting in early 2020), according to the draft. “A key strategy will be identifying and reducing leak rates in both upstream operations and downstream distribution of oil and gas.”

The public comment period for the roadmap is open through Nov. 1.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission in late September adopted the nation’s first-ever controls on methane emissions from oil and gas wells during the pre-production phase.

In a signal of further regulation to come, the roadmap’s authors said meeting the 2030 emissions reduction target “is feasible with existing technologies but will require actions and policies beyond those Colorado has taken already.”