The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) submitted last Thursday a request for a hearing on proposals that would impact air emissions associated with oil and gas production, changes the industry was quick to challenge.

The AQCC, in conjunction with the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment and Air Pollution Control Division (APCD), proposed revisions to air monitoring rules that range from changes to the permitting process and timing to additional controls on storage tanks.

“Unfortunately, the division’s staff was unnecessarily rushed through this initial phase,” said Colorado Oil and Gas Association President Dan Haley.

“We are concerned that the rules proposed this week fall short in their consideration of time and details,” said Colorado Petroleum Council’s (CPC) Lynn Granger, executive director. The CPC is “hopeful” that with more discussion, the industry will have a chance to collaborate on the final iteration of the new regulatory framework.

With the first of multiple public-comment hearings set for Dec. 10, the AQCC plans to evaluate revisions required under the parameters of Senate Bill (SB) 181, which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law in April.

Regulators are proposing to remove the 90-day permitting deferral for new oil and gas exploration and production facilities, adding a requirement for facilities to submit a notice of startup to the APCD at least 15 calendar days before completion activities. The revisions also would establish a notification mechanism so that staff may conduct inspections during well completion activities.

Another revision would allow for emissions information to be submitted on forms other than Air Pollutant Emissions Notice (APEN), which is intended to add flexibility to the permitting process.

In addition, regulators want to streamline some definitions and clarify exemptions. For example, APEN permitting exemptions would no longer exclude oil and gas production wastewater impoundments that contain less than 1% crude oil (by volume) on an annual average.

In its proposals, AQCC plans to clarify that operators should notify APCD staff of ownership transfers 30 days in advance, and that responsibility for compliance with regulations would shift to the new owners as soon as the forms are submitted.

Other rule changes would cover a variety of categories, including storage tanks, leak detection/repair, well emissions, pneumatic controllers, transmission and annual inventory. Each category has requirements that often pertain to monitoring, equipment rules or expanding the scope of current regulatory language. For example, storage tank controls would expand to include crude and produced water tanks.

COGA’s Haley zeroed in on the annual inventory portion.

“Timing for the proposed emissions inventory rules, in particular, is problematic,” he said. “As proposed, companies would be required to start keeping new records on Jan. 1, 2020, less than two weeks after the hearing and before the rules can even take effect.”
COGA members support “the use of emission inventories to provide sound emission data to the APCD,” but Haley said the commission should push back the inventory start date in one regulation proposal and “begin working with stakeholders to develop functional emission inventory protocols to ensure year-over-year comparisons for future emission reductions.”

Haley also said the overall speed with which the proposed rules were written didn’t allow for sound data vetting/analysis or costs and implementation analysis.

“We think the commission should initiate a collaborative and thorough stakeholder engagement process before finalizing expansive new rules,” he said.

New regulations following the signing of SB 181 have transpired mostly at the county level up to now, which has drawn equally vigorous input from the industry regarding counties with high oil and gas activity. Earlier this month, multiple industry groups promptly disparaged new rules adopted by Adams County, one of the top four producing counties in the state by crude output, according to state data.