New Methane Regulations in Colorado

Andrea Derby - Wednesday, February 26, 2014

This last weekend, Colorado state air quality control commissioners adopted tougher air pollution rules for the oil and gas industry — the first in the nation to cover methane, a gas linked to climate change. By passing rules aimed at reducing toxic emissions from oil and gas facilities, Colorado officials claim they are trying to allow for the energy boom while also protecting health and the environment. They felt they needed to act because Front Range air already fails to meet federal health standards.

The Environmental Defense Fund led the creation of rules. “This is a model for the country,” said Dan Grossman, the Environmental Defense Fund’s Rocky Mountain regional director. “We’ve got this simmering battle between the oil and gas industry and neighborhoods throughout the state that are being faced with development. That degree of acrimony is pushing the industry and policy makers to look for ways to get some wins.”

The rules — laid out in about 20 pages — require companies to detect leaks and fix them. They require companies to install devices that capture 95 percent of emissions — both volatile organic compounds and methane.

The new rules were passed with the support of leading operators Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy and Encana even though most of the other oil and gas operators in Colorado actually opposed the new rules. In four days of hearings, opponents argued that any new rules must not cover methane or apply statewide — but failed to persuade the nine commissioners.

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