Air Quality Rules Hearings Get Underway

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

Photo courtesy Rep. Jared Polis

​We’ve talked a lot about fracking in this space and the political quagmire it has become for local and state elected officials alike. We’ve half-joked about Gov. John Hickenlooper drinking “fracking fluid” in a silly effort to prove that fracking is safe – a misguided notion on more than one level. It is true that the chemicals used in fracking fluid may be harmful to the environment, but there is another big problem when it comes to increased oil and gas drilling: air quality.

According to a widely-reported study in 2012, little ‘ol Erie, Colo. had worse air pollution than Houston – and the number of oil and gas wells have only increased since then. Air pollutants from fracking and other drilling, specifically methane, are massive contributors to climate change. The New York Times reported last week on a new study suggesting that natural gas is not nearly as clean as advertised in large part because of the amount of fugitive methane gas released into the atmosphere.

Last November, Gov. Hickenlooper proposed a set of regulations to protect Colorado’s air quality. On Wednesday, the Air Quality Control Commission will meet to begin discussions of the proposed regulations – new rules created with input from scientists, environmental organizations, and oil and gas developers such as Noble Energy, Anadarko, and Encana

But not everyone is holding hands and signing Kumbaya. Out-of-state interest groups such as the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity are beating the oil drums on behalf of the likes of Chevron, Exxon, and the American Petroleum Institute as part of an effort to derail any new regulations. You know the routine: any new regulations will destroy businesses in Colorado, cost the state quadrillions of dollars, and force oil and gas companies to move out of Colorado and drill elsewhere (as though there are massive oil and gas fields in every state). Also, the terrorists will win. 

The opposition from Chevron and Exxon is particularly interesting considering that Colorado’s leading oil and natural gas producers are already supporting the proposed regulations–enough to account for 75% of the total cost to the industry associated with new clean air protections (an average cost of $820 per well; we’d say that’s a drop in the bucket if it wasn’t such an awful pun). Chevron is not one of the major oil and gas extractors in Colorado, with only about 10% of the number of wells compared to Noble and Anadarko, but they are fighting regulations in our state because they don’t want to open the door to increased clean air regulations anywhere. 

Chevron certainly has the money to spend if they decide to go all-out in Colorado. In 2012, Chevron’s $2.5 million donation to the Congressional Leadership SuperPac (which seeks to elect Republicans to Congress) was the single largest corporate donation in history. In fact, the company spent nearly $10 million lobbying Congress in 2012 alone.

Chevron’s political expenditures have paid off handsomely, earning the company some $700 million in annual tax breaks (Chevron’s 19% tax rate is about half of the top corporate tax rate of 35%).

If Chevron does end up convincing Colorado officials to ditch the proposed regulations, there’s still hope that they might one day spring for pizza and soda, as they did in Pennsylvania recently when a fracked well exploded.

19 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    There seems to be a lot of pushback against these rules from the left, which is disappointing.

  2. ClubTwitty says:

    Strategery.  Circle Up…FIRE!  

  3. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    Brophy and Scott testified early….the usual crap.

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        They drowned their inner Francis in fracking fluid long ago, I'm afraid. The most common reaction I heard today to Ray Scotts' malarkey was anger.

         It would be nearly impossible to say which of the two testimonies was more insipidly asinine. Scotts', for its over-the-top O&G toadyism or the gratuitious flatulence that came from the mouth of the governor of our 51st state, Greg Brophy. What we heard from him was a campaign speech…rich in phrases like "war on rural Colorado" and the like.

        They both testified before me, and I went outside after my 3 minutes to catch up with old friends. Steve King came in a little bit later, but our group decided not to follow him in and listen because we were anticipating dinner and no one was anxious to entertain nausea. Besides, I am certain the good senator read from the same talking points as his colleagues.

        The most salient points here are:

        1. This commission does not have an ambiguous mandate, which is the cover historically employed by the COGCC when they want to neglect or betray the public. This commission has absolutely NO statutory obligation to consider the health and welfare of the O&G industry…only to protect the people of Colorado.

        2. The claims made by Ray Scott and his fellow water carriers about the economic significance of O&G to Colorados' fiscal health are unadulterated bunk. Rep. Scott referred to O&G as Colorados' "lifeblood". Hardly. O&G is only part of the mining sector, which accounts for a mere 4% of Colorados' GDP.

        I am returning to GJ tomorrow, but there is much more to come as the stakeholder presentations start tomorrow morning.

        Breakfast at Mimis' in the morning. Anyone who would like to join us in Lakewood is welcome.

  4. HeavyG says:

    Been here about an hour for the in person comment, seems to be at least 10-1 in support of the proposed rules at a minimum.  Been doing this for 15 years, never has there been this much public comment.  Way to turn out everyone.

     

  5. Jared Polis says:
    Polis Offers Comments on CO Air Quality Control Commission Draft Oil and Gas Rules
    
    WASHINGTON, DC -Representative Jared Polis (CO-02) sent a letter Tuesday to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission offering comments on their draft oil and gas
    regulations rulemaking.  The comments supported the work ofthe commission thus far, and urged them to maintain strong regulations for the oil and gas industry in
    Colorado.
    
    "Colorado's oil and gas resources are important to our state's economic, future anddeveloping these resources can and must be done in a way that minimizes health and
    environmental impacts," wrote Representative Polis. "The Commission should retain the strong standards set by the proposed rule, and take additional steps to ensure
    compliance with federal air quality standards. Taken together, these measures will help Colorado successfully and responsibly curb harmful emissions from oil and gas
    facilities to protect the public good long into the future."
    
    
    The full text of the letter is below:
    
    Colorado Air Quality Control Commission
    Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
    4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, EDO-AQCC-A5
    Denver, CO 80246
    
    Dear Commissioners:
    
    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Air Quality Control
    Commission Oil and Gas Rulemaking (draft rules). I support the proposed revisions to
    Regulation Numbers 3, 6, and 7 and I urge you to maintain strong regulations
    throughout the rulemaking process.
    
    Colorado's oil and gas resources are important to our state's economic future, and
    developing these resources can and must be done in a way that minimizes health and
    environmental impacts. I am encouraged that the draft rules will: (1) address
    methane emissions from oil and gas production activities; (2) require Leak Detection
    and Repair (LDAR) to control emissions of both methane and volatile organic
    compounds (VOCs) all wells statewide; (3) adopt a "no venting" standard for storage
    tanks; and (4) limit venting during well maintenance activities. Importantly, the
    final rule should not be limited to Front Range nonattainment areas because all of
    the Colorado's oil and gas wells are contributing to the state's declining air
    quality and unlike surface disruption, air travels throughout the state.
    
    If the Commission retains these key provisions, Colorado's oil and gas air quality
    rules will be the strongest in the nation and will serve as a model for other states
    searching for cleaner oil and gas development methods. After adopting these rules, I
    urge the Commission to go one step further and promptly determine whether any
    additional controls will be necessary to attain and maintain compliance with
    existing federal air quality standards for ozone, and implement those controls as
    soon as practicable.
    
    I am pleased that the Commission has exercised its broad authority to propose rules
    that will reduce emissions while benefitting the health of our communities. The
    methane commonly leaked from natural gas operations is a greenhouse gas thirty times
    as potent as carbon dioxide. Moreover, the VOCs emitted from oil and gas facilities
    interact with sunlight to produce ozone or "smog," which has been shown to threaten
    trigger asthma attacks and aggravate conditions of people with bronchitis and
    emphysema. These rules will help Colorado ensure cleaner air for Colorado citizens.
    
    These rules are timely because methane emissions in energy producing states like
    Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah have risen with the increased development of oil and
    gas. Unchecked methane emissions from oil and gas wells in rural areas in the Upper
    Green River Basin, Wyoming have caused dangerously high levels of ozone that rival
    the worst pollution days in Los Angeles, California. Colorado has also seen the
    effects- nearly 50,000 wells contribute to the state's current non-attainment status
    for the EPA's 2008 national ambient air quality standard for ozone. The Commission
    must ensure that the rules are swiftly enacted because we cannot continue to subject
    our communities to the public health risks associated with high levels of ozone
    resulting from oil and gas development.
    
    Fortunately, the technology necessary for energy companies to implement these rules
    is already readily available. Oil and gas developers can easily and cheaply curb
    emissions by fixing equipment leaks, and installing inexpensive control technology.
    Capturing methane will also benefit the industry because it is a marketable product
    that can be sold for a profit rather than being leaked into the air. Reducing leaks
    creates the incentive for new technology to turn pollution into profits.
    
    In conclusion, the Commission should retain the strong standards set by the proposed
    rule, and take additional steps to ensure compliance with federal air quality
    standards. Taken together, these measures will help Colorado successfully and
    responsibly curb harmful emissions from oil and gas facilities to protect the public
    good long into the future.
    
    Once again, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule.
    
    Sincerely,
    
    Jared Polis
    Member of Congress
  6. Jared Polis says:

    Polis Offers Comments on CO Air Quality Control Commission Draft Oil and Gas Rules

    WASHINGTON, DC -Representative Jared Polis (CO-02) sent a letter Tuesday to the
    Colorado Air Quality Control Commission offering comments on their draft oil and gas
    regulations rulemaking.  The comments supported the work of the commission thus far,
    and urged them to maintain strong regulations for the oil and gas industry in
    Colorado.

    "Colorado's oil and gas resources are important to our state's economic, future and
    developing these resources can and must be done in a way that minimizes health and
    environmental impacts," wrote Representative Polis. "The Commission should retain
    the strong standards set by the proposed rule, and take additional steps to ensure
    compliance with federal air quality standards. Taken together, these measures will
    help Colorado successfully and responsibly curb harmful emissions from oil and gas
    facilities to protect the public good long into the future."

    The full text of the letter is below:

    Colorado Air Quality Control Commission
    Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
    4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, EDO-AQCC-A5
    Denver, CO 80246

    Dear Commissioners:

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Air Quality Control
    Commission Oil and Gas Rulemaking (draft rules). I support the proposed revisions to
    Regulation Numbers 3, 6, and 7 and I urge you to maintain strong regulations
    throughout the rulemaking process.

    Colorado's oil and gas resources are important to our state's economic future, and
    developing these resources can and must be done in a way that minimizes health and
    environmental impacts. I am encouraged that the draft rules will: (1) address
    methane emissions from oil and gas production activities; (2) require Leak Detection
    and Repair (LDAR) to control emissions of both methane and volatile organic
    compounds (VOCs) all wells statewide; (3) adopt a "no venting" standard for storage
    tanks; and (4) limit venting during well maintenance activities. Importantly, the
    final rule should not be limited to Front Range nonattainment areas because all of
    the Colorado's oil and gas wells are contributing to the state's declining air
    quality and unlike surface disruption, air travels throughout the state.

    If the Commission retains these key provisions, Colorado's oil and gas air quality
    rules will be the strongest in the nation and will serve as a model for other states
    searching for cleaner oil and gas development methods. After adopting these rules, I
    urge the Commission to go one step further and promptly determine whether any
    additional controls will be necessary to attain and maintain compliance with
    existing federal air quality standards for ozone, and implement those controls as
    soon as practicable.

    I am pleased that the Commission has exercised its broad authority to propose rules
    that will reduce emissions while benefitting the health of our communities. The
    methane commonly leaked from natural gas operations is a greenhouse gas thirty times
    as potent as carbon dioxide. Moreover, the VOCs emitted from oil and gas facilities
    interact with sunlight to produce ozone or "smog," which has been shown to threaten
    trigger asthma attacks and aggravate conditions of people with bronchitis and
    emphysema. These rules will help Colorado ensure cleaner air for Colorado citizens.

    These rules are timely because methane emissions in energy producing states like
    Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah have risen with the increased development of oil and
    gas. Unchecked methane emissions from oil and gas wells in rural areas in the Upper
    Green River Basin, Wyoming have caused dangerously high levels of ozone that rival
    the worst pollution days in Los Angeles, California. Colorado has also seen the
    effects- nearly 50,000 wells contribute to the state's current non-attainment status
    for the EPA's 2008 national ambient air quality standard for ozone. The Commission
    must ensure that the rules are swiftly enacted because we cannot continue to subject
    our communities to the public health risks associated with high levels of ozone
    resulting from oil and gas development.

    Fortunately, the technology necessary for energy companies to implement these rules
    is already readily available. Oil and gas developers can easily and cheaply curb
    emissions by fixing equipment leaks, and installing inexpensive control technology.
    Capturing methane will also benefit the industry because it is a marketable product
    that can be sold for a profit rather than being leaked into the air. Reducing leaks
    creates the incentive for new technology to turn pollution into profits.

    In conclusion, the Commission should retain the strong standards set by the proposed
    rule, and take additional steps to ensure compliance with federal air quality
    standards. Taken together, these measures will help Colorado successfully and
    responsibly curb harmful emissions from oil and gas facilities to protect the public
    good long into the future.

    Once again, thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule.

    Sincerely,

    Jared Polis
    Member of Congress

  7. Jared Polis says:

    My comments = win the internet so much i posted them twice. Seriously how can I delete one of them? (the oddly formatted one)

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