FOX 31's Eli Stokols kicks off coverage from this weekend's session of the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission:
Colorado will be the first state in the country to regulate emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as part of new air quality rules for the state’s booming oil and gas industry that were finalized on Sunday afternoon…
On Sunday afternoon, after voting down motions to weaken the rule based on suggestions from the industry — they wanted the rule applied only along the Front Range in ozone “non-attainment” areas and to exempt smaller wells altogether — the board voted 8-1 in favor of the new rules.
“I think that the vote was 8-to-1 tells you we felt this was a strong, fair rule,” said AQCC Chairman John Loewy.
The three largest operators in the state, Noble, Anadarko and Encana pledged to support the rules, which were outlined late last year by Gov. John Hickenlooper after he brokered a compromise that got them, along with the Environmental Defense Fund, to officially sign on.
The Denver Post's Bruce Finley with reaction from supportive members of the industry:
By passing rules aimed at reducing toxic emissions from oil and gas facilities, Colorado officials are trying to allow an energy boom while also protecting health and the environment. They needed to act because Front Range air already fails to meet federal health standards. The oil and gas industry is a growing source of volatile organic compounds that lead to the formation of ozone…
"This is the toughest regulatory landscape in the country, no doubt about that," Noble vice president Ted Brown said. "But we really believe this rule is smart. It is cost-effective. It ensures that oil and gas is developed in the safest possible way for communities and the environment."
From Gov. John Hickenlooper's statement:
"Colorado is proving once again that collaboration and compromise help solve important issues facing our state. The new rules approved by Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission, after taking input from varied and often conflicting interests, will ensure Colorado has the cleanest and safest oil and gas industry in the country and help preserve jobs.
“We want to thank the environmental community, the energy industry and our state agencies for working together so hard to take this significant step forward. All Coloradans deserve a healthy economy and a healthy environment, and we’re working to ensure that Colorado continues to have both.”
Leading environmental advocate group Conservation Colorado:
“Today is a great day for Colorado’s air, our communities and the health of our children and loved ones. Thousands of Coloradans across the state made their voices heard in support of strong air protections from oil and gas operations – and they were heard. Colorado has seen an explosion of oil and gas drilling and these new protections will go a long way toward reducing ozone and methane pollution which contributes to climate change. These landmark new protections would not have been possible without the leadership of Governor Hickenlooper or the willingness of a number of oil and gas companies to meet their social and moral obligations to address their pollution and plug their leaks.
While these new protections are a reason to celebrate, Colorado still has work to do to reduce ozone pollution and minimize impacts to our changing climate. Conservation Colorado looks forward to working with Governor Hickenlooper, responsible business interests, and Coloradans throughout the State to leave a cleaner and safer environment for our children and grandchildren.”
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association's Doug Flanders acknowledges defeat:
Oil and gas operators in Colorado strive to protect the health and safety of our communities and environment every day; after all, these are the communities where we are raising our families. The rulemaking process demonstrated a commitment to bringing all stakeholders together. The new rules accomplish much, which we support.
Unfortunately, we were not successful in ensuring that the rule accommodates the differences in basins and operators. Nevertheless, we are committed to working with our operators, our communities, and the state to successfully and effectively implement these rules.
While GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Brophy remains defiant.
— SenatorBrophy (@SenatorBrophy) February 24, 2014
A big win for Hickenlooper, and not a moment too soon for his re-election campaign. We'll update with more coverage and analysis in the coming days.