"At almost every stage of developing and operating an oil or gas well, chemicals and compounds can be introduced into the environment. Radioactive material above background levels has been detected in air, soil and water at or near gas-drilling sites. Volatile organic compounds—including benzene, toluene, ethylene and xylene—waft from flares, engines, compressors, pipelines, flanges, open tanks, spills and ponds....inhalation exposure is linked to cancer and organ damage."
From the Greeley Tribune: Colorado panel OKs new oil, gas drilling emissions rules
AURORA — Colorado air quality officials have approved a sweeping plan to reduce air pollution from oil and gas drilling. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission voted 8-1 Sunday to enact new rules for drillers, including the nation’s first statewide limit on methane emissions. The panel’s decision comes after a public hearing in Aurora that began Wednesday. State officials say the updated rules will dramatically reduce emissions of the gases that contribute to ozone pollution.
“This is a great day for residents living in the oil and gas producing areas in Colorado. The new regulations will significantly reduce air pollution that causes ground-level ozone and those hazardous pollutants that are also known to cause impacts to public health.” said Sara Barwinski, a member of Weld Air and Water, who also testified during the hearing on Friday.
Companies also would have to inspect facilities for leaks up to once per month, depending on how many tons of pollution the facilities emit. Leaks would have to be fixed in about 15 days. The state has conservatively come up with a $42.5 million price tag for those in the industry to comply with the rules, while others believe it will be much higher, potentially $100 million per year.
Large energy producers have backed the plan, though some industry groups say the new rules unfairly burden small companies. “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,” said Doug Flanders, director of policy and external affairs for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, in a news release.
“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.”
Three of the largest operators in Weld County and Colorado at large — Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy and Encana — expressed support for the rules earlier this month, while the commission was in the process of formulating the requirements.
“This proposal represents a model for the nation, by demonstrating … we all can develop solutions together,” said Robin Olsen of Anadarko during a meeting with media earlier this month. “We recognize the … regulations in Colorado help establish accountability for all companies, and builds public trust. It’s the right thing to do for business and the environment. It’s ambitious and sensible.”
Added Curtis Rueter, a manager with Noble: “We all want clean air, we want to find leaks and we think the technology is there. And, ultimately, it’s the right thing to do.” Korby Bracken, environmental health and safety director for Anadarko, said the rules need not carry huge price tags for smaller companies. He said there are tools available to all oil and gas companies through the Regional Air Quality Control Council, for example, through which operators can check out an infrared camera like a library book.
Platteville-based Synergy Resources, one of the smaller oil and gas operators, signed off on the rules while they were being constructed earlier this month. “We see it as a part of the cost of doing business, with wanting to be good neighbors and keep the environment safe,” said Craig Rasmuson, COO of Synergy’s self-inspection program, earlier this month.
Barwinski also praised the cooperation between the energy industry and environmentalist groups to establish the new rules. “The fact that oil and gas companies — both large and small — supported these rules shows that the industry can comply with strong environmental controls that protect public health and still make money in Colorado,” Barwinski said in the news release. “This collaborative process should be a model moving forward.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a statement Sunday evening on the passing of the new rules. “Colorado is proving once again that collaboration and compromise help solve important issues facing our state,” Hickenlooper said in a news release. “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.”
Hickenlooper will talk about the new rules at a Tuesday news conference at the state Capitol, where he will be joined by representatives from the environmental community and the energy industry. “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,” Hickenlooper said in the release. “All Coloradans deserve a healthy economy and a healthy environment, and we’re working to ensure that Colorado continues to have both.”