Colorado’s oil and gas industry will have to comply with new measures to reduce pollution and stop leaking emissions, following an Air Quality Control Board review announced on Friday. But, Boulder County leaders have said the requirements are not enough to ensure the state meets its climate goals.
New revisions to Colorado’s leak detection and repair program require more frequent inspections and faster repairs to stop leaks at compressor stations and well production facilities. However, according to a Boulder County press release, the commission declined to endorse stricter provisions proposed by state air quality experts or to strengthen provisions for pneumatic controllers, devices which open and close valves at production sites to regulate temperature and pressure.
While the new regulations will help the state meet the targets set by HB21-1266, a 2021 environmental justice law, they fall short of the goal of reducing emissions by 60% by 2030, according to the government. communicated.
Boulder County air and climate policy analyst Cindy Copeland said in an email to the Camera on Saturday that the new requirements would increase the frequency of leak detection and repair for more sites in the county. Previously, many small wells were only inspected once in their lifetime under state law, the statement said.
Data from the Boulder County inspection program shows that wells leak repeatedly and that frequent inspections are essential to reduce methane emissions, the statement said.
While Copeland has said there are no compressor stations in Boulder County, there are plenty across the state. Copeland said all of the county’s well sites use pneumatic controllers.
“By design, these controllers bleed a certain amount of oil and gas as they open and close to do things such as releasing pressure,” Copeland wrote. “The Environmental Defense Fund’s alternative tire proposal, which the Air Quality Control Commission did not approve but which we strongly supported, would have required retrofits with emission-free tires. “
Regarding the implementation schedule, Copeland wrote, the regulations have different implementation dates.
“Increased detection and repair of leaks at well sites will begin in January 2023, and most other requirements will begin in 2023, with some reporting requirements starting in June 2022,” Copeland wrote.
In a telephone interview on Saturday, Boulder County Commissioner Matt Jones said he was not satisfied with the requirements.
“It’s going to mean direct checks, and they’re going to have to inspect for leaks more often, which is positive,” Jones said. “But that’s far from the case. They didn’t do the frequency that needed to be inspected. They didn’t do the number of controllers.
Jones said more was needed to tighten regulations and reduce pollution from oil and gas operations. He stressed that there was “no time to waste”.
“I think there will be a little more (responsibility), but they need a lot more, though,” Jones said. “Our research here shows that (wells) leak a lot and continue to leak even after being repaired. It’s an industry that thinks it’s good to pollute, and it plays with methane, which is climate gas on steroids. They play with benzene and other ozone precursor chemicals.
In the press release, Boulder County Commissioner Marta Loachamin echoed this, saying the county has already suffered impacts from climate change, including wildfires, flash floods and extreme heat.
“The county has estimated that responding to just some of the potential effects of the climate crisis in Boulder County through 2050 will cost more than $ 157 million,” Loachamin said. “We need better controls over the oil and gas industry to help local governments struggling to cope with the adverse effects of the climate crisis and poor air quality.”
Boulder County Commissioner Claire Levy said in the statement that the Air Quality Control Commission “has chosen to weaken the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s proposal and no. has not adopted the suggested requirements for pneumatic controllers “.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, the regulatory voice for the oil and natural gas industry, responded to the requirements in a press release from the American Petroleum Institute.
Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, highlighted the cost the changes will bring to the industry.
“Colorado’s oil and natural gas workers have made incredible progress in meeting our air emissions targets, making our state one of the cleanest energy producers in the world,” Haley said in the release. . “But to maintain that mantle, we need profitable rules rooted in science. The innovations and commitment proven by Colorado’s oil and natural gas workers will make these rules work, but make no mistake, the rules passed will still add up to $ 140 million a year to the cost of doing business, according to state estimates. This is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars added after the rules were made last year. These excessive costs threaten economic growth and competitiveness and will add to the rising energy costs faced by domestic and foreign consumers. “
In Boulder County, methane and ozone precursor pollutants have been monitored in the Boulder Reservoir since 2017. The county press release says site data and modeling studies show the quality of the air is heavily influenced by the development of oil and gas in the northeast. Similar patterns of oil and gas influence were noted in data collection by Broomfield and Longmont. This provides further evidence that the industry contributes to high ozone levels and greenhouse gas emissions in the region, the statement said.
Those interested in learning more about Boulder County’s sustainability and climate action mission can contact Christian Herrmann, Climate Communications Specialist, at [email protected]