Proposed oil and gas methane rules: Gov. Hickenlooper makes some headway with the environmental community

Governor Hickenlooper announcing new methane rules -- Associated Press via the Washington Post
Governor Hickenlooper announcing new methane rules — Associated Press via the Washington Post

From The Colorado Statesman (Peter Marcus):

…the governor — who has experienced an increasingly tense relationship with environmentalists, a core base of his Democratic Party — still has a lot of work ahead of him if he’s to win the trust of the environmental world.

Much of the controversy rests with Hickenlooper’s support of hydraulic fracturing. The governor, a former geologist, has unequivocally stated his support for so-called “fracking,” despite five local communities having banned or imposed moratoriums on the drilling process. First, Longmont voters banned fracking last year. Then this year, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Boulder joined with five-year moratoriums. Lafayette passed a ban on new oil and gas activities. The bans passed despite big spending by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Proponents of the bans, a largely grassroots uprising, spent about $27,500 in the four municipal elections, as of the last filings before the election. COGA, however, spent about $883,000 to fight the proposed bans…

Hickenlooper says he is listening. At a news conference on Monday, he said the issue is about striking a balance between the energy needs of the state and the concerns expressed by citizens and communities.

“What we’ve done is work with the environmental community and oil and gas community to try and find compromises and use common sense to say, ‘How can we make sure we get to the cleanest possible outcomes in terms of air quality?’ Yet at the same time recognize that we have businesses here that employ our citizens and are helping solve the energy challenges that we face as a country,” Hickenlooper said, as he proposed new pollution rules for the Air Quality Control Commission to adopt.

The commission met on Thursday when it set a public hearing for February 2014. The tentative date is for a three-day hearing from Feb. 19-21. The commission heard about two hours of public comments from a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including industry leaders and environmentalists, as well as concerned citizens, such as mothers worried about the health of their children.

The thrust of the public comments was on whether the commission should set the proposal for a public hearing. Most of the witnesses agreed that even if the draft isn’t perfect, it should move forward so that the process can evolve.

When the commission conducts its public hearings in February, the comments will focus more on the rules themselves after stakeholders have had a chance to thoroughly review the recently released proposal.

Several elected officials testified in support of setting a hearing for the rules, including Democratic Reps. Su Ryden of Aurora, Mike Foote of Lafayette, and Max Tyler of Lakewood, among others…

Former Sen. Dan Grossman, regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund, represented the environmental side of the debate.

“What you see today here is a remarkable coalition of earnest individuals who came together and decided to try and make something work and address air pollution from the oil and gas sector in a meaningful and reasonable way,” explained Grossman.

Conservation Colorado is also “encouraged” by the proposed rules specifically that it includes methane.

“The proposed rule is a strong step forward to capture emissions from oil and gas facilities of harmful air pollutants that hurt all Coloradans,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado.

“Oil and gas development is booming in Colorado and the state must move aggressively to protect our climate, public health and communities,” he added. “Given the devastating impact on Coloradans from climate change and increased ozone pollution, there is no margin for error.”[…]

But not everyone in the environmental and oil and gas worlds is currently on board with the proposals. Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, pointed out that his organization was not included in the stakeholder meetings and did not see the rules until Monday.

“We’ve expressed our disappointment that it wasn’t a larger, broader stakeholder process,” said Dempsey, who added that his organization is currently speaking with members to decide how to proceed…

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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