New rules to cut oil, gas emissions seen as step forward in meeting #climate goals: Some environmental, community groups don’t think regulations go far enough — The #Denver Post #ActOnClimate

Hydrocarbon processing in the Wattenberg Field east of Fort Lupton, Colo., on July 2, 2020. Photo/Allen Best

From The Denver Post (Judith Kohler):

New rules approved by air-quality regulators are intended to keep the oil and gas industry on track to meet state-mandated reductions in emissions to cut pollution and address the effects of climate change.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved the rules [December 17, 2021] that are seen as a big step forward in meeting goals outlined in state law. Environmental and community organizations have said the new rules can be a national example for other states and federal regulators to follow.

The rules target emissions of methane, a powerful heat-trapping gas, and the pollutants that form ground-level ozone, which creates the haze along the Front Range and health problems.

The commission’s decision to largely adopt the state Air Pollution Control Division’s proposal requiring more frequent inspections of oil and gas sites will go far to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in Colorado, said Joro Walker, general counsel for Western Resource Advocates, an environmental organization…

The new rules increase how often oil and gas sites must be inspected for leaks and emissions. Low-producing wells now subject to a once-in-a-lifetime check will be inspected at least annually.

Higher-producing wells will undergo semiannual rather than annual inspections and others will shift to bimonthly from quarterly. Leaks in disproportionately affected communities must be repaired in five days…

The new rules are also a response to a 2021 law that requires paying particular attention to emissions and pollution in communities that have been disproportionately affected by oil and gas operations. The communities are many times in lower-income areas and have higher populations of people of color.

The commission faced a deadline of Jan. 1 to pass rules directing the oil and gas industry to cut emissions by at least 26% by 2025 and 60% by 2030, based on 2005 levels. Most agree the industry is on track to meet the 2025 goal, but more is needed to realize the next objective.

To help hit the 2030 goal, state regulators proposed an approach that combines more direct regulations and what’s called an intensity program, which directs companies to come up with plans to further reduce emissions. Some organizations, including members of an environmental justice coalition, argued against giving oil and gas operators leeway to craft their own plans.

Renee Millard-Chacon, co-director of Womxn from the Mountain, said Indigenous communities and people of color want to see the environment and public health restored in areas that have been heavily affected by pollution and industrial operations…

Jeremy Nichols, the climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, said requiring more frequent inspections of well sites for leaks and emissions is important, but the intensity program will allow for increased oil and gas production, resulting in more heat-trapping greenhouse gasses…

While expressing concerns, Elise Jones, a member of the commission, voted for the combined plan of direct regulation and allowing companies to develop their own plans. She said a program to verify that companies are making the necessary emissions reductions is critical.

The commission is expected to consider the makeup of a verification program in 2023…

The plan proposed by the air pollution control division staff and approved by the commission does contemplate some increase in production over the next few years, said Robyn Wille, the division’s chief strategy officer…

The division believes the industry will still be on track to meet the target of 60% reductions by 2030, Wille added…

Lynn Granger, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute-Colorado, called the emissions intensity program “the centerpiece” of the new rules. She said in a statement that it gives companies the flexibility to be proactive and innovative.

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