News | February 23, 2014

In Colorado, A Breakthrough For Cleaner Air And Safer Climate

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) recently for its leadership in voting to adopt landmark regulations that will substantially reduce air and climate pollution from the state’s oil and gas industry. The regulations include the first requirements anywhere in the U.S. to directly control emissions of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas known to intensify the rate of global warming. The rules—proposed in November 2013 and endorsed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper—reflect recommendations from EDF and three of the state’s largest producers, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Encana Corporation and Noble Energy.

“This is a huge breakthrough for cleaner air and a safer climate. Getting to this point took serious resolve and a willingness to find common ground,” said Fred Krupp, President of Environmental Defense Fund. “Governor Hickenlooper deserves enormous credit for his vision and leadership, and so do the members of the AQCC, the companies that helped forge this proposal, and the many other voices in the community that have spoken up in support of these rules. We are proud to have played an integral role in the process. Colorado’s new air rules are an example of the kind of progress that’s possible when businesses and environmentalists work together to find solutions. They are also a sign that momentum is building as policymakers recognize the crucial importance of addressing methane emissions.”

A powerful greenhouse gas, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat into the atmosphere over the first 20 years after it is released. More than one-third of today’s human-caused global warming comes from short-lived climate pollutants that include methane. Oil and gas activities are the nation’s largest industrial source of methane emissions.

Each year, the new rules will reduce more than 100,000 tons of methane and some 90,000 tons of smog-forming VOCs (or volatile organic compounds), equal to the same amount produced by all the cars and trucks in Colorado. The rule package also contains several “firsts” in the nation, including:

  • Direct regulation of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas (some previous rules had achieved methane reduction as a co-benefit of reducing other pollutants)
  • Dramatic reductions in “fugitive” emissions (equipment leaks) through the nation’s strongest leak detection and repair (LDAR) program, including requirements for monthly inspections at the largest sources.
  • Statewide requirements to retrofit key high-emitting existing sources with low-emitting equipment.
  • Statewide requirements to target reductions from under-regulated but important sources of emissions from well maintenance activities, such as “liquids unloading,” when producing wells are cleared of water and other liquids inhibiting the flow of gas.   

“Oil and gas development is a contentious issue in Colorado,” said Dan Grossman, EDF’s Rocky Mountain Regional Director. “But today Coloradans can celebrate this moment in which regulators and leaders from industry, the environmental community and local governments came together around strong, common-sense policy that is a major victory for clean air in our state.”

SOURCE: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)

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