Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission unanimously passed new rules requiring oil and gas operators to measure and capture emissions from newly-tapped well sites before those wells begin pumping.
Under the new regulations, operators are required to monitor for greenhouse gas emissions from the beginning of drilling and through the first flowback and production of oil or gas from the site, and must report carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions to the state.
Natural-gas operators are also required to adhere to new emissions standards for natural gas-fired engines that power both backup generators and within the larger power grid.
The commission, a subset of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the rules are the first of its kind in the country.
“As a result of today’s vote, Colorado has enhanced emissions monitoring at oil and gas sites, reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides and methane and improved our ability to bring the Front Range into attainment with federal ozone pollution standards,” said Air Pollution Control Division director Garry Kaufman in a statement.
Lynn Granger, the executive director of the American Petroleum Institute’s Colorado branch, said the new rules are feasible for operators to adhere to and aren’t economically burdensome. However, she said the industry group is seeking “consistency and certainty” from all of the state’s regulatory bodies, a veiled reference to the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission.
While the air quality rules were developed based on mandates given through Senate Bill 181, they weren’t designed by the COGCC, which is in the midst of a multi-week rules revamp.
The COGCC drew heavy pushback from the oil and gas industry this month, when it directed staff to draw up legal rules to move the base setback distance between new oil wells and human-populated areas from the current 500 feet to 2,000 feet.
“Facts, data and science, rather than political impulses, should inform any implementation of public policy as consequential as the matters currently under consideration,” she said in a statement.
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