Oil and Gas and the Air We Breathe

Yesterday, the Denver Post published a story, which highlights increasing concerns from scientists who believe that as oil and gas operations expand in Colorado, air quality will continue to deteriorate. But there are ways to mitigate industry’s impact on air quality. “What you can do is look at the known sources and make them better,” said one scientist in the story.  At Western Values Project we couldn’t agree more.

Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission is currently evaluating measures to improve air quality and further reduce emissions from oil and gas drilling. Given the state’s recent struggles with air quality this rule-making process comes at critical time.

According to a recent report in the Colorado Independent:

“Driven largely by emissions from fossil fuel processing, ozone violations along the Front Range spiked this past year and its unlikely that Colorado will meet a 2015 Environmental Protection Agency deadline to improve air quality. Missing the target means federal regulations will be ratcheted up, causing more hassle for drivers than for the oil and gas industry…”

Despite Colorado’s recent air quality problems – and the oil and gas industry’s prominent role in polluting – the industry hasn’t expressed much support new rules to clean up our air and protect public health.

In public comments, the oil and gas industry stated that mandatory annual well site monitoring using infrared (IR) cameras was “infeasible, unnecessary and not economically justified…”

The industry also claimed that the state is “putting the cart before the horse” with the air quality rule-making process.

Yet, in 2012 there was a huge spike in registered ozone violations across the Front Range and according to Gary Kaufman, deputy director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, oil and gas production is the biggest source of the chemicals that cause ozone formation. Ozone is commonly known as smog and symptoms of exposure include cough, pain, and shortness of breath.

Could it be that the oil and gas industry doesn’t want to be held responsible for their actions?  Energy development is an important piece of Colorado’s economy, but our quality of life depends on ensuring there our responsible safeguards for our air, water and communities.

We’re keeping a close eye on what is happening with the rule process and will keep you posted. The coming week will be key to ensuring we have strong rules.  You can find out more about the Air Quality Control Commission and its work to protect Colorado’s air here.


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