Colorado health officials have extended air pollution talks through the weekend on a sweeping plan to reduce air pollution from oil and gas drilling.
The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission wrapped up a third day of public testimony Friday and said it would return Saturday for more feedback. The commission is preparing a final pollution update for the state's booming oil and gas industry. The plan includes the nation's first statewide limit on methane emissions from oil and gas production, plus new infrared monitoring on leaks from oil and gas storage facilities. There was no indication how long the commission would take to make a final decision on the air rules, a commission spokesman said Friday.
State officials say the updated air rules would dramatically reduce emissions of the gases that contribute to ozone pollution. Large energy producers have backed the plan, though some industry groups say the new rules unfairly burden small companies. Other opponents include Republican state Sen. Greg Brophy, who is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper. "We might be the first state in the nation to cloud our skies with marijuana smoke, but let's not become the first state in the nation to regulate methane," Brophy wrote in a letter to the commission. Most of the testimony, though, has been positive.
The Environmental Defense Fund, which helped craft the new rules, praised the plan. "We need to act now, rather than wait for air quality to deteriorate beyond any hope of control," the group said in a statement. Energy companies including Anadarko, Encana and Noble helped craft the rules too. The proposed rules would require companies operating in Colorado to install the latest valves and auto-igniters to minimize emissions of toxic gases. They would require companies to capture or control 95 percent of emissions, using vapor-recovery tanks or other technology. Companies also would have to inspect facilities for leaks, up to once a month, depending on how many tons of pollution the facilities emit. Leaks would have to be fixed in about 15 days.