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Colorado became the first state in the nation to enact air quality rules that included measures to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas drilling. The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission wrapped up a five-day public hearing on regulations that would target air pollution and smog, approving a plan that was introduced back in November 2013. The regulations passed with a surprising level of cooperation and agreement between environmental groups and the oil and gas industry.
Governor John Hickenlooper requested cooperation between disparate groups to address what had become a growing problem. As oil and gas activity ramped up in the state, levels of smog were also rising. Data monitoring has shown that levels of ozone have exceeded federal limits. The Air Quality Control Commission voted 8 to 1 to approve the new standards.
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While largely intended to limit volatile organic compounds, which contribute to the formation of smog, the regulations also seek to curtail methane emissions, the first of its kind. Oil and gas companies will be required to install technology that captures 95% of gas leakage from pipes and equipment, a major source of methane emissions.
Some oil and gas operators supported the move, agreeing that some common sense rules were needed to allow the industry to move forward. Anadarko Petroleum, Noble Energy Inc., and Encana Corp. all worked with the Environmental Defense Fund to agree on common standards. Not everyone supported the regulations however. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association argued that they will be much more expensive than the regulators believe, upwards of $100 million rather than $40 million.
Still, the Governor believes that the standards could be a model for other oil and gas producing states. The federal government has still not proposed a federal standard, and some states are considering moving forward with their own limits.
By James Burgess of Oilprice.com
James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…