Grand Junction: Sometimes the Air Here Stinks

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  When invisible volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) get cooked in our Grand Valley sunlight, they form ozone.  These compounds result largely from oil and gas operation pollution.  Methane is another invisible contribution to our dirty air, also caused by oil and gas pollution.  This is bad news for over 25,000 asthma sufferers; and doesn’t even include all the kids, elderly and outdoor athletes in the valley and throughout the state who suffer from these invisible attackers.

The good news is that the AQCC (state Air Quality Control Commission) is working on changing safety measures that could help put an end to this ubiquitous bad air condition. That is, unless they get the idea that the problem doesn’t exist because they can’t see it.  The early draft has appeared and it doesn’t look very promising.  The working draft produced by the Air Pollution Control Division allows for the use of audio, visual and olfactory methods to detect emission leaks at oil and gas operation sites, rather than infrared cameras that scientifically detect dangerous emissions.  The infrared cameras are an existing, cost effective system that, combined with monthly inspections, could make a change for the better in our air quality.
Here’s a question for you:  Why is it that we, the breathers, have to prove with expensive air monitors, endless data and research that the pollutants are real, while the oil and gas industry gets to use sight, smell and hearing to measure the same thing?  (The latest efforts of Citizens for Clean Air and others is to advocate for an expensive “speciation monitor” that depends on data to measure pollutants.)
So what do we do?  Even though we may have other things to keep us occupied, like show up for work 5 days a week, or look for work, or take care of aging parents, or raise children, or enjoy this beautiful place we call home, we simply must take the extra time to let the AQCC know that we care about our air.  Not only that, but we must let Governor Hickenlooper know, too. 
As for me, I can tell by the way it looks and smells during the infamous Grand Valley cold weather inversions that the air here stinks, but since I am required to prove it with scientific data; shouldn’t the oil and gas industry be required to use technology, too?

Karen Sjoberg – Citizens for Clean Air, Grand Junction, CO

12 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. RogerS says:

    My experience with really bad air started in the Grand Valley.  Growing up we had clean breathable air, even with the normal inversion layer.  When the Gilsonite plant was build just west of Fruita, the air quality took a terrible nose dive.  I really could not believe the county government allowed this extremely dirty polluter in the Grand Valley.  They finally closed down due to economicl reasons rather than enviroment regulations.

    Roger Stone


    Later I'll give my experience with living in the LA bason and the Telluride Valley.

  2. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Karen, short answer, yes. Where do your legislators stand on air quality measures?

    • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

      Mama…ALL of our legislators, ALL of our county commissioners and all but two of our Grand Junction City Council members are puppets of the O&G industry and its enforcement arm, the Chamber of Commerce.

      They will do NOTHING to help the citizens protect themselves from the continued degradation of our air quality. I would love to be proven wrong.

      • Gray in Mountains says:

        How about your County Coroner? Coroner decides cause and manner of death. Usually from autopsy for the cause. How far are we/you from having someone die from these compounds. Its amazing to me that the VOCs are ignored when, if you go to your local paint store, or Big Box, you can't buy paint without being asked to consider VOCs

    • Curmudgeon says:

      Most of them don't stand, mj55….they kneel.

      • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

        You didn't say whether the VOCs come from fracking or conventional oil and gas production. Perhaps it doesn't matter. I'm still way down on the learning curve on this issue. So what's the solution, then?

        Like most knotty problems, probably an and/then, they do/we do, rather than either/or solution will get to long term victory. What I mean:

        1. communicate with your legislators, let them know how you feel.
        2. encourage others in your community to do the same. One handwritten  or snail mailed letter is worth 50 emails.
        3. Since, as you say, they are probably bought off by O&G, recruit candidates to run against them.
        4. Continue doing what you do – blog and write, post comments in your mainstream newspapers, not just liberal ones.
        5. Continue public meetings and forums. Keep speaking out.
        6. Petition? It's pretty easy, I found. Move On has both a national public lands anti-fracking petition, and an anti-fracking in CO petition. There is an Air quality letter writing campaign to Hickenlooper right now.
        7. Western Colorado Congress is also calling for "…Leak Detection and Repair systems at all facilities, and use only Best Management Practices that keep tanks as close to airtight as possible.  We need a final rule that also ensures oil & gas development near homes has emission monitors, more frequent inspections, and immediate reporting of emergencies or hazards."
        8. As usual, the people, especially the youth, are way out in front of legislators on this. In Colorado Springs, young people from Earth Guardians delivered a petition to the COGA HQ, and rallied at the Capitol.
        9. Boulder, Ft. Collins, Lafayette, maybe Broomfield (votes t/b recounted) have moratoriums on fracking now. If they are able to hold the line against Frackenlooper's industry schmoozing, western slope communities will be looking to follow suit.

        Please don't take this as condescending. I'm aware that you've probably already invested time and energy into all of these types of actions. I'm just saying, it will take all of the above to make a difference in your air. To sit and complain, "Well, that won't work"….you're right. One thing alone won't.



  3. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    To sit and complain, "Well, that won't work"….

    I assure you, no one is sitting and complaining. You asked me where our legislators stand…I told you. Where do you get the impression that we are "sitting and complaining"?

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      I didn't get that impression, hope that isn't the impression I spread. I know that you're very active in speaking, writing, anti O&G activities. I'm more or less brainstorming…..what can be done when your legislators are bought off?

      And my answer is: all of the above, and more that I dont' know about yet.

      • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

        We are working very hard to replace them. That is the current focus of a very dedicated group of local folks who are setting up the challenge to this worthless group of do-nothings.

        The western slope delegation is the weakest, most non-productive group of elected officials in memory. They are doing nothing to protect our water from diversion or pollution. They are doing nothing to promote a healthy, diverse economy, and have abandoned road and infrastructure projects in western Colorado. In short, they are doing nothing.

        We aim to change that. The Republican establishment has seen to it that western slope interests are inadequately represented by these self-aggrandizing mouthpieces. We need effective representation that can do more than stand around at fund-raisers and spout nonsense.


        • Gray in Mountains says:

          it is tough. In some/many/most rural counties there is a certain amount of abuse or even corruption that goes on. Unless it gets blatantly criminal the state will not intervene even on behalf of her citizens

  4. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    What do you all think about Hick's deciding to extend rule making process and include guidelines for regulating methane? He had a press conference today in Denver about it.

    According to sources, the announcement is expected to include guidelines for the regulation of methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gas-causing chemicals, a groundbreaking move that could set a new national precedent.

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      As Hick, said himself (paraphrasing) — " . . . this is earth-shattering news today, but not all that earth-shattering . . . "

      [WTF ?????!!!!????]

      Just window dressing –rule making: doing nothing, but still making it look good!

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