Drillers, Enviros Hail Methane-Cutting Agreement

The Colorado Sun’s Mark Jaffe reports on a landmark agreement finalized last week that shows how the game has changed for the betterment of the environment and public health under Gov. Jared Polis and the ambitious reforms of oil and gas drilling policy in 2019:

A rule clamping down on air pollution from key devices used by the oil and gas industry – which drew support from environmental groups and industry – was unanimously adopted by Colorado air quality regulators Thursday.

The first-in-the-nation rule requires the installation of non-emitting controllers on all new oil and gas operations and the retrofitting of existing controllers – a major source of emissions in the industry…

The state Air Pollution Control Division had initially proposed a rule to the AQCC that would have required non-emitting controllers only at new facilities, but over the past few months negotiations among industry representatives, environmental groups and local governments broadened the rule to encompass existing operations.

Environmental groups are very pleased to have gotten an even more comprehensive agreement than the state had original sought, crucially including the retrofitting of existing wells with non-methane emitting pneumatic controllers:

“Colorado is once again leading the nation in addressing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry,” said Dan Grossman, Rocky Mountain Regional Director for Environmental Defense Fund. “With broad support from industry and the environmental and public health community, the Commission is setting the standard for other states and the U.S. EPA to follow in addressing pollution from new and existing sites using pneumatic devices.”

“With the impacts of climate change hitting closer to home than ever before, we’re so excited to see Colorado once again set national leadership with precedent-setting, commonsense rules that reduce methane pollution in our communities,” said Sara Rose Tannenbaum, Climate Advocate, Conservation Colorado.

More from Earthjustice and the Colorado Sierra Club:

“Colorado has the opportunity to lead the country by adopting the first retrofit requirement for non-emitting pneumatics,” said Earthjustice attorney Robin Cooley. “These cost-effective requirements are long overdue and will be a critical step toward addressing Colorado’s ozone problems and meeting the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.”

In 2019, the Colorado Legislature passed H.B. 1261, mandating steep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The methane released by these pneumatic devices is a potent greenhouse gas. Eliminating existing emitting pneumatic devices will help meet H.B. 1261’s targets.

“The requirement to replace existing pneumatic devices is especially important because studies show that a significant portion of them are not working properly and are currently emitting copious quantities of ozone causing chemicals and greenhouse gases,” said Ramesh Bhatt, Chair of the Conservation Committee of the Colorado Sierra Club.

And as the Sun continues, the weirdest part of all of this–or maybe the new normal–is the willingness of the oil and gas industry to negotiate in something that feels strangely like good faith:

The compromise rule was supported by groups ranging from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, to Conservation Colorado. More than 60 local governments also backed the rule.

“The stakeholder discussions surrounding pneumatic controllers have proven intensive and deeply substantive, but the collaborative and good-faith work across parties has led to a clear path forward for further emissions reductions in the state,” Lynn Granger, executive director of the trade group API-Colorado, said in a statement.

Though there’s no guarantee or even reason to expect that every policy change on the way to meeting the ambitious targets in greenhouse gas emissions called for in 2019’s House Bill 19-1261 will enjoy the same consensus, we do see a recognition here on the part of the fossil fuel industry that the politics governing their operations in Colorado have changed. With Colorado’s new Climate Action Plan and the changed mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) to prioritize public health over “fostering” the growth of this one special interest, the once-dictatorial influence oil and gas wielded over Colorado politics has shifted to something more like the regulation of tobacco or other known deleterious industries.

This seems to be much better for everybody. More honest, not to mention more likely to actually achieve the outcomes voters mandated when they elected Gov. Polis and his overwhelming Democratic majority in 2018. We’ve come a long way from the reality-detached posturing that followed the passage of these bills in 2019, dire warnings that Senate Bill 19-181 would “destroy oil and gas” and misinformation that led in significant part to the half-baked failed recalls against Polis and various opportune Democratic legislators.

The struggle over addressing climate change in Colorado is not over, but the fossil fuel industry is not winning.

11 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. davebarnes says:

    Winning argument: air pollution bad.

    Losing argument: climate change.


  2. kwtree says:

    Colorado is unlikely to experience a power blackout like the one that is devastating Texas , because in Colorado we regulate utilities,winterize infrastructure, share power with other state utility consortiums, and rely on renewables, backed by natural gas. ( per Colorado Energy Office ED Will Toor, interviewed by 9 News).

    Texas has an isolated grid, its utilities are loosely regulated  and they ignored advice to winterize after similar storms in 1989 and 2011. Texas’ GOP leaders are hostile to renewables and to science-based climate change predictions.

    On Capeheart’s  Sunday Show( Segment 2), TX Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said “Colorado said they had energy but we ( Texas) couldn’t get it.” Jackson Lee is pushing legislation to make TX share energy with other states.

  3. Duke Cox says:

    We saw a particularly ridiculous sound bite from PewPew this morning. She ran through several of the SAME OLD BULLSHIT talking points we have heard for years. She is trying to sell the line that we should focus on natural gas production around here because we do it so well, tree hugging all the way. Yeesh! 

    More frustrating is the tendency in the local broadcast media to give her flapdoodle nonsense a daily forum. There is not one TV station in Grand Junction that deals objectively with the OilyBoyz. They are all willing participants in a political propaganda campaign.


    • gertie97 says:

      C'mon, Duke. Give our local teevee twits a break. With only several exceptions, they're right out of school, wet behind the ears and have a chief talent of looking good on camera. They can't find the courthouse with a flood light and a search warrant. A few will learn and move up to a (slightly) bigger market.

      Not much happens around here on a daily basis. That makes them an easy hit for anybody who makes a reasonably competent pitch for airtime. Political staffs know this.

      GJ is one of the smallest markets in the country. Watch them only for entertainment.

      • Duke Cox says:

        Every word you say is true. I don't blame the kiddos and clowns on screen, though. It is their managers and editors for whom I have such scorn. 

        "Press release" journalism has been around a long time and the GJ market has always been where new journalists learn a lot of bad habits. But, in defense of reporters, they aren't given time and resources to actually cover news. Nowadays they don't even get a cameraman…they have to do it themseves.

        No…it is the bosses that are responsible. They seem to spend little time helping their reporters.

        • The realist says:

          Jay Rosen who teachers journalism at NYU writes a lot on Twitter about the problems with today's news media. My thought: It really doesn't cost much more to do it right, but you have to have decision makers (and funders) who want to do it right.

        • gertie97 says:

          Duke, don't assume they have managers and editors. There's a general manager of the station who is most concerned about sales to satisfy corporate demand. There's (usually) a news director (whose other hats are HR, assignment editor, trainer) who tries to feed increasing demand for news “product.'' A check of the websites shows said news directors don't proof the copy, nor does anyone else. There is little time for anybody to do good work even if they have a clue what that is.

          I wish it weren't this way. But it is. Watch for entertainment purposes only. Where else can you find bizarre ways to pronounce Sagauche and Uncompahgre?



  4. JohnInDenver says:

    I was curious, so went looking for Dan Haley & Colorado Oil & Gas Association

    DENVER — The following is a statement from Dan Haley, President and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, regarding the finalization of the greenhouse gas (GHG) roadmap.

    “For the past decade, Colorado’s oil and natural gas workers have led the charge developing new technologies, reducing emissions, and improving safety. As a member of our state’s business community, we share the governor’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while balancing the need to improve reliability and saving consumers money on their energy bills. We will pursue these aggressive targets in partnership with the state in the forthcoming rulemakings, as a committed stakeholder in the fight against climate change.

    “We appreciate the robust stakeholder process that was conducted by Governor Polis’ administration over the past year, bringing a variety of voices and perspectives to the table. That is the Colorado way, and we believe it consistently produces better results.

    “We will work every day to deliver clean, safe, and responsibly developed energy and the essential products that Coloradans need in their day-to-day lives.”

    The climate change in Colorado's political environment must be extreme:  COGA now needs to say they are "a committed stakeholder in the fight against climate change."



    • Duke Cox says:

      The OilyBoyz don't have many cards to play, just now. We live in the patch…it is vewy quiet lately. Piceance gas is really expensive to produce. I don't know what the current discount rate is, but gas from this basin has never been profitable without massive subsidies and tax breaks..they make money from the abundant associated fluids from gas and what little oil is here. Enough to keep the lights on…until lately

      I don't think there is any Niobrara drilling going on any closer to here ( Garco) than North Park.

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