The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission unanimously adopted a groundbreaking rule to address one of the largest sources of pollution from the oil and gas production sector: pneumatic controllers actuated by natural gas. This rule will eliminate direct emissions of greenhouse gases and ozone precursors from pneumatic controllers at oil and gas production sites and compressor stations across Colorado. Pneumatic controllers are widely used, and collectively, they represent a very large but avoidable source of pollution. Pneumatic controllers are designed to pollute when operating properly and are an even greater source of emissions when they leak or malfunction, which is not uncommon. The new rule will require the use of non-emitting controllers to reduce pollution from wellsites and compressor stations across the state.
Since last year, Firm attorneys led efforts to negotiate the rule among environmental organizations (including Firm client Environmental Defense Fund), local governments (including Firm client Colorado Communities for Climate Action a coalition of more than 35 local governments) and numerous industry groups. The new rule requires all new and modified well production sites and compressor stations to only use controllers that do not emit pollution. In addition, the rule establishes a first-in-the-nation requirement to retrofit existing pneumatic controllers with non-emitting controllers at many sites. The adopted rule utilizes a companywide plan framework which makes the rule less expensive for operators to implement. It also includes robust recordkeeping and reporting requirements which will allow the State and stakeholders to better understand the ongoing use of emitting controllers, which will be helpful in developing future regulations and controls. The rule, which goes beyond the one originally proposed by the state, serves as a model for other states and the federal government.
While the state still has a very long way to go, this newly adopted rule will help Colorado chip away at its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, which the state is required to meet per HB19-1261, and the goals of reducing short-lived but potent greenhouse gases like methane, as required by SB19-181. The Firm continues to represent clients on these issues.