On Thursday, December 19, 2019, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission unanimously approved new rules and rule amendments that will reduce ozone and climate pollution from oil and gas operations in Colorado. Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell represented the Environmental Defense Fund and Western Leaders Network in the rulemaking proceeding, with firm partners Tom Bloomfield, Bob Randall and Sarah Keane pressing the case before the Commission.
“Kaplan Kirsch & Rockwell is proud of its role in protecting air quality in Colorado and reducing Colorado’s contributions to climate change,” said Tom Bloomfield. “This work builds on the groundbreaking statewide methane oil and gas rules we helped to negotiate and get approved in 2014.”
“Representing groups like Environmental Defense Fund and Western Leaders Network on these critical air quality environmental issues is an important aspect of our Energy and Environmental practice,” said Bob Randall. “These rules establish a strong, statewide regulatory regime that will reduce oil and gas emissions and benefit Colorado’s air quality and citizens.”
Colorado’s new rules will require that oil and gas companies use leak detection instruments to inspect their facilities for leaking equipment twice a year at smaller sites statewide, with more frequent inspections at sites closer to homes and occupied areas. Larger sites will continue to be required to complete inspections more frequently. The rules expand a program statewide to require operators to find and fix leaks from pneumatic controllers, one of the larger sources of emissions from these sites. The rules also strengthen and improve controls of pollution from storage tanks and implement an innovative emission intensity-based program to reduce emissions from the transmission sector. Finally, the new rules establish a comprehensive reporting program to refine the state inventory of methane and other emissions from oil and gas operations. That reporting program will facilitate future efforts to achieve deep reductions in pollution from the oil and gas sector, which is the largest anthropogenic source of methane and volatile organic compounds in Colorado.
These changes implement major legislation passed earlier in 2019, which directs the Air Commission to reduce emissions from oil and gas facilities, develop an inventory of climate emissions, and meet ambitious targets for reducing statewide greenhouse gas emissions.
The Commission’s vote comes less than a week after the Environmental Protection Agency downgraded parts of Colorado’s Front Range from a “moderate” to “serious” nonattainment area for the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard. It also follows a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment study finding elevated health risks for those living near oil and gas operations. The Air Commission has signaled its intent to implement an aggressive schedule to consider technological innovations such as zero-bleed pneumatics and continuous or high-frequency monitoring systems in 2020.