First in the U.S. rules that give oil and gas industry leeway in slashing emissions OK’d in Colorado

First in the U.S. rules that give oil and gas industry leeway in slashing emissions OK’d in Colorado

The regulations were adopted Friday by the state’s Air Quality Control Commission to help meet statutory requirements for Colorado to cut its greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

The Air Pollution Control Division, which drafted the rules, estimated the package of eight new regulations – which will be phased in with some going into effect next February and others not until 2023 – will cost the industry a total of $59 million to $142 million.

The main greenhouse gas emitted by oil and gas operations is methane, which is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the prime greenhouse gas, but shorter lived in the atmosphere. The oil and gas sector is the source of 60% of all the methane emitted in the state, according to the state air pollution regulators.

Under the state’s Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap, the oil and gas sector has to cut its emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2025 and 60% by 2030. The industry is already on track to meet its 2025 target.

To meet the 2030 goal, the APCD calculated that the industry must cut methane emissions by 140,000 metric tons a year.

The biggest share – 64,000 metric tons or 46% – would come from the heightened inspection and repair program.

Under the new rules, wells producing more than 20 tons of oil equivalent a year (a measure of oil and gas) will be inspected monthly, as will sites near disproportionately impacted communities, such as low-income neighborhoods and operations within 1,000 feet of occupied areas.

“There are increased protections for disproportionately impacted communities and people living near oil and gas activity and now 12,000 smaller but leak-prone wells will get inspected,” said Matt Garrington, state campaign manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, which pushed for more frequent inspections.

The next largest tranche of reductions – 55,000 tons or 39% – would come from the intensity program which sets an emission limit per 1,000 barrels of oil equivalent (defined as oil plus natural gas) produced. There would be a target for large operators and a less restrictive one for small operators.

By Mark Jaffe, Special to The Colorado Sun | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette