Air Quality Still a Concern for Colorado Oil and Gas Industry

By: Eric Waeckerlin
Holland & Hart

Colorado has been a national leader in aggressively addressing air quality. The Clean Air Clean Jobs Act of 2010 accelerated emissions reductions from the state’s electric utility sector years before the federal Clean Power Plan. In 2014, the state passed comprehensive air quality regulations targeting the state’s upstream oil and natural gas sector. These regulations included first-of-their-kind measures to reduce greenhouse gases (e.g., methane), as well as strict standards to reduce other pollutants.

As a result, Colorado’s oil and gas sector has reduced volatile organic compound emissions — an ozone precursor — by 50 percent, while simultaneously decreasing methane emissions that continue to produce climate change benefits.

Meanwhile, the federal government, under the new presidential administration, is in the midst of revising its environmental policies, beginning with climate change and air quality. In the past several months, the administration has signaled it will back out of the Paris climate change agreement and has begun the process of rolling back many of the rules put in place during the previous administration. Many of these federal programs were modeled on Colorado’s rules, including, most notably, the air emissions standards for the upstream oil and natural gas sector.

Given this shifting landscape, it is natural to be concerned about the future of Colorado’s air quality and to question what these changes might mean.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the August 21, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.