Air quality rulemaking

Garfield and Mesa County Commissioners vote to file response to air quality rulemaking
January 30, 2014

PARACHUTE, CO – Garfield County Commissioners and Mesa County Commissioners voted Thursday to submit a statement to a 2013-14 Oil and Gas Rulemaking Effort proposed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). The two counties are part of the Energy Producing Attainment Counties (EPAC) coalition, consisting of Garfield, Mesa, Moffat, Montezuma and Rio Blanco counties, which supports the statement filed January 30.

The response requests that the Air Quality Control Commission communicate an effective enforcement and evaluation strategy before approving new regulations. A premise of the coalition statement is that administration of air regulations statewide should be based on scientific research and a cost-benefit analysis for the additional regulatory oversight under consideration.

Two points provide a critical starting point for Garfield County’s work in preparing the statement.

First, the county supports strong air regulations for western Colorado, and the Board of County Commissioners has committed ongoing resources to air quality.

Garfield County is leading the nation in its commitment to fund a study to gather air emissions data from oil and gas drilling. Led by a premier scientist in the field, Dr. Jeffrey Collett, Colorado State University’s Atmospheric Science Department is currently gathering data over three years in the Piceance Basin. The State of Colorado found merit in the study and has engaged the same scientists to study drilling emissions in eastern Colorado, using the county’s design.

Secondly, Garfield County has implemented the most comprehensive baseline air quality monitoring program of any rural county in the United States. County staff operates five stations located in Parachute, Battlement Mesa, Rifle, Carbondale, and mobile collection equipment that collect air quality samples every six days. Garfield County’s air monitoring efforts have produced an unparalleled data set – one that shows the county has some of the cleanest air in the state of Colorado and that the air quality is improving each year.

The western slope attains federal air quality standards consistently. Garfield County Commissioners have invested millions of tax dollars in air quality improvement efforts, and are committed to consistently utilizing scientific efforts to develop science-based regulations. For example, the county supports conversion of public transportation in the Roaring Fork Valley from diesel to cleaner natural gas, and county staff is working to transition the county’s motor pool vehicles to use natural gas, and has instituted an idling policy for county vehicles.

America is drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a transition to natural gas. The nation’s emissions today have plummeted to those of twenty years ago to those in 1994 – even adjusting for economic growth. The natural gas extracted here in Garfield County plays a role in reducing pollution in Colorado and beyond.

The coalition supports strong air quality regulations for oil and gas operations using data collected in western Colorado, by following the requirements of the Clean Air Act, and has determined that regulations should account for the difference between emissions from the natural gas rich mountains of western Colorado and those of the oil rich plains of eastern Colorado.