I am pleased to support Governor Hickenlooper's proposals to curb air pollution emissions from oil and gas activities in Colorado. There are many of us in the area who welcome new regulations that would reassure us that our air quality will be protected.
We come from diverse backgrounds, but we are united by a desire to protect our families, economy, environment and quality of life. The three major oil and gas producers in Colorado are already on board with this and are implementing these changes. Presently we have 51,700 active wells in the state. The pollution in a year that would be prevented by these changes is equal to the amount created by ALL the cars in the state.
However, some industry lobbyists and special interest groups are attempting to stop these proposed air protection standards. They want to block cost-effective measures (gas recaptured is more gas in the pipe) that would prevent emissions from oil and gas activities and require inspections to find leaks. They are also lobbying to have only certain Front Range areas acquire these new protections. That would leave 85 percent of the state without common-sense protections from dangerous emissions.
The pollutants these regulations would reduce are volatile organic compounds like methane, benzene, toluene and, in addition, nitrogen oxides. These contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which can have serious impacts on our health and our environment. Infants, children, the elderly, people with asthma, and those who work outside are particularly at risk of having respiratory problems. This could lead to difficulties with breathing, wheezing, congestion and shortness of breath. Premature death is also possible with prolonged exposure. Also, some of these compounds are known carcinogens. Fortunately, technology to prevent these emissions is available now. Just ask Anadarko Petroleum, Encana USA, or Noble Energy — the three natural gas producers who strongly support these new rules which I mentioned above.
Pollution does not stop from one location to the next. In recent years the air quality in beautiful rural areas of Wyoming and Utah has exceeded the maximum limits set to be considered safe for people. The BLM has attributed this to gas production. The basic fact is we are all downwind from someone. Add in one of our common weather inversions, where this pollution gets trapped, and we end up with some seriously unhealthy air.
Our communities are dependent on a clean and healthy environment to raise our children, grow our food, build our economies and live good lives. Many travel here from far and wide to enjoy our incredible scenery, visit farms and enjoy the magnificent back country. Tourism is not something the Western Slope wants to give up; it is vital to our economy. Everyone in this state has the inherent right to breathe clean and healthful air, and expect the same for our future generations.
The AQCC will decide this issue at a hearing Feb. 19-22. Please send your comments by Feb. 7.