Here in Colorado, the oil and gas industry has had too much influence for too long while our communities and environment suffer.
Coloradans speak out on why the COGCC must follow through on common-sense oil and gas reform by making rules to prioritize health and safety.
Conservation and community organizations respond to COGCC’s new draft rules to implement SB19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operation.
Conservation Colorado released the Colorado delegation’s scores on the League of Conservation Voters’ 2019 National Environmental Scorecard.
In this blog series, we will demystify what’s coming next in the rulemaking process and amplify the stories of change makers who are actively holding industry accountable.
Community members and UCD students lead the charge in documenting and fighting unhealthy air pollution in Globeville and Elyria-Swansea.
As a member of the Senate majority party, you would expect Senator Cory Gardner to have the power to follow through on his promises to Coloradans to protect our climate, lands, and natural resources. Instead, Sen. Gardner fell short and failed to deliver key environmental funding while finding ways to help carbon polluters.
Despite Sen. Gardner’s ramped-up environmental rhetoric, a brief look at the final months of 2019 shows that Gardner’s record is full of hot air. He has much to improve in the New Year.
Depleting Conservation Funding
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a critical program for funding land protection, access for hunting and fishing, trail maintenance, and other programs, but this funding was allowed to expire in 2018 when Republicans held majorities in the House and the Senate.
At no cost to taxpayers, LWCF collects as much as $900 million annually from offshore oil and gas royalties. But because Republican Congressional leaders like Sen. Gardner allowed the program to expire, none of that funding has been going to protect and invest in national parks and public lands across the nation. Sen. Gardner spent most of this year promising he would clean up the mess he made by delivering full, permanent funding for LWCF.
Sadly, under Sen. Gardner’s watch, the Senate passed a year-end $1.4 trillion spending bill that fell short for conservation funding, failing to approve over $400 million of the $900 million allotted for LWCF projects for the next year, and only allocating the remaining funds for just a single year.
Dismantling the Bureau of Land Management
When it comes to managing our public lands, Sen. Gardner tied himself to an Interior Department plan to relocate the headquarters of Bureau of Land Management—the agency that oversees oil, gas, and coal leasing and permitting on millions of acres of public lands—to Grand Junction, Colorado. It quickly became apparent that the move was not all it was cracked up to be.
Sen. Gardner, who labeled himself the “chief architect of the plan,” has long-touted the local economic benefits of moving up to 400 BLM staffers out West and the conservation benefit of having BLM leadership closer to the lands they manage.
After the initial relocation announcement, details began to emerge about how devastating the plan will be for the agency. More than 80 percent of BLM officials who have been forced to relocate are expected to resign rather than uproot their lives, and Interior officials will only be moving approximately 40 jobs to the new headquarters. Those that do relocate face pay cuts. Many other D.C. positions will be scattered through the West. It turns out the 27 staff members forced to relocate to Grand Junction will share an office building with oil and gas companies and industry executives.
Dismantling the agency and moving career leadership positions away from Congress will allow political appointees at the Interior Department to approve drilling and mining projects on public lands. The plan received widespread criticism from former BLM career staff, and prompted an investigation from the Government Accountability Office.
Sen. Gardner promised significant economic benefit to the Grand Junction community, and that this move would be beneficial for the management and conservation of public land in the West. However, his words do not match the results. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel summed it up well in their reaction after the details of the move emerged:
“A day after feeling like this was a game-changer for Grand Junction, the letdown is palpable. We’re stuck between feeling grateful that Grand Junction will be known as the BLM’s Western Headquarters and frustrated that such a distinction has been hollowed out to its barest impact… It doesn’t help that much of the rest of the country thinks that this is a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle any conservation-oriented aspects of the agency in service to President Trump’s energy dominance agenda.”
Cutting Clean Energy Investments
As Colorado makes significant strides moving towards a clean-energy economy, federal investment has failed to keep up.
In April, Sen. Gardner touted that he cosponsored a bill that would provide tax credits for battery and energy storage—a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to bolstering a clean energy grid in states like Colorado and combatting our dependence on fossil fuels. The bipartisan legislation would have provided tax breaks for investments in developing grid-scale energy storage to incentivize wind and solar production. In the long run, the energy storage investments would have paid for themselves through grid improvements. A similar tax incentive structure significantly drove down the prices of solar panels in recent years.
Again, Sen. Gardner failed to deliver.
Although the year-end funding bill included $39 billion worth of provisions that would extend or establish tax breaks for different sectors, tax incentives for clean-energy storage were not included in the final spending package.
Coloradans expect our leaders to fight for our climate and public lands and stand up to corporate donors and the fossil fuel industry. Sadly, Sen. Gardner’s environmental promises to his constituents don’t match up with his actions in Washington.
Sen. Gardner, please: as you look to the New Year, consider a resolution to represent Colorado values in the U.S. Senate.
DENVER — Today, the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted unanimously to adopt new emissions rules for the oil and gas industry. These rules come in the same week that the Environmental Protection Agency downgraded the Front Range’s air quality rating to “serious.” They focus on reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry which makes up a significant amount of Colorado’s climate change-causing emissions.
Across Colorado, conservation and community groups have come together in support of stronger methane rules. These improvements include requiring stronger well leak detection, repair and tank control requirements for low-producing wells and cutting emissions from the transmission sector. Curbing methane pollution is key to Colorado improving its air quality and meeting its carbon emissions reduction targets of 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050.
Specifically, these regulatory updates will:
- Enhance statewide leak detection and repair requirements at a minimum twice annually for all oil and gas infrastructure — including low-producing wells;
- Expand “find and fix” requirements to prevent leaks from pneumatic devices which move gas, oil, or other liquids;
- Close the 90-day permitting loophole that allows oil and gas drilling to move forward without an air permit creating better transparency and accountability early in the drilling process;
- Strengthen statewide requirements to reduce emissions from storage tanks — including low-producing wells;
- Develop a first-of-its-kind, performance-based standard for reducing emissions in the natural gas transmission and storage sector;
- Create new annual reporting requirements for oil and gas producers of methane emissions from all their facilities and activities.
Conservation and community organizations released the following statements in response:
“Western Colorado Alliance thanks the Air Quality Control Commission for adopting these new regulations. The Alliance looks forward to playing our part in minimizing climate change and having the air quality here in Western Colorado protected from the harmful emissions of the oil and gas industry just as it is on the Front Range.”
– Rodger Steen, Western Colorado Alliance oil and gas committee chair, Routt County
“Our community has worked for years to protect air quality on the West Slope and here in Battlement Mesa, where we’re surrounded by well pads. We thank the Air Quality Control Commission for listening to our concerns and adopting additional leak detection and repair requirements for oil and gas facilities within 1,000 feet of for neighborhoods, schools and other public areas. Everyone living near a well will appreciate this significant and courageous action by the AQCC, as well as the new statewide rules to reduce ozone and methane emissions.”
– Dave Devanney, Battlement Concerned Citizens
“Since air knows no political boundaries, any source of air pollution in Colorado is of concern to all citizens who want their families to breathe clean air. The Air Quality Control Commission heard the concerns of citizens all across the state and took action today by implementing statewide regulations to cut ozone and methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.”
– Leslie Robinson, Rifle, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, Garfield County
“Residents of Western Colorado appreciate the Air Quality Control Commission’s decision to adopt these new rules and apply them statewide. This is a great step forward in protecting the air quality here in Western Colorado. We have been and will continue to be impacted by oil and gas development. These regulations will help to protect public health as we move into the future.”
– Bennett Boeschenstein, former Grand Junction city council member, Mesa County
“Western Slope Coloradans live under a methane cloud that threatens both our health and environment, and so we need the same air quality protections as those living on the Front Range. We appreciate that the commissioners have listened to our concerns, and thank the AQCC for enacting strong methane regulations with enhanced leak testing and repair requirements, as well as stronger standards for storage and reporting.”
– Mark Pearson, Executive Director, San Juan Citizens Alliance
“The commonsense policies adopted today by Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission are an important step toward cleaning up our air and fighting climate change at its source. Thank you to Governor Polis and his entire administration for working to protect public health, hold corporate polluters accountable, and preserve our Colorado way of life.”
– Kelly Nordini, Executive Director, Conservation Colorado
“Every Coloradan deserves to breathe clean air, and the rules adopted today by the AQCC will lead to direct improvements in Colorado’s air quality while supporting the state with reaching its climate goals. We applaud the AQCC for pursuing these smart regulations and for prioritizing Coloradans’ health, our air, and our climate.”
– Joro Walker, general counsel, Western Resource Advocates
“Colorado has been the leader in the nation in establishing the rules to cut methane emissions during the production of gas and oil. Colorado can again lead the nation, as the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission prepares to address the proposed regulations, to ‘find and fix’ methane leaks in the drilling and production of gas and oil. Since the initial rules were adopted, the number of scientific studies on this topic has significantly increased. The scientific research has increasingly establishing the harmful effects to the health and wellbeing of people, especially children, living in close proximity to the drilling rigs,compressors and pipelines.
This is a profound opportunity for the Commission to positively impact the health of Coloradoans, now and for future generations. The Colorado Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, ANHE, strongly urges the Commissioners to seize this opportunity and adopt the stronger standards state wide.”
– V. Sean Mitchell, MSN, APRN-BC Colorado Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
“This is such an important day, and we applaud the commission for truly taking into account public health and safety. Monitoring and inspecting all oil and gas sites, but particularly those in close proximity to homes, schools, and public areas for leaks and emissions is a critical component of that. We thank the commission for hearing the voices of hundreds impacted Coloradans and taking this major step today.”
– Sara Loflin, LOGIC Executive Director
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To help us get a better idea of what new stronger methane rules will do and what they will mean for Colorado, we sat down with our advocate Sophia Mayott-Guerrero.
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