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Colorado regulators require zero-emission devices for oil and gas wells


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The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission on Thursday unanimously approved a rule requiring oil and gas operators to install zero-emissions devices to new and existing operations.

Older pneumatic controllers rely on pressurized natural gas to open and close valves that regulate temperature and pressure at production facilities and well sites. In the process, the devices can emit methane and other pollutants.

Newer non-emitting devices, however, to reduce emissions are available to reduce leaks from methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

“This agreement among industry and conservation groups will allow for the thoughtful reduction of emissions and the improvement of Colorado’s air quality, adding to the significant emission cuts that have taken place over the past few years,” Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said in a statement.

“The Colorado way is about putting differences aside and coming together to find solutions. We are grateful to the Air Quality Control Commission for swiftly adopting this joint proposal and hope this serves as a collaborative model from which all stakeholders can build upon in the future.”

The Environmental Defense Fund estimated that controllers across the country released more than 132,000 metric tons of methane in 2017, equivalent almost 1.9 million passenger vehicles.

The devices would help the state meet higher climate change standards set by Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic allies in the legislature who adopted House Bill 1261 in 2019 and the Greenhouse Gas Roadmap the governor’s office released in January to reduce emissions by 60% by 2030.

Gov. Jared Polis has released a road map for reducing Colorado’s greenhouse gas pollution by 90% before 2050. 

Carbondale Trustee Erica Sparhawk, who is president of Colorado Communities for Climate Action, linked last year’s record wildfire season to climate change as motivation to work together.

“This collaboration between local governments, environmental groups, and industry will mean less carbon pollution and cleaner, safer air,” said the leader of the coalition, which includes 36 local governments. “It is a win for Coloradans all over the state.”

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