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Colorado Continues Rulemaking Process for Emissions

Just days after the Environmental Protection Agency designated Colorado’s Front Range region in violation of the Clean Air Act, the nine-member Colorado Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) passed regulations that will require oil and gas companies to inspect their equipment more frequently for emissions, including volatile organic compounds. Another change requires operators drilling within 1,000 feet of a home to inspect for leaks monthly.

The three-day rulemaking ended December 19 and resulted in the first set of rules being adopted since Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 181 into law in April 2019. Another update removes an existing provision allowing production to commence without an air permit for the first 90 days of production. Operators argue this provision is necessary to provide the state with accurate emissions estimates once a well is producing. Environmentalists believe the provision is unnecessary and are pushing for continuous emissions monitors near drilling sites.

Some county commissioners, including John Martin from Garfield County, also pushed back on the new regulations. While Martin expressed support for reasonable regulations, he expressed concern on the impacts of the new rules on marginal wells. “We are disappointed in the Air Quality Control Commission’s decision to impose costly rules on low producing and low emitting wells in rural areas that will do little to improve air quality but will harm the economic well-being of our communities,” he said.

Additional regulations related to flowlines were adopted at a meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on November 21 and included the creation of a publicly available map of all flowlines in Colorado. Regarding abandonment, a new rule dictates that flowlines should be removed; however, a list of exceptions which would allow a line to remain in place were established. The rule also calls for the abandoned line to be properly purged, capped and the risers removed.

These new rules are a result of an April 2017 home explosion in Firestone in which two people were killed and two others were injured. The home was built on top of an abandoned flow line that had been cut when a tank battery was moved prior to the establishment of the subdivision. According to fire investigators, the leaking drains saturated the soil and migrated into the house through French drains.

For more information on Colorado and state policy outlooks, contact Senior Director Government Affairs Kristin Hincke.