State unveils oil, gas air pollution rules

The state of Colorado unveiled Monday proposed new rules to reduce air pollution from oil and gas drilling.

The rules would make Colorado the first state to directly regulate detection and reduction of methane emissions tied to oil and gas drilling, according to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office.

The rules cover everything from drilling to production and maintenance in oil and gas development. The comprehensive rules stem from collaborative efforts from the state, Environmental Defense Fund and some of the largest oil and gas companies in Northern Colorado, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC), Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) and Encana Corp. (NYSE: ECA) (TSX: ECA).

The proposed rules, supported by Hickenlooper, now head to the state Air Quality Control Commission, which meets Thursday. The commission will be asked to set a public hearing on the rules in February.

“The rules will help Colorado prepare for anticipated growth in energy development, while protecting public health and the environment,” Hickenlooper said in a statement issued by his office.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sought input from diverse groups statewide in crafting the rules, which will now be subject to further input as the state Air Quality Control Commission considers them in a formal rulemaking process.

Environmental groups praised the proposed rules.

Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado, said in a separate statement that he was encouraged to see the proposal address methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

“The proposed rule is a strong step forward to capture emissions from oil and gas facilities of harmful air pollutants that hurt all Coloradans,” he said.

Anadarko, Encana and Noble jointly stated that they supported the proposal initiated by Hickenlooper.

Highlights of the rules include the following:

> A first-in-the-nation requirement for leak detection from tanks, pipelines and other drilling and production processes, using instruments such as infrared cameras.

> Instrument-based monthly inspections on “large sources” of emissions.

> A timeline for repairing leaks

> Leak detection and repair of storage tanks, at oil and gas facilities.

> Requirements for detection and repair of leaks of a variety of hydrocarbons, including volatile organic compounds such as methane.

> New, more stringent limits on emissions from devices located near where people live and play.

The health and environment department estimates the proposal will reduce volatile organic compound emissions, which include methane, by approximately 92,000 tons per year in Colorado. That’s more volatile organic compound emissions than the ones emitted by all cars in Colorado in a year.

The rules also would lead to a 34 percent reduction based on a 2011 inventory by the state that put volatile organic compound emissions at about 275,000 tons, according to the state.

The state expects significant reductions in volatile organic compound emissions will improve public health by decreasing asthma and other respiratory illnesses.


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