Air Commission strengthens oil and gas leak repair requirements, but fails to ensure Colorado will meet its climate goals

Air studies and inspection data from Boulder County helped pave the way for tougher industry rules

Denver, CO – Today the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) approved major revisions to the Colorado Leak Detection and Repair Program (LDAR) along with other pollution-reducing measures for the oil and gas industry, but declined to approve stricter regulations proposed by government air quality experts, or to strengthen regulations for pneumatic controls that would have further reduced emissions.

“These new regulations will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 50 percent by 2030 and bring us closer to the HB21-1266 target of 60 percent by 2030,” said Boulder County Commissioner Claire Levy. “However, the AQCC has decided to weaken the CDPHE proposal and has not adopted the proposed requirements for pneumatic controls. Increased direct regulation of this polluting industry is absolutely necessary to reduce methane emissions. “

The new regulations will move Colorado toward the goals of a 2021 Environmental Justice Bill (HB21-1266), but the state will miss the target of 60 percent reductions by 2030. Further emissions reductions will be needed to achieve this goal. HB21-1266 also requires these regulations to provide additional protection for communities disproportionately affected by oil and gas pollution and climate change. The regulations passed today require more frequent inspections and repairs at locations near places of residence, work and leisure. However, some provisions do not extend to disproportionately affected communities across the country – only in the ozone-contaminated Front Range.

Boulder County has been monitoring methane and ozone precursor pollutants in the Boulder Reservoir since 2017. Data from the site and model studies show that air quality is heavily influenced by oil and gas developments in the northeast. In addition to Boulder’s air quality monitoring, Broomfield and Longmont’s data collection also shows similar oil and gas impact patterns, further evidence that this industry is a contributor to high ozone and GHG emissions in our region.

So far, many smaller wells have only been inspected once in a lifetime under state law. Boulder County’s own inspection program data shows that wells are repeatedly leaked and that frequent inspections are critical to reducing methane emissions. The new regulations mean more frequent inspections and faster repairs to stop leaks at compressor stations and well production systems. The AQCC voted against a proposal for additional reductions in pneumatic controllers, devices for opening and closing valves at manufacturing sites for temperature and pressure control, which would have required the installation of non-emissive pneumatic controllers at most sites.

Despite some of the toughest methane reduction regulations in the country, Colorado oil and gas continue to emit large amounts of greenhouse gases and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, which often leads to unhealthy air throughout the Denver Metro region, including Boulder County. That summer, the Denver Metro North Front Range had a record 41 consecutive days of ozone warnings; for a total of 73 warnings by mid-September. Currently, violations of ozone health standards in the Denver Metro North Front Range are rated “severe” by the Environmental Protection Agency, but are expected to be downgraded to “severe”.

“The air traffic rules passed today are an improvement, but fall far short of what needs to be done,” said Matt Jones, commissioner for Boulder County. “Oil and gas wells are leaking cancer-causing chemicals like benzene, chemicals that create ozone, which can damage our lungs, and methane, a greenhouse gas found on steroids. There is no time to waste. We absolutely need the strongest action now. “

Inhaling ground-level ozone can damage the airways. Its negative health effects are particularly dangerous for vulnerable populations, including the elderly, children, people with lung and heart conditions, and disproportionately affected communities that often live closer to sources of air pollution such as busy roads or oil and gas companies. These dangerous air quality conditions are expected to worsen as temperatures rise in the wake of climate change.

In addition to the health effects, climate change is expected to increase the duration and intensity of forest fires and to further deteriorate air quality in Boulder County.

“Forest fires, flash floods and extreme heat – Boulder County is already suffering from the effects of the climate crisis,” said Marta Loachamin, commissioner for Boulder County by 2050 will cost more than $ 157 million. We need improved controls on the oil and gas industry to help local governments struggling with the negative effects of the climate crisis and poor air quality. “

Colorado still has a lot to do to meet its global climate goals. In addition to the urgently needed reductions from the oil and gas industry, transport is another key sector for greenhouse gas emissions. Fortunately, the Colorado Transportation Commission only voted yesterday to move the state forward in incorporating greenhouse gas balances and emissions reductions into the transportation planning process.

For more information about Boulder County’s sustainability and climate mission, please contact Christian Herrmann at

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