From the Associated Press:
Air quality is the next frontier in Colorado's oil and gas debate, as officials deal with an industry that emits at least 600 tons of contaminants a day.
Those emissions are now the main source of volatile organic compounds in Colorado and the third-largest source of nitrogen oxides, The Denver Post reported Monday.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is looking at possible ways to reduce pollution. Colorado now has more than 50,000 oil and gas wells — a number increasing by about 2,000 a year.
Because the oil and gas producers are mostly regulated by the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, environmental activists are hoping the health department puts stricter control on the industry.
"We should know what is in our air," Frederick resident Christie Van Landingham said while working on her lawn a couple hundred yards from oil and gas wells and tanks.
The health department could consider several rules, including:
— Strengthening emission controls on storage tanks;
— Statewide expansion of existing pollution control requirements that currently apply in the metro Denver and north Front Range areas;
— Establishing leak-detection and repair requirements for oil and gas wellheads and compressor stations;
— Raising thresholds for reporting oil and gas pollution.
A nine-member panel of air quality control commissioners appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper would vote on any proposed air pollution rules.
Industry officials from Encana Corp. are already reviewing and commenting on rules proposed by the health department, "giving input on what kinds of reductions are possible, given current technologies," spokeswoman Bridget Ford said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently issued tougher national rules designed to reduce air pollution from oil and natural gas operations while allowing increased production. Health department air commissioners last year postponed full adoption of the EPA standards.
State lawmakers initially gave the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission primary oversight of the industry.
While that agency regulates odor and nuisance issues, the health department would enforce any new air pollution rules, agency officials said.
"As we move toward adopting EPA's rules, we are also looking at cost-effective enhancements to the state's existing air quality regulations," CDPHE Air Pollution Control Division director Will Allison said in a statement Friday.
Colorado Oil and Gas Association policy director Doug Flanders pledged commitment "to the continual pursuit of emissions reductions," and said the trade group "will continue to partner with our communities and state regulators" to achieve these.
The Environmental Defense Fund is pressing for stricter controls.
"As operators prepare to invest billions ... we need to ensure we have the regulatory structure in place to minimize impacts to human health and the environment," the group's regional director Dan Grossman said.
Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.
Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.
Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.
The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.
Earthjustice, a national eco-group.
People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.
Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.
No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.
Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.
Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.
Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.