Selected tags: Colorado

Critical Decision Expected Tomorrow in Colorado on Clean Air Rule

Day 4 of the ongoing hearings on a groundbreaking proposal to reduce air and climate pollution from oil and gas operations in Colorado saw Team EDF pushing back on claims opposition groups have made to try to weaken the proposal.

Leading companies Noble, Anadarko, Encana and DCP also put on strong cases, using their own operational data to show the proposal is cost effective. They should be lauded for their leadership, as should local governments and conservation groups that brought strong analytics to the hearings.

If the proposal is adopted without being weakened, it will eliminate more than 90,000 tons of smog-forming VOCs annually (the same amount produced by all the cars and trucks in Colorado) and more than 100,000 tons of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas.

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Posted in Air Quality, Climate, Colorado, General, Methane, Natural Gas| Also tagged , , , , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Arguments Heat Up in Colorado Air Rulemaking, But the Facts Remain

Yesterday, we covered the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) taking public testimony from citizens who traveled from around the state to speak in support of a groundbreaking proposal that would slash emissions of smog-forming pollutants and greenhouse gases coming from oil and gas activities.

Formal proceedings kicked off today – and will likely run through the weekend – with various parties presenting their opening cases. EDF went early in the day, providing strong evidence that the proposed rule is cost-effective and urgently needed to combat local air quality problems and climate change. We also highlighted some glaring flaws  in the methodology industry opponents cooked up to show inflated costs for the rules.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), the Colorado Petroleum Association (CPA) and the DGS group are throwing everything they can at the rule to try to gut it.  But they’re in a shrinking minority on the wrong side of history.

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Coloradans Overwhelmingly Voice Support for Proposed Air Regulations

Colorado is the quintessential swing state – with voters split about evenly between Republicans, Democrats and Independents.  That can make for some fractious politics at times, but our diversity is part of what makes us great.

What makes us even better is our unity – and that’s what we saw today when, by a margin of almost 10-to-1, Coloradans of all stripes called on the state’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) to adopt new rules that would slash air and climate pollution coming from oil and gas development activities.

The AQCC opened its hearings on the proposed rules with a full day of citizen input, with people traveling from around the state (one drove six hours) to make their voices heard.  Residents from rural communities, including many from the Western Slope, stood up, one after another, to tell the AQCC Commissioners that the proposed rules should apply statewide and that the handful of local officials opposing the rules are out of step with the citizens they’re supposed to serve.  In response to those local officials, one citizen from Ridgway implored the Commission to protect all Colorado families and not “turn the West Slope into an air quality sacrifice zone.”

EDF couldn’t agree more.  Air quality in western parts of Colorado is trending in a bad direction, teetering on the edge of violating federal health standards.  The state health department issued nine ozone advisories last winter for Western Slope counties where oil and gas development is prevalent, meaning the air wasn’t healthy for kids, the elderly, active adults and people with respiratory illness.

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Colorado’s Proposal Shows What it Takes to Make Progress on Climate

morberg /flickr

morberg /flickr

This commentary originally appeared on our EDF Voices: People on the Planet blog.

At a time when partisan rancor is the order of the day, this week’s news out of Colorado is a tribute to the power of partnership. On Monday, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado proposed new regulations for oil and gas operations that, if adopted, will cut both conventional air pollution and climate pollution – by making Colorado the first state in the nation to tackle the problem of methane emissions. The big announcement showed that industry leaders, state officials and an environmental group like Environmental Defense Fund can sit down together to negotiate a plan to deliver cleaner, safer air. And just in time. As EDF’s Rocky Mountain Regional Director Dan Grossman told NPR this week, “the fundamental question [is] whether or not citizens will tolerate oil and gas development.”

On Election Day, four Colorado communities voted to ban hydraulic fracturing. State officials and industry leaders are getting the message: public trust has been badly damaged, and the only way to restore it is by putting in place strong rules to protect air, water, and communities. Not every community is going to ban oil and gas development, obviously, so we need to protect the many places where it is happening.

While the new Colorado proposal doesn’t address all the issues surrounding oil and gas development, the governor and the state’s regulators should be applauded for their efforts in bringing forward these commonsense air pollution measures, which were agreed to and supported by EDF, Anadarko Petroleum, Encana, and Noble Energy. And we’re not the only ones who think so. Newspapers from Los Angeles to Denver to New York wrote in support of the new rules. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera praised both the proposed legislation and Environmental Defense Fund’s collaborative approach in an op-ed published MondayRead More »

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Wyoming Raises the Bar on Air Quality for Oil & Gas

Source: Evolving ITSM

When it comes to willingness to show leadership in the critical field of air quality, Wyoming is once again first out of the gate with important new requirements to reduce harmful emissions from leaking oil and gas equipment — a major source of air pollution that can create serious air quality problems.

A Wyoming program finalized last week requires operators that are requesting permits for new and modified sources, such as wells or tanks, in the state’s most active oil and gas fields to find and fix leaking equipment under required Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) programs.  Companies are required to inspect their operations quarterly utilizing reliable, technologically-precise detection methods at those sites most likely to leak.

This sort of leadership is not new to the Cowboy State. Wyoming has a tradition of being a first mover on air pollution reduction requirements, including pioneering the so-called "green completion" rules to reduce emissions from new wells that have since become the federal standard.

Wyoming’s LDAR program is a smart step forward on sensible, effective air quality regulations for the oil and gas industry. Tightening systems so that leaks are plugged will both protect the air we breathe and reduce the waste of a precious natural resource. In fact, strong LDAR programs may be the best, most cost-effective way to fix leaks and minimize pollution.

EDF, the Wyoming Outdoor Council (WOC) and Citizens United for Responsible Energy Development (CURED) offered their strong support for the state’s proposed LDAR program in joint comments, while also suggesting key improvements – chiefly, that the state  ensure these programs use readily-available, cost-effective technologies (like infrared cameras) to detect pollution.

We are pleased that this improvement was included in the final requirements and it shows the state’s willingness to work collaboratively in addressing Wyoming’s air issues.

Next up, the state should consider making these strong requirements apply to existing sources, such as previously drilled wells already in production, and on a statewide basis. But in the meantime, other states, including Colorado, should take note. On protecting the air we breathe, Wyoming just raised the bar.

 

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Natural Gas And The Methane Problem: Study Shows Climate Benefit Depends On Fixing The Leaks

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas – 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. The largest single source of U.S. methane emissions is the vast network of infrastructure and activity involved in the production, processing and delivery of natural gas. These emissions, if not controlled, pose a significant risk to the climate. In the near term, the opportunity to maximize the climate benefit of natural gas compared to other fossil fuels rests on whether methane emissions can be minimized.

A groundbreaking study released today demonstrates that some operators have been successful in deploying technologies and strategies to minimize methane emissions from production, creating optimism that we can make the natural gas climate bet payoff.  However, we also know that such technologies and strategies are not universally deployed in the industry and, not surprisingly, other studies demonstrate much higher methane leakage rates.

We simply need to be vigilant to ensure that such production is done right.

The University of Texas study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved taking direct measurements of actual methane emissions – as opposed to estimating emissions through indirect methods such as engineering formulas, as has often been the case in earlier studies.  Measurements were taken at well sites in multiple geographic regions – including the Rocky Mountain West. It is the first of 16 studies EDF is participating in to assess the scope of methane leakage throughout the natural gas supply chain (from production on through to local distribution and key end users). Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Energy-Water Nexus Spans Across Western United States

Source: feww.wordpress.com

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a number of posts to help shed light on the fundamental connection between energy and water. Because many of our energy sources gulp down huge volumes of water, it’s imperative that we break down the long-standing division between energy and water planning — especially in drought-prone states like Texas. I’d like to take a step back and look at how Texas’ neighbors are addressing energy and water co-management. While Texas may be an extreme example, looking toward its immediate neighbors could provide ideas and best practices to improve the state’s situation.

A number of western states are facing many of the same challenges as Texas. Electricity production is a major drain on the region’s water supply. A study co-authored by Western Resource Advocates and EDF showed that thermoelectric power plants, such as coal, natural gas and nuclear, in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah consumed an estimated 292 million gallons of water each day in 2005 — roughly equal to the amount of water consumed by Denver, Phoenix and Albuquerque combined (and we’re talking water consumption, not just withdrawals). Like Texas, the western states face a future of prolonged drought. Scientific models predict climate change will increase drought throughout the Southwest, placing greater stress on the region’s delicate water supply.

Additionally, electricity production, numerous thirsty cities and widespread agricultural activity all strain the water system, too. Because so many flock to western states for fishing, kayaking, rafting and other recreational water activities, setting the region’s water system on a sustainable path is a critical economic issue. The exceptional challenges facing western states have already prompted some states to consider the energy-water nexus when planning to meet future water and electricity needs. Read More »

Posted in Climate, Energy-Water Nexus, Utility Business Models| Also tagged , , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Is The Glass Half Full Or Half Empty For Solar Power?

Jackie RobertsGE and First Solar announced earlier this week an important step towards consolidation of the solar industry that will result in the loss of a new solar manufacturing facility  in Colorado and, potentially 350 jobs.  Clearly the announcement is frustrating for Colorado, a state we featured in EDF’s Clean Energy Economic Development Series, which highlights key road maps for maximizing economic development from clean energy markets.

But, the announcement includes lots of good news – which is probably more significant for the U.S.’s long-term solar power play as well as overall economic opportunity and job creation.  In 2009, GE purchased PrimeStar Solar, a company first seeded at the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL), located in Colorado.  PrimeStar Solar (renamed Arvada research center) made significant advances in the efficiency of cadmium-telluride (CdTe) thin film solar panels.  This lowered the cost of thin film solar panels overall and made them more competitive with traditional solar panels.

CdTe thin film solar panels require less material than alternative technologies – which lowers their cost – but their efficiency continues to lag behind traditional, silicon-based solar panels.  The deal gives GE a large stock position in First Solar in exchange for giving First Solar the new CdTe thin film solar technology – essentially creating a key strategic partnership between the two companies.

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Is BLM Phoning It In?

Source: Soundcheck-WNYC

Yesterday the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a new draft of its so-called “fracking rule.” To be fair, the proposed rule does represent a level of progress compared to sorely outdated rules on the books. But we’re dealing with critical issues here – not the kinds of things we can afford to only get half right.  And unfortunately, “half right” is about all we got here.

The most significant failings of the proposed rule have to do with well integrity – the way an oil or gas well is constructed and operated to minimize risks to the environment and public safety. Proper casing, cementing and pressure management are critical to protecting groundwater resources and the lives of the men and women who work the rigs. The rule takes steps in the right direction, but it doesn’t include nearly the level of detail necessary to ensure casing is set where it’s needed, operators are getting good cement jobs and the whole system is checked for mechanical integrity at critical points in the well development process.

The rule also falls short on chemical disclosure. We’re pleased to see the agency propose the same basic disclosure framework that has already been established by leading states – including requirements that operators disclose all chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids (not just chemicals subject to OSHA reporting), and requirements to post the information on a user-friendly, publicly accessible website like FracFocus. But the proposal is far too weak on trade secrets. For the public to have confidence trade secret protections aren’t being abused, there needs to be a clear path for challenging trade secret assertions and policing the system.

Finally, while we recognize that you can’t address every issue in a single rule, it’s still worth noting two areas where agency rules are in glaring need of an overhaul. First, BLM needs to improve its rules for the handling, storage and disposal of the huge volumes of wastewater produced by unconventional oil and gas operations (the proposed rule merely asks operators to submit a plan). Second, BLM needs to adopt requirements to minimize emissions of methane – a highly potent greenhouse gas – and other contaminants that create local and regional air quality problems like they’re seeing in Colorado and Wyoming. There’s long been talk of dealing with methane emissions at BLM, but so far we’ve yet to see action. We hope that changes soon. Read More »

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Clean Air Report Card: CO, WY Counties Get F’s Due To Oil And Gas Pollution

Source: Washington Business Journal

As a parent, I would not be pleased if my kids brought home F’s on their report cards.  Stern talks with my children, frantic phone calls and scheduled meetings with teachers and administrators would ensue.  Plans of action would be crafted.  It would be an urgent wake-up call.

This week, several counties in Colorado and Wyoming brought home poor grades on their clean air report cards.  The American Lung Association examined the levels of damaging ozone pollution in counties in these two western states and several of them are simply not making the grade.

High ozone levels are not new to Colorado.  Like many large metropolitan areas, Denver has struggled with ozone pollution (commonly known as smog) for many years. But historically, such problems have been limited to the summertime and to the Denver metropolitan area. Now unhealthy levels of ozone are becoming a common occurrence year-round and are emerging in rural parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

The culprit?  Air pollution from oil and gas development, which is just one of the environmental risks associated with a booming natural gas industry. Read More »

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