County commissioners back new air pollution regs for oil and gas
The Garfield County commissioners will voice their support Monday for new proposed air pollution regulations for statewide oil and gas operations. County environmental health manager Jim Rada will take prepared comments to a public hearing by the Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment next month on the proposed regulations.Rada said citizens have raised concerns about their health due to potential air pollution from oil and gas operations in the west end of the county.If approved after the public hearing by the Air Quality Control Commission, a group appointed by the governor, the rules would take effect in January.In 2004, the division adopted air pollution rules governing ozone emissions from oil and gas operations for the Denver metropolitan area and northeastern Colorado because those levels “were close to or exceeded EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) levels,” said APCD Deputy Director Michael Silverstein. Ozone is the primary constituent of smog, the air pollution visible in Denver and other urban areas.Other sources for air pollution, such as vehicle and industrial emissions, are regulated by the state and the federal government.”We are seeing fewer emissions. They’re going down in all sectors,” he said, except the oil and gas industry.APCD focused the rules on oil and gas “because they hadn’t been controlled before. The oil and gas sector pretty much was under the radar. We are revising the regulations this fall because the oil and gas sector grew faster than anticipated,” he said.The rules apply to condensate tanks, which hold liquid petroleum compounds, dehydrators, which remove water from natural gas, and large engines such as those that run compressor stations where gas is pressurized to flow through transmission pipelines.This latest round of rulemaking was extended statewide because of the rising levels of ozone in other areas of oil and gas development such as Garfield County.”We know that ozone is not in violation (of EPA rules) in the rest of the state, but they’re close,” Silverstein said. “We want to keep the clean areas clean.”Under the 2004 rules, oil and gas operators had to reduce emissions from condensate tanks, hydrators and compressor stations by 48 percent. If the new rules are adopted, Front Range operators would have to reduce emissions by 80 percent. If a piece of equipment is putting out more than 11 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) per year, an emission control device would be required. For the rest of the state, emission controls would be required for equipment that puts out more than 20 tons a year, Silverstein said.Rada told the commissioners Monday that some air monitoring samples collected in the county this year show elevated levels of BTEX chemicals – benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes – which are considered air pollutants and a health risk.The county is also sampling ozone levels. “We’re not seeing violations of the (ozone) standard” in the county, Silverstein said.Rada said there are 207 permitted condensate tanks in the county, and of that group, 59 emit more than 20 tons of VOCs a year. The new regulations would cut those emissions by more than 50 percent.While the county commissioners approved of the new regulations, Commissioner Larry McCown said if the rules are adopted “we have to make sure (the APCD) has enough manpower to enforce them. It will fall to local governments to enforce them. … We all know how it works.”Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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