Rulemaking request aimed at cumulative climate impacts of oil and gas development headed to COGCC, Garfield County objects

The Denver skyline is shrouded as pollution fills the air in this March 6, 2019, file photo. The state of Colorado at the time issued an "action day" for residents of the seven-county Denver/Boulder metropolitan area because of the pollution.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

A request before Colorado’s oil and gas regulators for new rulemaking aimed at reining in broader climate impacts from the industry would amount to a de facto ban on further energy development in the state, Garfield County officials say.

County commissioners last week joined other oil and gas producing counties in offering comments on the petition filed with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in August by several environmental groups, led by New Mexico-based Wild Earth Guardians.

The petition should be rejected outright, commissioners said.

“This is just another case where we see individuals and organizations who want to kill oil and gas development in the county, the state, and the entire world,” Commissioner Mike Samson said at the Nov. 21 Board of County Commissioners meeting.

“To me, that is such a foolish thing to do,” he said. “I want to appeal to the common sense of people in this state who are in positions of power, to stop and think, and analyze what they are doing to this state. This is another example of people trying to destroy things we need for a high quality of life.”

The petition, backed by groups including 350 Colorado and the Sierra Club of Colorado, asks the COGCC to adopt rules for evaluating and addressing “cumulative air impacts” and to address environmental justice concerns as it relates to underrepresented populations of people.

It focuses on the cumulative impacts from air emissions across the region, “as well as the inclusion of rules to evaluate and address the disproportionate impact of oil and gas production particularly on communities of color, including indigenous communities, and regions experiencing higher than average warming.”

While much of the concern is focused on air-quality standards “nonattainment” areas across the northern Front Range, the Western Slope is not immune in that, the petition states.

“Western Colorado has warmed more than twice the national average, with communities already experiencing warming of 1.5 to 2.4 degrees Celsius,” the petition asserts. Garfield County in particular has seen average annual warming of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), according to a county-by-county table included with the petition and derived from a Washington Post Pulitzer Prize winning series in 2020, “Beyond the Limit.”

The petition calls for any area of Colorado that has experienced a 1.5-degree Celsius increase in temperature be off-limits to new oil and gas development.

“Despite the extensive evaluations of climate change impacts that have been conducted by Colorado, national, and international governmental bodies, the (existing) rules do not address these impacts,” the petition states.

Garfield County Oil and Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn said the request, if granted, would effectively ban new oil and gas development and production in Garfield County and throughout the state.

It also asks the COGCC to “step out of its lane” on matters typically dealt with by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“COGCC is meeting its stated intent and obligation to address cumulative impacts via current mission change rule requirements and by collecting data to better understand the issues in a manner that will more optimally inform a future rulemaking to further strengthen reasonable and necessary cumulative impact protections within the regulatory authority and technical ability of the commission,” notes the county’s letter to the COGCC, which was penned by Wynn.

“We can’t have energy independence in this country if we’re shutting down natural-gas production in Colorado,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, adding the county supports an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy production to achieve that.

“To have these groups that would try to shut down all oil and gas production in Colorado is the opposite of what we stand for in Colorado,” he said.

The stakes not just for Colorado but the global climate as a whole are too high, the petition states in defense of the request.

“It is indisputable that climate change is a cumulative impact of oil and gas operations, and that it is already harming the health of Coloradans, our ecosystems, our agriculture, and our recreation industry and is the cause of several of the largest disasters in recent Colorado history,” the petition states.

Further, “Colorado, which in addition to emitting more than its global ‘share’ of emissions has seen its own local warming exceeding global averages, bears a share of responsibility larger than its share of population to be part of the solution,” it states.

Public comment on the petition is due to the COGCC by this Friday, and the commission is meeting on Dec. 9 in Denver to discuss the matter. To submit comments and gain remote access to the hearing, visit

Post Independent interim Managing Editor and senior reporter John Stroud can be reached at or at 970-384-9160.

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