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Hickenlooper Proposes New Oil And Gas Air Quality Regulations

Jim Hill
A drilling rig nestled in the greenspace between developments in Frederick, Colo., Aug. 2013.

Calling them ‘groundbreaking,’ Governor John Hickenlooper proposed new statewide air quality rules for oil and gas drilling Monday. The rules aim to reduce air pollution from methane emissions.

Some members of the environmental community aren't biting however, saying the Governor is pushing new rules for purely political reasons.

The new rules would reduce methane emissions by 92,000 tons per year. That’s roughly equivalent to taking every car in Colorado off the road for one year.

“These proposed rules provide common sense measures to help ensure Colorado has the cleanest and safest oil and gas industry in the country,” Governor John Hickenlooper said. “The rules will help Colorado prepare for anticipated growth in energy development, while protecting public health and the environment.”

It’s the product of months of negotiations between Anadarko, Noble Energy, Encana and the Environmental Defense Fund. The companies say the new monitoring and measuring will cost the industry about $30 million per year.

“It is the right thing to do,” said Ted Brown from Noble Energy. “This is a tough rule, make no mistake. This is another layer of regulations. It’s been a tough road to get here.”

Dan Grossman with the Environmental Defense Fund says it truly will set the state apart from the rest of the country.

“This would be by far the strongest rule in the country when it comes to leak repair and detection,” Grossman said.

Not everyone in the environmental community is on board. The group Food and Water Watch, which helped several communities pass fracking bans and moratoriums in the recent 2013 election, says the rule is too little too late.

"Five cities across the Front Range have voted to stop fracking. They did not vote for stronger regulations,” said Sam Schabacker, the Mountain West Region Director for Food & Water Watch. “The Governor and other elected officials need to respect these popular votes to stop fracking, not bring forward weak rules that will not protect Coloradans from this dangerous, irresponsible activity."

The rule would still need to go through a public rulemaking hearing before it could be adopted. 

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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