oil gas pump jacks

Pump Jacks working out in Weyburn Saskatchewan, Canada. Image taken from a tripod.

The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission approved new rules Wednesday to require emissions monitoring during early stages of operations at oil and gas sites.

The monitoring program, reducing emissions of ozone precursors, is the first state regulatory system of its kind in the country.

“Today is further proof that Colorado leads the way in regulating emissions from the oil and gas industry,” said John Putnam, director of environmental programs at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

The monitoring rules, written under SB19-181, require operators to monitor emissions during pre-production and early production activities. The rules also require operators to report carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.

The commission voted unanimously to pass the new rules.

“Our mandate is to minimize emissions, and collecting the most accurate possible data is a crucial component of our long-term plan,” Putnam said. “This new monitoring regime will provide the state and operators with invaluable data on emissions from oil and gas sites, and that will inform our rule-making as we move forward with this ambitious agenda.”

The rules also set controls on flowback tanks at oil and gas sites and emission standards for natural gas-fired reciprocating internal combustion engines of at least 1,000 horsepower.

The rules will cut statewide emissions of nitrous oxide by more than 2,300 tons annually, the Air Pollution Control Division estimates. The rules will also reduce emissions of methane and volatile organic compounds.

“It’s a good day’s work,” said Garry Kaufman, director of the Air Pollution Control Division. “But we’re not done.”

“We’re going to build on this step and further enhance air quality monitoring at oil and gas sites, while we continue to push forward on new rules that will protect the public health and environment in Colorado.”

Colorado's American Petroleum Institute praised the commission's decision in a release Thursday. API was a key stakeholder in making the rules functional for the industry. 

Lynn Granger, API Colorado executive director, commended the technical and economic attainability of the new rules, saying it's important for facts to guide public policy rather than politics. 

"We are grateful to Air Quality Control Commission staff for presenting largely feasible, practical improvements to Colorado’s air regulations," Granger said. "Stakeholders spent most of the past year in diligent pursuit of an outcome that will benefit public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife, and we believe that this evening’s results will advance those foundational goals."

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