The Latest: Colorado first state to regulate methane emissions

  • A well in the Wattenberg Gas Field, north of Denver, Colorado, USA.

    Wikimedia Commons (CC)

From diesel exhaust to leaking pipelines and other infrastructure, oil and natural gas development releases methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than CO2, sulfur and nitrogen compounds and toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene. The latter two help form lung-damaging ozone. As drilling booms, Western gaspatch pollution sometimes rivals that of major urban areas. That's increased support for better state regulations and inspired some of the first federal rules governing hydraulic fracturing ("EPA aims to clean up polluted air in Western gas fields," HCN 9/5/11).

In late February, Colorado became the first state to regulate the industry's methane emissions, and also tightened and expanded VOC rules. Though two industry trade groups fought those provisions, energy companies Anadarko, Noble and EnCana joined some environmental groups in support of the proposal. Officials estimate it will reduce annual VOC emissions by 92,000 tons, and methane by tens of thousands of tons.

Don Rogers
Don Rogers Subscriber
Mar 18, 2014 03:27 PM
Thank you to the Western Colorado Congress and Ridgway Ouray Community council, among many others, who fought hard for these rules. We can all breath a bit easier thanks to your efforts. ~dr
Kyle Gardner
Kyle Gardner Subscriber
Mar 25, 2014 10:48 AM
The new regulations are an important step, but should have been done years ago. The sooner other states can follow suit the better. It’s long past time that industry ceases to externalize its costs to the environment and the rest of creation. Some trade groups (i.e., corporate stooges) complained the new regulations are burdensome. This is nonsense. What’s burdensome is the pollution from fracking, a reality that burdens the rest of us so industry can keep its costs low. If the cost of doing business is too high for some companies, so be it; pass the costs along to customers and let the market operate appropriately. The new regulations for methane capture should only be the beginning of the story.