The state of our air

January 28, 2014

air quality, Colorado, Garfield County

This spread gives the tons/year (tpy) of pollutants discharged by O&G by particular VOCs. Garfield led the herd for 2011. Data source: CO Air Pollution Control Division [Click on the image for a larger view]

This spread gives the tons/year (tpy) of pollutants discharged by O&G by particular VOCs. Garfield led the herd for 2011. Data source: CO Air Pollution Control Division [Click on the image for a larger view]

By Bob Arrington

To whom it may concern (and it should be everybody),

I have been working with the data for the State Air Quality hearings and new rules. Here is what is happening:

Clean air is a resource that, by law to have healthy air to breathe, is every American’s right. There is no provision that oil & gas or any industry can pollute up to health set ambient standards. If the technology and management practice allows control of emissions, they must be used and can be required by regulations.

Everyone learns as a child that there are no man-made laws or political bounds on where air and wind will flow, only the forces of nature will prevail. Because of this, people work and agree together on limiting the amount of atmospheric emission of pollutants. What is made in Utah (or even China) affects the western slope of Colorado and what western Colorado makes affects the eastern slope and Kansas and beyond.

A marker of this pollution is ozone that is created when Volatile Organic Compounds mix with Nitrogen Oxides and are subject to Ultra Violet light. VOC + NOX + UV = O3 or ozone.

ozone pollutionOther emissions involve, among many:

  • Methane that is 36 times as bad as CO2 as a greenhouse gas.
  • Benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, methanol, acrolein, acetaldehyde, toluene,     xylene and hexanes are among the hazardous pollutants released in the VOC’s.

Garfield is the highest in the state of these hazardous emissions followed by Rio Blanco.

Ozone damages people, animals, plants, and material items. Going over 75 ppb of ozone in a prescribed time and sampling becomes a non-attainment classification meaning such things as, vehicle emission programs, burning restrictions, and other mandated warnings or restrictions.

Rangely, Colorado reached non-attainment of 75 ppb and many were quick to point out, “it’s Utah’s fault!” without ever mentioning the contribution made by local O&G in the area.

Rio Blanco has a problem.

Likewise, Utah contributes to Grand Junction levels and GJ contributes to its own problems. But if you track up through Colburn to the divide of 300 and 300 E. Rd. and check the ozone readings, you find higher readings than GJ. The pattern shows increases in levels from Saddle Horn Campground to Palisade Water Plant to 300 Road, the latter two having spikes going above the 75 ppb standard.*

Mesa has a problem.

Garfield touts its readings of below 75 ppb in Rifle (even with spikes as high as 78 ppb), but for some reason also ignores Dry Hollow in Silt area that went to 77 ppb before monitoring stopped in 2008. Garfield seemingly didn’t look at Sunlight and Spring Valley monitoring. Sunlight spiked to 86 ppb in 2010 and many spikes from 75 to 82 ppb in 2011, before ending monitoring; and, Spring Valley having spike to 75 in 2010 and spikes to 76  in 2011, and then ending monitoring. Meanwhile, in the “pristine” Flat Top wilderness area of Rd 8a over Ripple Creek Pass 2007 readings hit 75 ppb and matched Rifle in 2010 and 2011. There were only 3 summer sample periods.*

Garfield has a problem.

The unwitting participant, as far as O&G, is Pitkin. Aspen airport had summer 2010 and 2011 readings slightly less than Rifle in the same period, Aspen Mountain didn’t fare that well. Up under the upper lift terminals, the readings spiked to 76 ppb in 2008 and ran peaking close to 70 ppb and going up to 75 ppb spikes in 2012.* But it seems Pitkin may really be furnishing the NOX lacking from the Thompson Divide and Divide Creek VOC sources with help from Mesa background ozone. Higher elevations may expedite ozone formation with higher UV levels and snow reflectivity.

Pitkin has a problem.

Yet 3 out of 4 of these counties do not feel they have a problem because they are considering speaking against the Air Quality rule that would that would address the greatest contributing source of these unnecessary emissions. A rule, which the three companies, EnCana, Noble, and Anadarko, have found has economic benefit and they endorsed its enactment.

How do you feel about the air you will have to breathe?

* Figures refer to EPA Ozone Concentration Charts


bob arringtonBob Arrington is one of the contributors to the Prehearing Statement of Local Community Organizations.

He is a retired engineer and the Battlement Mesa citizen representative on Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board (EAB). He also represents the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and the Battlement Concerned Citizens.

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