EPAC coalition “concerned” about state’s proposed emission control rule

Photo of burning of drilling/fracking byproducts south of Silt – chemical cloud headed towards Glenwood Springs.

Photo of burning of drilling/fracking byproducts south of Silt – chemical cloud headed towards Glenwood Springs.

The Garfield County Commissioners held a special meeting on Wednesday morning as part of preparing their Rebuttal Statement to the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission’s proposed air quality regulations. The AQCC will hold air quality rulemaking hearings February 19 to 21 at the Aurora Municipal Center in Aurora, CO. Garfield County is part of a 5-county coalition titled Energy Producing Attainment Counties – or EPAC.

Garfield County part of coalition that weighs in on state pollution rules

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County has teamed with four other western Colorado counties as the so-called Energy Producing Attainment Counties (EPAC) coalition to try to persuade state regulators against a blanket approach to new air quality standards.

The coalition, which also includes Mesa, Moffat, Rio Blanco and Montezuma counties, maintains that it supports strong regulation of oil and gas operations, including many of the draft rules now before the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC).

But those regulations should ultimately be science-based, according to a draft rebuttal statement to comments submitted by various citizen groups and environmental interests to the AQCC for next month’s public hearings on the proposed new rules.

Some of the “best science” has been developed through Garfield County’s own air-monitoring program and other efforts in the region, which tend to show that Garfield and other natural-gas-producing counties on the Western Slope are consistently within federal pollution limits, according to the draft statement …

… Battlement Mesa resident Bob Arrington, speaking for the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, pointed to the county’s own air-monitoring data in recent years that do show spikes in ozone pollutants well above federal standards, even if the average readings are within attainment levels.

He also referred to data collected on forest lands in eastern Garfield and Pitkin counties through 2010 and 2011 that detected higher levels at higher elevations.

“When it comes to air flow, the forces of nature prevail,” he said.

“What is made in Utah, or even China for that matter, affects the Western Slope of Colorado. Likewise, what the Western Slope makes affects the air in neighboring counties to the east and on the Front Range,” he said in support of uniform statewide air quality regulations …

Click here to watch the 3-hour portion of the Special Meeting.

Bob Arrington spoke at about 00:57.
Bob’s statement here.

Peggy Tibbetts spoke at about 1:31:50
I’m not a very good public speaker plus my voice is permanently strained and I cough all the time from living in this air pollution but I did okay. Here is my statement:

My name is Peggy Tibbetts. I live in Silt, Colorado. That means I live in the town of Silt, inside the city limits.

As you are well aware, Silt is nestled in the basin of the Colorado River. With gas wells to the north, south, east and west of town, we are surrounded. Yet we have no air quality monitor in Silt. Emissions associated with all aspects of oil and gas operations, including a compressor station south of town, are constantly spewed into the air. Those emissions are made up of chemicals that are heavier than air. They have a tendency to settle into the river basin. They contribute to air inversions all year round. Everyone in my family suffers from allergies all year round. We deal with continuous eye, ear, nose, and throat irritation plus repeated upper respiratory and sinus infections.

I believe clean air is a basic human right.

[I brought props in the form of products I use daily because I live with air pollution. I displayed those products on the table and described each one.]
In order to cope with the health effects of air pollution every day I use oxygen in a can (to help me breathe after exercise), eye drops, nasal spray, ear drops, and an essential oil product which also helps me breathe.

The air pollution that burns our eyes, ears, nose and throat; the particulate matter that causes our chronic coughing and sneezing are visible. Western Garfield County’s panoramic vistas are choked by toxic brown clouds and blue ozone. The contrast is especially stark when viewed from on high in the Flat Tops. But it is certainly no more alarming than when we leave Silt for any length of time – whether it’s for an evening out in Glenwood Springs or a week’s vacation out of state – when we return to the valley the degradation of our air quality is undeniable. From DeBeque to Silt the air stinks.

I leave you with this statistic — According to the American Lung Association, 9.1% of children in Colorado have asthma, which is higher than the national average of 8.9%. We owe our kids better odds than that.

Leslie Robinson spoke at about 1:42:00
She stressed the importance of regular inspections for all operators at all locations, which is something WPX and COGA have opposed.

At about 1:45 Commissioner Jankovsky took offense at a statement in the GVCA’s letter to the BOCC which read in part: “members of the Grand Valley Citizen Alliance are disappointed that the Garfield County Commissioners have come out in opposition to the application of the proposed air quality regulations on the Western Slope.” Jankovsky called the statement “almost slanderous” saying the Board has not yet made a decision.

However Commissioner Jankovsky is good at taking things out of context. In fact, the 2-page GVCA letter goes into great detail explaining why the BOCC’s position as outlined in their January 6 letter is in opposition to what the state is proposing. The GVCA letter doesn’t state that the Commissioners flat out oppose the state’s proposed air quality regulations. The letter points out why the Board’s position is in opposition to the state’s. It is an informative letter, not a combative letter.

Roger Wilson (former state representative) spoke at about 1:53. He asked the Board not to fight the states recommendations and to agree with the proposed new rules.

At about 1:59 Commissioner Martin demanded, “Where in the world are you hearing that we are fighting the state? … I am baffled by the claim that we are fighting against the state.”

When pressed further, Wilson said he must have read it in some environmental publication.

Well, the Post Independent is not exactly an environmental publication. What follows is the headline, sub-head, and first paragraph of the front page on Tuesday, January 21.

Citizens group wants Garfield County to rethink stance on air standards
Commissioners say they will weigh input before sending final comments

A local environmental group wants Garfield County commissioners to retract their opposition to new statewide air emissions standards for oil and gas operators that are currently before the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission …

I’m not sure why the Commissioners were on the defensive about their position. It’s no secret they don’t believe the same rules should apply to the Western Slope as they are applied to the Front Range. But the state does. So how is that not in opposition to the state?

They imply that the air here in Garfield County is not as polluted as the air in Weld County and so we ought to give the industry the opportunity to pollute our air even more before we impose stricter air quality regulations – and the state had better show a cost-benefit analysis.

And talk about defensive — the industry reps were totally prickly. WSCOGA’s Dave Ludlum whined about a Wilderness Workshop email that described the industry as “irresponsible polluters” and “people who refuse to kick their pollution habits.” That insulted him. Bill Barrett’s rep Doug Dennison implied that Rifle was a shithole when he moved there in 2003, because he couldn’t buy socks & underwear in town, but thanks to oil & gas Rifle is a real nice place to live now. (If by nice he means you can’t drink the water and the air stinks but Walmart has plenty of socks & underwear then I guess by those standards he’s right.) Another guy whose name I missed works for Ursa and he gave a rather lengthy speech outlining his job experience, like he was applying for a job or something. He has worked for several different operators in the Piceance gas fields since 1978. Then he got all emotional. Apparently he takes the public’s disdain for the oil & gas industry personally and compared it to returning home from serving in Vietnam in the 70s and being spat upon. For a minute I thought I’d died and gone to rehab.

Ordinarily I’d be inclined to call these guys the Three Stooges and make fun of them but now I’m a little concerned about the emotional scars it might leave.

But only a little.

So anyway the Garfield and Mesa County Commissioners held a meeting on Thursday in Parachute to finalize their joint statement which had to be submitted by midnight (1/30).

GarCo Press Release:  Garfield and Mesa County Commissioners vote to file response to air quality rulemaking

Rebuttal Statement of Coalition of Energy Producing Attainment Counties

Counties want flexibility with air pollution rules [subscribers only]

PARACHUTE — Garfield and Mesa county commissioners on Thursday finalized a five-county coalition’s call for flexibility in proposed new air pollution rules for oil and gas development.

The two counties, along with Rio Blanco and Moffat counties in northwest Colorado and Montezuma County in far southwest Colorado, worry in a joint letter about taking a standard, statewide approach to new controls on exploration and production activities.
The counties also question taking a one-size-fits-all approach when ozone problems are largely limited to the Front Range, and when, they say, emissions are higher for oil- and liquids-rich basins in eastern Colorado than for what are called dry-gas basins in western Colorado.

“In our opinion, the commissioners are here to protect citizens, our human health — and should not be concerned with the cost analysis of how these proposed rules impact the oil-and-gas industry,” Leslie Robinson with the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance said in comments submitted to the county.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said Thursday that commissioners are responsible for looking after the health, safety and welfare of residents.

He said he recognized the health issue related to air pollution.

“But welfare also is being able to have jobs and a strong economy, and so we have to have a balance between the two,” he said.

So you can just imagine what he thinks I should do with that bag of products I use to help me breathe …

Garfield County took the lead in putting together the coalition letter, which Mesa commissioners praised on Thursday.

“Good job, and we feel fortunate to be part of the coalition,” Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said.

On Page 1 of the EPAC Rebuttal there is this statement:  “The EPAC coalition is concerned that the Division’s proposed rules and assertions made in their prehearing statement regarding development and application of a statewide emission control rule is counter to well established case law and Federal and state statutes.”

In some circles those might be considered “fighting” words – or at least contentious. The Commissioners should own it and accept responsibility for their position instead of playing word games.

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3 Comments on “EPAC coalition “concerned” about state’s proposed emission control rule”

  1. Fiona Lloyd Says:

    What mystifies me the most is the complaint that tougher regulations, especially well checks “in remote areas every 6 months” (do they never visit these remote wells anyway? That’s a worrying thought) will cost so much money that the oil and gas industry will collapse and leave. Spending some of their obscene profits on job creation surely isn’t too much to ask? And leave? Really? Leave the place where the gas is? I think not, especially now you can buy underwear and socks here.

    (PS. I bet it was Ursa’s Pake who had a meltdown, Peggy)

  2. Fiona Lloyd Says:

    A report by the Colorado School of Public Health has just been released

    http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/wp-content/uploads/122/1/ehp.1306722.pdf

    “Many pollutants that are suspected of increasing the risk of birth defects are emitted into the air during development and production of natural gas, the report said.

    McKenzie added that the study is not conclusive but found an “association.” But critics of the oil and gas industry were not so cautious about drawing conclusions from the evidence.“This study suggests that if you want to have a healthy baby and you live near a fracking site, move,” Gary Wockner of Colorado’s Clean Water Action, said.”

    oh dear, this isn’t good news….. unless the BoCC would rather we didn’t have a future population to work in the gas patch and pay taxes (and buy underwear for that matter).

  3. Beth Strudley Says:

    Oh go on Peggy! Give them one more bitch-slap! I definitely wanna see them cry! Reach over and give one to Jancocksvy too, just to make it an even four!

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