AQCC Commissioners are good listeners

February 20, 2014

air quality, Colorado, Garfield County, Silt

The AQCC Commissioners gathered moments before the hearing began - February 19, 2014

The AQCC Commissioners gathered moments before the hearing began at noon on February 19, 2014

Air Quality Control Commission Hearings
Live webcast link
9:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m., February 20, 21, & 22

Driving out of the mountains into Denver mid-morning on Wednesday, the Denver Julesberg Basin (Wattenberg gas field) is unmistakably identifiable as a massive yellow haze/brown cloud that stretches for miles along the horizon. The air pollution from exhaust emissions in Denver is nothing compared to the DJ Basin.

With stormy weather predicted for the Western Slope, the Commissioners were kind enough to call on the speakers who had travelled long distances first. Tod and I spoke during the first half of the first session which lasted from noon till about 1:40 p.m. Then we left. Though we were only present for that hour and forty minutes, I have some observations to share.

First of all, the primary purpose for Tod and my comments was to inform the Commissioners that Garfield County did not include Silt in their Rebuttal Statement.

Tod said in part:

From 2001 to 2009, I was a Trustee on the Silt Town Board. Around 2003, I headed a Board Committee that focused on air quality as we crafted an ordinance dealing with oil & gas drilling activity in the town limits. Our main focus was to establish base line information on water and air quality in the town. There was an air quality monitoring station in Silt until 2005, when it was removed by the County. Even though I inquired many times, I was never able to find out whatever happened to the base line air quality monitoring data from that time period. There hasn’t been air quality monitoring in Silt since then. Without air quality monitoring data from the Town of Silt, I believe the County Commissioners are presenting an incomplete analysis of the air quality in Western Garfield County. If anything we need more air quality monitors, and most definitely in Silt.

I said in part:

With gas wells to the north, south, east and west of town, we are surrounded. We do not have an air quality monitor in Silt. I am here today because my county commissioners failed to include my community in their Rebuttal Statement. Garfield County boasts that it has funded and implemented the most comprehensive long-term baseline air quality monitoring program of any rural county in the United States. Indeed the data they submitted shows attainment of federal air quality standards. However the omission of air quality monitoring data from Silt – a community which has been the center of oil and gas development for over a decade — skews the overall air quality picture in Garfield County.

I guess-timate that 150 to 200 people attended the afternoon hearing – maybe more. The Denver Post reports that 120 people commented. However there were several sessions, including a call-in session, and since it was a public hearing people could come and go throughout the day.

The Commissioners were and are really good listeners, and the speakers were very interesting. We weren’t bored for a minute and would have stayed if not for the weather looming. As I have listened to the hearing on and off today I am encouraged because some of the Commissioners brought up the public concerns they heard yesterday. They ask good questions.

During that first segment on Wednesday, speakers in favor of stricter air quality regs outnumbered speakers opposed by a huge margin — maybe 5 to 1. Bruce Finley’s article provides a good representation:  Colorado air commissioners hear fears of oil and gas drilling

This clown got a few laughs. No one took him seriously.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, one of six Republicans trying to unseat Gov. John Hickenlooper, denounced advocates of tougher air-pollution controls. “I hope the commission won’t be swayed by the flat-earthers here today who are arguing for a ‘one size fits all’ air-quality standard,” Brophy said.

We’ve been called a lot of names over the years. “Flat-earthers” is a new one.

Even though each speaker presented his/her own unique perspective, there were two overriding themes:

  1. Pollution caused by emissions from oil & gas drilling activities is different than pollution caused by normal exhaust emissions because it contains toxic chemicals.
  2. Those toxic chemicals are making us sick.

Please note that while it’s true that the AQCC’s rulemaking is focused on reducing methane emissions, the measures that the industry will be required to take to accomplish that will have the side benefit of reducing VOCs (toxic chemicals). The Commissioners are well aware of this.

The opposition didn’t dispute the public’s claims. Their argument is all about economics. Stricter air regs on the industry could cost the industry too much money and that could hurt the local economy.

However more than one speaker reminded the Commissioners it is not their job to protect the industry’s bottom line, their job is to protect public health.

I won’t go out on a limb with any specific predictions, but I’m glad we attended and commented, and I believe these 12 human beings may very well do the right thing.

Tune in to the webcast if you can. It’s quite interesting.

Air Quality Control Commission Hearings
Live webcast link
9:00 a.m – 6:00 p.m., February 20, 21, & 22

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Get From the Styx delivered

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: