Energy boom may hamper Front Range antismog efforts
DENVER – The booming energy industry in fast-growing counties north of Denver may threaten the metropolitan area’s effort to comply with federal clean air guidelines, officials say.New projections by the state Department of Public Health and Environment show that drilling businesses in Weld and Adams counties will generate smog-forming emissions in 2007 at levels 61 percent ahead of earlier expectations, the Rocky Mountain News reported Wednesday.In 2002, as part of an ozone-reduction plan from Colorado regulators and the EPA, officials projected that so-called “flash” emissions from activities associated with gas exploration in Adam and Weld counties would total 146 tons per day.The latest projections, based on higher-than-anticipated exploration, call for 236 tons per day.The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to declare the Denver area a clean air region for ozone, but only if it stays within health limits for the pollutant over the summers of 2005, 2006 and 2007.”I think it’s extremely important that the industry come to grips with this, because the consequences of lapsing into (dirty air) status would be rather devastating,” said Richard Long, head of air programs for the EPA office in Denver.Falling short of the federal air quality rules can delay highway projects, tighten emission limits on power plants and make it more difficult for new facilities in the region.Ken Wonstolen, executive vice president of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, questioned how many more emission controls oil and gas operators should have to install. He suggested oil and gas drillers account for a tiny fraction of ozone-forming compounds.”I hope the process will be informed by good science, and the science I have seen to date (shows) that (oil and gas) is not a significant part of the ozone formation,” he said.A pollution monitor at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden registered levels Sunday above federal health standards for ozone, the first such reading of the season. The Regional Air Quality Council has also issued a series of ozone alerts.Oil and gas production competes with motor vehicles as the biggest manmade source of smog-forming emissions in the Denver area.In 2004, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved 832 permits to drill in Weld County and last year approved 901.
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