EPA orders Colorado to review gas field controls
February 12, 2008
DENVER – An environmental group seeking stricter air-pollution controls on Colorado’s growing natural gas industry is praising a federal order it hopes will “ripple through the Rocky Mountain West.”The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the state to respond to objections from Denver-based Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action over a permit for a natural gas compressor station in northeast Colorado.The group argued that state air-quality regulators should have bunched the compressor station together with nearby gas wells owned by the same company when it considered whether to issue an air-quality permit.The state issued a permit based only on the compressor station’s emissions.An order issued Friday and signed by EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson doesn’t reverse the decision but directs regulators to explain it and make any appropriate changes.Grouping the compressor station with the wells as a single source of pollution could trigger the need for more stringent air-pollution controls under the federal Clean Air Act, which Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action favors.”We’re seeing what’s going on in the Rocky Mountain West now. We’re on a crash course with some pretty serious air-quality problems,” said Jeremy Nichols, the group’s director.Nichols said gas wells, compressor stations, tanks for byproducts and other facilities in one area are interrelated and need to be regulated as whole to protect air quality.”If we’re successful here, it’s going to ripple through the Rocky Mountain West,” Nichols said.The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which regulates state air quality, is evaluating the EPA’s order, said Martha Rudolph, the agency’s director of environmental programs.Colorado strengthened air pollution regulations on the oil and gas industry in late 2006 to help reduce ground-level ozone, particularly in the Denver area and adjacent northeastern Colorado. Federal regulators officially declared the Denver area in violation of federal ozone limits in November.Industry officials have said oil and gas companies are being unfairly singled out and that getting rid of older, polluting vehicles would do more to cut ozone levels.But state officials said emissions from oil and gas operations in northeastern Colorado have shot up while pollution from vehicles and other sources has dropped.The compressor station and wells, near the town of Frederick, are owned by Anadarko Petroleum Co.Anadarko spokeswoman Paula Beasley said in a written statement that the EPA order reinforces the health department decision.She said the wells mentioned by the environmental group are registered separately and have separate permits. She said the “emission-reduction performance” of the wells is better than regulations require.”Anadarko understands how important clean air is and we want to assure you that we are a company that places high priority on care for the environment,” Beasley said.The company has about 4,000 wells in northeast Colorado.