Jan 9, 2023 - News

Oil, gas drilling top cause of ozone pollution in Colorado: report

 Birds fly past an oil and gas rig in Weld County on Nov. 2. Photo: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post via Getty Images

Birds fly past an oil and gas rig in Weld County on Nov. 2, 2022. Photo: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post via Getty Images

Oil and gas drilling is likely the leading cause of ozone pollution in Colorado, a new landmark report from the Polis administration shows.

Driving the news: Colorado regulators recently announced a significant revision to their air quality data, finding for the first time that existing and new oil and gas production will emit more nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds than motor vehicles β€” the previous leading cause of ground-level ozone pollution.

  • The projections suggest oil and gas will account for 45% of nitrogen oxide emissions and 41%of volatile organic compound emissions.
  • The error is attributed to a math problem.

Why it matters: The new estimates β€” prepared for federal authorities β€” are nearly double the original projections for drilling and hydraulic fracturing expected in 2023, Colorado Public Radio reports.

What they're saying: "The bottom line is we're acknowledging the mistake and we're going to make lemons out of lemonade," says Michael Ogletree, Air Quality Control Division director. "In the end, we'll get an even stronger state implementation plan."

The other side: The oil and gas industry is disputing the data, pointing to other models based on on-the-ground sensors that show vehicle traffic remains the leading source of local pollution.

  • Dan Haley, Colorado Oil and Gas Association executive director, says the state's report appears to double count 1,000 wells.

What's next: Colorado regulators will start making new rules on air quality based on the new data this year.

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