Colorado lawmakers introduce new set of air quality bills

Oil and gas industry leaders say the legislation will harm the state's economy
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Posted at 7:50 PM, Feb 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-22 22:36:57-05

DENVER — State lawmakers introduced a new package of bills Thursday aimed at improving Colorado's air quality.

The bills, which include tougher regulations on the state's oil and gas industry, focus on permitting, air quality enforcement, and reducing harmful pollutants.

Supporters say the state's failure to meet federal air quality standards made the bills necessary.

One bill expands and increases fines for air quality violations. Another requires oil and gas operators to take additional steps before getting operations permits within the Denver metro/ north Front Range ozone nonattainment area.

“We're going to require that before you dig, you need to know and demonstrate that the impact it will have on the air will not be in exceedance of what is allowed federally,” said State Rep. Jennifer Bacon, D-Denver.

A third bill focuses on reducing harmful ozone pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The bill bans summertime drilling unless operators use all-electric equipment.

Supporters like Commerce City Councilmember Renée Chacon, who also co-founded Womxn From The Mountain, which advocates for marginalized communities, said the bills would put the health and safety of people before profits.

“It's long overdue to address environmental justice,” said Chacon. “I come from the disproportionately impacted communities harmed by bad air.”

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Commerce City council member Renée Chacon said the legislation is long overdue.

Chacon said the bills address the concerns of many people living in some Colorado communities.

"It addresses in three different bills how to reduce emissions, how to hold industry accountable and how to start addressing community healthcare concerns and protections," said Chacon.

Leaders of Colorado’s oil and gas industry held a press conference in response to the legislation. They said the bills introduced Thursday — as well as others that either have been introduced or are in the pipeline — will kill jobs.

“These bills seek to end the oil and gas industry in Colorado,” said Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Haley said the legislation is being introduced without regard to the people who depend on the industry for a living.

J.J. Ament, CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said the industry is already in the process of adopting cleaner standards.

“We can have economic competitiveness and a solid and quality environment, and we're doing it right now,” said Ament. “We don’t need additional legislation. We don’t need additional regulation.”

Industry leaders wrote a letter to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and legislative leaders on Thursday.

The letter highlights a bill by State Senators Kevin Priola and Sonya Jaquez-Lewis and State Representatives Andrew Boesenecker and Julia Marvin. They said the bill would ban oil and gas permits by 2029 and end new drilling by 2032.

“The mere introduction of this bill, which bans an industry we all rely on every single day to survive and thrive in the 21st century, sends a chilling message to every industry and every business in this state,” they wrote.

Members of Colorado's business community and oil and gas industry held a press conference Thursday. They said the legislation will harm the state's economy.

Chacon said the description of the legislation as “job-killing” misses the mark.

“Don't believe the fear-mongering. We're not angry environmentalists,” said Chacon. “This is finally getting what's unattainable, the bad actors of oil and gas to recognize that communities, including our workforce that work in those spaces, deserve a level of public health and safety.”

Republicans in the House of Representatives called for bipartisan solutions.

"As a mom raising two young children in Colorado, I care about clean air for all of our children and families," said House Minority Leader Rose Pugliese, R-Colorado Springs. "We can, in a bipartisan way, find solutions to help keep Colorado air clean. The proposals that were introduced are not the answer."

According to the Energy Information Administration, Colorado is the fifth-largest oil producer in the U.S. and the eighth-largest producer of gas.

A report by the American Petroleum Institute said Colorado’s oil and gas industry supports 304,000 jobs and contributes $48 billion a year to the state’s economy. However, a report by the Colorado Fiscal Institute disputes those claims and says the industry supports about 20,000 jobs, which is less than one percent of total jobs in the state.

Commerce City pollution


People in north Denver, Commerce City breathe in dirtier air: CU Boulder study

Óscar Contreras
2:12 PM, Feb 22, 2024

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