A motion before Colorado’s oil and gas regulators for new rules aimed at curbing the industry’s broader climate impact would amount to a de facto ban on further energy development in the state, Garfield County officials say.
District commissioners last week joined other oil and gas-producing districts in commenting on the petition filed with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in August by several environmental groups led by New Mexico-based Wild Earth Guardians .
The petition should be rejected immediately, the commissioners said.
“This is just another instance where we are seeing individuals and organizations seeking to end oil and gas development county, state and around the world,” Commissioner Mike Samson said at the April 21 Board of County Commissioners meeting November.
“It’s such stupidity to me,” he said. “I would like to appeal to the common sense of the people of this state who are in positions of power to stop and think and analyze what they are doing to this state. This is another example of people trying to destroy things that we need for a high quality of life.”
The petition, supported by groups like 350 Colorado and the Sierra Club of Colorado, calls on the COGCC to adopt rules to assess and address “cumulative air impacts” and address environmental justice concerns related to underrepresented populations.
It focuses on the cumulative impacts of air emissions across the region “as well as incorporating rules to assess and manage the disproportionate impacts of oil and gas exploration, particularly on communities of color, including Indigenous communities, and regions experiencing above average warming .”
While much of the concern is centered on areas “not meeting” air quality standards in the northern Front Range, the Western Slope is not immune, the petition said.
“Western Colorado has warmed more than twice the national average, with communities already experiencing warming of 1.5 to 2.4 degrees Celsius,” the petition reads. Garfield County, in particular, has experienced an average annual warming of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), according to a county-by-county chart accompanying the petition, derived from a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post series in 2020 “Beyond the Limit”.
The petition calls for any area in Colorado that has experienced a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius to be closed to new oil and gas development.
“Despite the extensive assessments of climate change impacts that have been conducted by Colorado, national and international governmental agencies, the (existing) rules do not address these impacts,” the petition reads.
Garfield County Oil and Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn said the motion, if granted, would effectively ban new oil and gas development and production in Garfield County and across the state.
It also calls on the COGCC to “step off track” on matters normally handled by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“COGCC is delivering on its stated intention and commitment to address cumulative impacts from current mission change rule requirements and to collect data to better understand the issues in a way that best informs future rulemaking to take appropriate and necessary safeguards against to further strengthen cumulative impacts within the regulator and technical capabilities of the Commission,” said the county’s letter to the COGCC, authored by Wynn.
“We cannot achieve energy independence in this country if we stop natural gas production in Colorado,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, adding that the county supports an “all-of-the-top” approach to energy production to achieve this reach .
“Having these groups that would try to shut down all oil and gas production in Colorado is the opposite of what we stand for in Colorado,” he said.
The petition defending the motion said the stakes not just for Colorado but for the global climate as a whole were too high.
“It is undeniable that climate change is a cumulative impact of oil and gas exploration and that it is already damaging the health of Colorado’s residents, our ecosystems, our agriculture and our recreational industry, and is the cause of several of the greatest disasters in recent Colorado history” , the petition says.
Additionally, “Colorado, which not only emits more than its global ‘share’ of emissions, but has also seen its own local warming exceed the global average, bears a larger share of the responsibility than its population share of the solution be,” it says.
Public comment on the petition is due to the COGCC by Friday, and the commission is meeting in Denver on December 9 to discuss the matter. To submit comments and access the hearing remotely, visit cogcc.state.co.us/#/home.
Post Independent Interim Managing Editor and Senior Reporter John Stroud can be reached at [email protected] or at 970-384-9160.