Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted unanimously to adopt new rules requiring oil and gas operators and the state to measure and verify total methane emissions from industry production facilities, which pose significant harm to climate and the health of residents across the state. These rules will help the state gather accurate and reliable emissions data, which is essential to verify whether oil and gas operators are actually complying with Colorado’s methane intensity program and that the state is on track to meet its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals for 2025 and 2030.
The final intensity verification rules significantly improve upon prior drafts. It requires operators that choose to verify their own emissions to directly measure methane emissions from their sites, defines key elements that these operators must consider, and increases state regulatory oversight for these operators’ verification programs.
Both environmental advocacy organizations and industry spoke largely in support of the rules.
However, more work lies ahead to ensure proper implementation of the rules. Environmental groups caution that the success of the agency’s approach depends heavily on details to be contained in guidance protocol documents (which will be developed after the rulemaking) and ultimately on the effectiveness and consistency of the agency’s enforcement actions. The guidance protocol documents are due to be published by December and must include input from communities impacted by the harms of oil and gas pollution.
Environmental advocates are further concerned that the timelines for reporting and oversight for the new rules is too slow and will leave operators, state agencies and Coloradans uncertain about levels of methane pollution until 2027 or beyond. It is crucial for the state to gather and process emissions data as soon as possible, so that the agency can act quickly to reduce pollution and protect already overburdened communities. A slow timeline also creates a challenge for operators that may not know until years later whether they exceeded their permitted pollution thresholds for previous years. Environmental groups are encouraged by the commission’s indication that it will remain engaged on these issues in the future.
“It’s encouraging that this rule acknowledges that it is essential to require operators to directly measure emission to improve air quality,” said Andrew Klooster, Earthworks Colorado Field Advocate. “However, only consistent and serious attention to enforcement from regulators can guarantee success in making improvements to Coloradans’ lives. Our investigations of oil & gas operators prove that this industry will not produce reliable data without strong oversight.”
“These rules will help Colorado reduce methane pollution and meet its greenhouse gas emissions targets,” said Rumela Roy, senior associate attorney with Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “While we are pleased with today’s result, the real test will be in how the rules are implemented. It’s imperative for the state to move as quickly as possible to set clear, detailed guidance on implementation; protect impacted communities from oil and gas pollution; and hold our worst polluters accountable.”
“These rules, to be effective, must incorporate direct measurement of methane emissions, and we welcome the AQCC incorporating these crucial oversights to cut methane emissions, which threaten our communities and climate,” said James Povijua, regional director for Nature at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The guidance protocol, outlining how these rules are implemented, must be developed with robust community input and swift, actionable timelines to reduce harmful methane pollution as soon as possible.”
“The adopted rules are a positive development in reining in methane emissions from oil and gas operations, a major contributor to climate change and other pollution in our state,” said Ramesh Bhatt, chair of the Colorado Sierra Club conservation committee. “However, it is unfortunate that the rules kick in very slowly and it might be 2027 or beyond before they result in adequate data. Moreover, the success of these rules will be determined by details that are yet to be finalized. We urge the CDPHE to implement and enforce these rules in a rigorous, effective, and timely manner.”