In response to recent federal rollbacks of air quality safeguards, Colorado must act boldly and swiftly to adopt the next generation of methane and air pollution standards to protect air quality and address the climate crisis. As a local elected official in Colorado, I support the state Air Quality Control Commission’s (AQCC’s) current efforts to develop rules that will do so.    

The oil and gas industry is a leading contributor to methane pollution worldwide and the largest industrial source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide and responsible for 25 percent of the climate change we’re seeing today. VOCs can trigger asthma attacks and worsen respiratory problems, particularly in children and the elderly, and also contribute to increased ozone levels.

In the past year, Gov. Jared Polis and our current state legislature have made strides to cut pollution from oil and gas emissions and address climate change. But Colorado still has a pollution problem. There are counties across the state, including the Western Slope, with air pollution levels above recommended health standards. 

Now the AQCC is moving forward to develop stronger standards for the oil and gas industry. Why is this so critical to San Miguel County? Direct effects of air pollution include decreased snowpack, more rapid spring runoff, and longer, more intense wildfire seasons. All these factors have a negative impact on recreation and agricultural-based economies such as ours. 

Currently, gas-producing wells in San Miguel County are not required to be inspected on a regular basis. We would benefit from the expansion of leak detection and repair requirements under the forthcoming AQCC rules. We would also benefit from AQCC’s proposal to tighten reporting requirements and regulations on methane wasted through leaking, venting, and flaring from oil and gas operations. 

I support the new policies the AQCC is set to propose to cut methane emissions and ozone-causing pollutants, and I support the statewide application of the new rules. We all live under the same airshed, and pollution crosses county lines. It is essential the AQCC takes action to reduce the impacts of fossil fuel extraction on our environment and ensure the citizens of Colorado can breathe clean air. 

Lance Waring

San Miguel County commissioner