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Gov. Jared Polis orders 30% reduction in oil and gas emissions over next two years

Gov. Polis orders 33% nitrous oxide reduction in clean air submissions for next 2 years
Gov. Polis orders 33% nitrous oxide reduction in clean air submissions for next 2 years 02:52

Gov. Jared Polis is rolling out what may be the state's most ambitious effort yet to reduce ozone pollution.

The Front Range has one of the worst ground-level ozone problems in the country. 

While many pollutants lead to high ozone, the biggest one is nitrous oxide. 40% of nitrous oxide pollution comes from oil and gas emissions along the Front Range.

Polis directed state regulators to come up with rules by the end of next year that reduce those emissions by 30% in 2025 and 50% by 2030, from a 2017 baseline.

"This is the main irritant. It's the main public health issue, if you will, for air quality," he said. 

Polis says his nitrous oxide reduction plan is first-of-its-kind in the country. 

Under the plan, state regulators will develop rules by the end of next year that require oil and gas operators along the Front Range to reduce their emissions of nitrous oxide primarily by switching their rigs from diesel to electric. 

"Technology (is) available today, some operators use it, within a year and a half, it will be specified and essentially all the oil and gas extraction activities that occur near the population centers will use this new technology," he said. 


Dan Haley, CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, says the industry has cut our emissions in half since 2013 and is committed to further reductions but, he says, the targets outlined by the governor will be a challenge to achieve. 

"Achieving these emission reduction targets is not going to be as easy or as cheap as the governor is implying here," he said. 

Haley believes the industry needs a reliable grid to make the transition and some local governments. He has told operators they can't power multiple electric rigs. 

They also need investment and he says the only way that happens is with regulatory certainty. 

"There were eight rulemakings on the books for this year alone. In order to get to that regulatory certainty, we need a moment where the legislature stops, where we allow these rules to work, and we allow our operators to go about producing the cleanest resources on the planet," he said. 

Polis says those rules have made Colorado's industry the cleanest in the country. But he says it can and must do better.


"The truth is, as long as there's demand, it will be produced here. And it can be produced economically. It can benefit Coloradans. And this is a way to make sure it's cleaner and we don't pay the price in terms of worse air quality," Polis said. 

While Haley admits oil and gas are global commodities, he believes every regulation comes with a price. He says new regulations over the last few years have added half a billion dollars to the cost of doing business in Colorado. 

Polis suggests the costs will be far greater if we don't act now.

Ozone not only leads to symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and itchy, watery eyes, but it can lead to strokes, heart disease, and lung cancer, while lowering life expectancy. 

"This will lead rapidly to more breathable air in Colorado," Polis said. 

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