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Finding the Source

The production, transport, and processing of oil and gas account for around 15% globally to greenhouse gas emissions. Then the use of oil and gas, such as fuel for our cars, results in another 40% of emissions, according to the International Energy Agency. Colorado is the fifth largest oil-producing state in the country and the state’s economy benefits from keeping the industry running — but all of us have a vested interest in reducing emissions, which has economic and social costs to our health and environment. Not only is Colorado the first state in the US to adopt strict regulations on methane from oil and gas, we are also focused on developing and transitioning to new energy sources. How do we balance the imperative to clean up oil and gas operations, with the transition to cleaner energy sources, the limitations of business models, and the need to protect the health of each other and our planet?

Tribal Energy

We traveled to the southwest corner of Colorado, where the Southern Ute Tribal Nation is focused on protecting natural resources, cleaning up their air, and securing their economic livelihoods. They are in the process of building the Coyote Clean Power Plant, a net-zero natural gas power station, with a pipeline that will take the captured CO2 to West Texas, where the intent is to store it in the ground. In addition to their commitment to cleaner energy, the Tribe is the only sovereign Indian Nation in the U.S. to have received the authority from the EPA to regulate and target sources of air emissions to ensure compliance.

Information is Power

Data is key when discussing air quality because better data supports better decisions. And we can’t measure progress without having clear baselines. But one of the hurdles the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment faces is the big increase in organizations and individuals gathering air quality data, and how to standardize that data for effective use in crafting regulations and policies. Eventually, standardized data collected and shared in real-time could keep us better informed of air quality events from high-ozone days to dangerous leaks.

Dan Zimmerle, Director, Methane Emissions Program at the Energy Institute at Colorado State University
Christy Woodward, Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs, Colorado Oil & Gas Association
Danny Powers, Air Quality Program Division Head, Southern Ute Indian Tribe
Coy Bryant, President & Chief Operating Officer, Red Cedar Gathering Company
Michael Ogletree, Division Director for the Air Pollution Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment

Further Reading

“As Air Pollution Declined, Tribal Nations Got Left Out,” Bloomberg, March 23, 2022.

“Why Gov. Polis’ ozone crackdown could spur a debate over new oil and gas permits,” CPR News, Mar. 28, 2023. 

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