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Colorado Takes Bold Steps to Reduce NOx and Ozone Pollution

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

Governor Polis reveals an unprecedented initiative to mitigate air pollution originating from the oil and gas industry, introducing the United States' first comprehensive program aimed at reducing nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions within the sector.

In a recent announcement, Colorado Governor Jared Polis instructed state agencies to implement comprehensive measures aimed at enhancing the state's air quality. Among these measures is the introduction of the first extensive nitrogen oxides (NOx) reduction program for the oil and gas industry in the United States. The program's objectives are to reduce oil and gas emissions by a minimum of 30% by 2025 and at least 50% by 2030.

Governor Polis mentioned that these actions would contribute significantly to improving air quality and supporting Colorado's efforts to achieve lower, safer levels of ozone pollution. The new measures build upon prior legislative initiatives, such as SB19-181, which aimed to decrease emissions from oil and gas operations. However, the oil and gas sector continues to have a notable impact on the state's air quality and greenhouse gas emissions.

The proposed standards, considered the most significant in Colorado's history, aim to address health risks associated with NOx exposure. High concentrations of NOx can exacerbate respiratory conditions, particularly asthma, potentially leading to respiratory symptoms, hospitalizations, and emergency room visits. Long-term exposure may also contribute to the development of asthma and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections. Children, the elderly, and individuals with asthma are at higher risk for the health effects of NOx.

Governor Polis has instructed the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission (COGCC), in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC), to carry out the following actions:

  1. Develop a rule by the end of 2024 that requires upstream oil and gas operators in the ozone nonattainment area to achieve a 30% reduction in NOx during the ozone season in 2025 and at least 50% in 2030, using a 2017 baseline.

  2. Direct the COGCC to establish and regularly update environmental best management practices concerning ozone.

  3. Prioritize the creation of an environmental best management practices program at the COGCC, which incentivizes and rewards operators exhibiting industry-leading environmental performance in mitigating greenhouse gas and local air pollution.

This comprehensive NOx reduction program could impact the oil and gas industry in several ways:

  1. Increased costs: Investment in new technologies and equipment to meet emission targets, along with expenses related to reporting and compliance.

  2. Innovation and technology adoption: Encouragement of cleaner and more efficient technologies, leading to increased efficiency and reduced environmental footprint.

  3. Market competitiveness: Companies striving for environmental leadership and differentiation, potentially gaining competitive advantage through emission reductions and mitigation.

  4. Shift in investment: Further prioritizing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, reallocating capital toward cleaner energy sources.

  5. Regulatory pressure in other regions: Colorado's initiative potentially influences other states or countries to implement similar regulations.

In conclusion, Governor Polis' announcement of the first extensive NOx reduction program for the oil and gas industry in the United States signifies a bold step in Colorado's pursuit of cleaner air quality and lower ozone pollution levels. The proposed measures will not only build on existing legislative efforts but also have far-reaching implications for the oil and gas industry.


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