Colorado oil and gas operators say new regs help reduce methane pollution

Methane flare on Pawnee National Grasslands, Colorado

Mason Cummings

A new report released April 15 shows the environmental and financial benefits of regulations that reduce natural gas waste and prevent methane pollution.

Most oil and gas operators polled for the report say that new Colorado regulationsincluding mandated inspections of oil and gas operations for potential leaksimprove air quality, reduce methane emissions and promote worker care and safety. The report was compiled by the Center of Methane Emission Solutions (CMES), an industry group.

As the Bureau of Land Management is working to finalize its new rule to reduce natural gas waste on public lands across the country, these regulations provide a good model for better regulating methane pollution on a national level.

Passed in 2014, these regulations made Colorado the first state in the nation to comprehensively attempt to stop methane pollution from oil and gas operations. Overall, the findings show regulations are doing what they intended—improving both the state's public health and environmental health and benefiting the oil and gas industry itself.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and reducing natural gas waste means significant cuts in methane pollution. Known to be a harmful greenhouse gas, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and can intensify global warming.

Regs like those in Colorado could help prevent methane pollution from oil and gas infrastructure on a national level. Credit: WildEarth Guardians, flickr.

The report details how in 90 percent of inspections, which totaled more than 1,100 over the last year, at least one leak was found. These leaks ranged from small and easily fixable to large leaks spewing massive amounts of methane pollution. Most oil and gas operated agree that mandated inspections could help stop prevent and stop some of these leaks.

While Colorado leads the way, other states with oil and gas development on public lands have lagged behind. That’s why The Wilderness Society is working to ensure that the Bureau of Land Management’s final regulations are strong and work the way they are intended. This report shows how better and up-to-date regulations can be good for both the environment and industry workers, regardless of industry rhetoric and scare tactics.