In this 12 June 2014 file photo, natural gas is burned off near pumps in Watford City, N.D. As Trump rolls back some Obama-era rules on climate-changing methane pollution, Colorado officials say their regulations have reduced oil field leaks. A report released Thursday, 23 August 2018, shows required state inspections helped find and repair 73,000 methane leaks over three years. Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast / AP Photo

By Dan Elliott
31 August 2018

DENVER (AP) – The Trump administration is rolling back some U.S. regulations on climate-changing methane pollution, calling them expensive and burdensome, but Colorado says its rules are working — and they have industry support.

Energy companies have found and repaired about 73,000 methane leaks since 2015 under a state-required oil field inspection program, according to the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. The number of leaks fell by 52 percent, from more than 36,000 in 2015 to about 17,250 in 2017, according a state report released last week.

Neither the government nor industry groups could say how much methane has been kept out of the atmosphere when the leaks were fixed, citing the complexity of factors involved.

But state officials said the sharp decline in the number of leaks shows Colorado is succeeding.

“We’re just really encouraged by what we’re seeing with this program and with the industry as a whole,” said Mark McMillan, a manager in the state air pollution agency.

Methane is the primary component of natural gas. It is also a greenhouse gas, contributing to global warming by trapping heat in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Colorado, the fifth-largest natural gas producer in the nation, started requiring energy companies to regularly inspect oil field equipment for leaks in 2014. The program is designed to reduce releases of methane and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are also components of natural gas.

Under the right conditions — which are often present in Denver and Colorado’s Front Range urban corridor — VOCs turn into ground-level ozone. Ozone, the main component of smog, can aggravate asthma and contribute to early deaths from respiratory disease.

Environmental and industry groups agreed Colorado’s program is working, with some reservations.

“It’s good to see that the number of leaks is lower than it was back when the program started. But it’s not time to celebrate yet,” said David McCabe, a senior scientist with the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental group.

Colorado’s oil and gas industry is still releasing a lot of methane and VOCs, he said. [more]

Trump eases US methane rules as Colorado says state's work

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