Durango residents showed up in force Wednesday to support Colorado’s effort to improve air quality and reduce methane emissions from oil and gas facilities.
More than 100 people attended a public hearing hosted by the Air Quality Control Commission to hear feedback about the proposed rules, which seek to implement statewide methane leak-detection and repair standards for oil and gas operations. The state intends to finalize the rules within the next few weeks.
Durango City Councilor Dean Brookie said the proposed rules are especially pertinent to Southwest Colorado, where a “methane hot spot” exists from oil and gas production in the San Juan Basin, which extends into northern New Mexico.
“Methane impacts the health of everyone living and breathing today in our community,” he said. “And it’s curable. Let’s do this.”
Durango resident Andrea Hennes said oil and gas is thriving in Colorado, which has an impact on the environment and public health.
“This pollution can be curbed if these regulations are enacted,” she said. “Do what you can to secure the quality of our air, and therefore the quality of our future.”
Out of the 50 or so people who spoke Wednesday, only two were affiliated with the oil and gas industry.
“This room is heavily unrepresented with oil and gas because we’ve all had to go work elsewhere,” said Carla Neal, a Durango resident who works for a local oil and gas company. “These proposed rules are not about health, but another thinly veiled attempt to shut down oil and gas, which they’ve been doing pretty well at.”
Nathan Goodman, also a Durango resident, said the proposed rules are important not just for Southwest Colorado and the Four Corners, but also the entire state where oil and gas is thriving, such as along the Front Range.
“Methane and pollution travels over political boundaries,” he said. “We really are in this together.”
Julie Cooley, who has lived in Durango since 1983, said the oil and gas industry needs to be regulated.
“The oil and gas industry is integral to our community, and while they provide jobs subject to the ups and downs in the industry, the big bucks don’t end up here,” she said. “What ends up here is the methane.”
Deb Paulson said that by capturing methane that would otherwise leak and escape into the atmosphere, oil and gas companies may even profit from the regulations.
“It’s a complete waste to let methane just be flared when it can be used,” she said. “I don’t think we can regulate methane enough, especially when it’s something we could be using.”
Scott Kuster, who has lived in Bayfield for 20 years, said the oil and gas industry often claims that regulations to protect the environment cost jobs. Custer said that’s a false narrative.
“It’s not a fair choice, but it’s also not true,” he said. “We know oil and gas businesses constantly try to stop any kind of regulation that comes down the pike, but they learn how to accommodate it.”
Many in the audience talked about the overall impact methane leaks have on rising global temperatures.
“The oil and gas industry has been a massive contributor to climate change, and it’s time to act aggressively to curb these issues,” said George Foster, a Durango resident. “We need to control excess methane emissions.”
Sage Davis, a student at Animas High School, also raised concerns about climate change.
“This is my future … I shouldn’t be worried about our dying planet or the quality of the air I breathe,” she said. “I believe rules are needed to curb this harmful pollution.”
Chris Ribera, who lives in Tiffany, said his home is surrounded by oil and gas wells. When he first bought his home 20 years ago, he said he could see the San Juan Mountains, but now with worsening air quality, that’s not longer possible.
“I used to work in oil fields, everything leaks,” he said. “And where’s it all going?”
The name spellings of Andrea Hennes, Scott Kuster and Chris Riberae have been corrected.
Poll: Do you support proposed rules to improve air quality in Colorado by reducing methane emissions from oil and gas facilities?
Yes - 832 - 60.07%
No - 553 - 39.93%