Colorado's proposal to curb air pollutants from oil and gas operations got praise from industry representatives and environmental activists Thursday at its first hearing.
But both sides warned the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission that there will still be haggling over the particulars of three rule changes introduced this week.
The changes aim to slash air pollution form the oil and gas industry by one-third. The proposal, which could be final by February, includes lower thresholds for acceptable emissions and the nation's first statewide standard for methane emissions from drilling.
"We're really going to achieve significant reduction if these strategies go in place," said Garry Kaufman, deputy director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division, which proposed the rule changes.
Several environmental activists, including a few moms who have frequented drilling regulation meetings carrying Cabbage Patch Kids dolls they say represent children who live near drilling sites, praised the regulation. The proposal is much stricter than a draft suggestion proposed earlier this fall.
"There's a lot to like about this proposal," said Michael Freeman, an attorney with Earthjustice.
But the environmental activists were careful to say it's too soon to declare victory. Some drilling critics pointed out that the proposal does not increase the number of required personal inspections of any drilling sites.
"We need inspectors. We need objective people going out and looking at these wells," said Dr. James Danforth, a retired physician from Loveland.
Some smaller oil and gas companies also testified that the rules may need tweaking. The proposal has the backing of Colorado's three largest oil and gas operators — Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Encana Corp. and Noble Energy Inc. — but many smaller operators hadn't seen the proposal before this week.
The monitoring has an estimated price tag to the industry of $30 million.
"We ask that you seriously consider the cost" of new regulations, said Sarah Bartlett, an air-quality specialist at PDC Energy.