This is written by Patrice Tomcik, Moms Clean Air Force Project Manager, State Campaigns:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler and President Trump are taking a major step backward by proposing to eliminate critical standards that cut methane pollution from oil and gas operations. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is responsible for about 25% of the climate change we’re already experiencing today. And the oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of methane pollution in the US.
If Wheeler and Trump succeed in rolling back the EPA’s methane standards, it would mean more potent climate pollution in our air. Colorado is already suffering the devastating effects of the climate crisis. More than a third of the snowpack in the Rocky Mountains has disappeared since 1982. This isn’t bad news just for skiers and the economy — skiing is big business in Colorado — but many rely on the snow pack for drinking water. In fact, the snowpack accounts for 70% of Colorado’s water supply. Less snow means less water. In addition, last year, Denver saw less rainfall than Phoenix, Arizona, coupled with more intense wildfire seasons and devastating forest fires. The economic and human cost of climate change is real and it’s happening right now.
To make matters worse, Colorado’s Front Range is failing to meet federal ozone standards, and there is still a methane pollution problem. Volatile organic compounds are released alongside methane by oil and gas operations. This pollution threatens the health of nearby communities and contributes to the formation of ground level ozone, or smog. Smog interferes with normal lung development in children and triggers asthma attacks. There were multiple Ozone Alert days on the Front Range last summer, with children and the elderly warned to stay inside because of bad air quality. In addition, there are thousands of natural gas and oil wells on the West Slope and in northern Colorado that aren’t subject to strong air quality standards. Several West Slope communities with oil and gas development are seeing increasing smog levels too.
Colorado moms are looking to their state leaders to step up and protect their families from climate change pollution. Thankfully, this past summer, Governor Polis signed a bill into law officially directing the Air Quality Control Commissions (AQCC) to further minimize pollution from oil and gas facilities. Now the state needs to move the ball forward.
Colorado should act boldly and swiftly to adopt the next generation of strong methane and air pollution standards that are essential to fighting climate change—and safeguarding the health and future of our children.