Category Archives: AQCC

Air Quality Control Commission, the Colorado state level agency charged with developing programs about air quality standards. See
https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/aqcc and https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/aqcc-about-commission

Not to be confused with the Air Pollution Control Division, which does the actual permitting, monitoring and enforcement: see https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/apcd

Greenhouse gas intensity targets: the new greenwashing?

In a recent article in the Colorado Sun (A new rule to slash oil and gas emissions.., Sept 15, 2021), a new rule adopted by the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) is described by the Polis administration as a way to dramatically cut the GHG emissions by the oil & gas industry.

The rule is based on something that is interestingly called “intensity targets”, which apparently simply means making an effort to reduce your GHG emissions, and then reporting how much GHG your company emits…and hopefully it goes down over time. There are reduction targets for 2025, 2030 and 2050, which have been announced for all the various kinds of O&G activities, from fracking to drilling to transport.

The calculation of the emissions by the companies has been developed by the AQCC, and are intended to be an incentive-based, rather than command-and-control-based, kind of regulation. In other words, the regulator does not specifically instruct the polluter how they are doing to reduce their pollution by using a specific technology; but rather suggests a reduction target, and leaves it up the polluter to reduce their pollution by any means they want.

The proposal has, unsurprisingly, been welcomed by the O&G industry. The industry has always preferred to be self-regulating, which was largely the approach taken by the Colorado legislature in the past, up until the passage of SB-181 in April 2019. That historic legislation, which took away the industry’s ability to self-regulate by specifically instructing the COGCC to stop allowing it, was a watershed in the state approach to regulating the O&G industry.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise, at least to this writer, why the AQCC wants to reverse course, and restore self-regulation to the industry that is primarily complicit in causing global climate change. The proposed rules carry no penalties if a company fails to meet its target, and there are no enforceable measures in the new rule. The big assumption is that each individual O&G operator will do their level best to meet their “intensity target”, i.e. a lower level of GHG emissions.

Gee, what could possibly go wrong?

Also unsurprisingly, the environmental community (i.e. Wildearth Guardians, the EDF, at this point) has denounced the new rule as a mistake which will one day have to be corrected. They make the undeniable point that climate change is happening now, and we no longer have the time to try out untested regulatory policies that could take years to evaluate.

The one benefit of the program, from what I can tell, is that it is the first time that a regulation is taking a wholistic approach, and forcing O&G operators to consider their entire operation, from start to finish, to see where best they can best reduce their emissions to meet their reduction targets. The “intensity” aspect of the regulation comes from the required overall calculation of total CO2-equivalent produced per unit of product processed. (The units used will vary by type of company and what it is producing or processing.) As some O&G operations can involved a complex series of operations, the calculation of their overall “GHG intensity” will be a complex process in itself.

However, if history is any guide, the lack of specific enforceable actions, and especially the lack of any penalty for not meeting their targets, does not auger glad tidings for the outcome of this rule. As the saying goes, the road to hell is littered with good intentions — and while this rule may have the best of intentions, I’m afraid it will just be allowing the fossil fuel companies off the hook, once again, and pushing us all closer to a hellish world where the climate veers more and more out of any sort of equilibrium, creating more and more misery with each passing year.

My question for the O&G GHG Roadmap

The O&G GHG Roadmap is a major policy objective of the Polis administration, as explained at https://energyoffice.colorado.gov/climate-energy/ghg-pollution-reduction-roadmap.  However, some have questioned the intentions of the administration.  Nonetheless, the CDPHE is charged with soliciting public input  on the issues, as its part in this policy action, which will happen in two meetings, on August 16 and 31, 2021.
I registered to have some public input, and sent the message below as my questions for them.
You can still register to attend the August 31 meeting; see this link.
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Dear CDPHE:
One question I have as a concerned citizen is this: the current air quality monitors maintained by the CDPHE only detect the presence of ozone; but as we all know, ozone can be created from various constituent gasses.
The technology exists to measure not just ozone, but those constituent gasses as well, and it is my understanding that the technology used by BoulderAIR monitoring stations (see https://bouldair.com/) are capable of measuring these constituent gasses. This is especially important in order to determine how much of the ozone is being caused by vehicular traffic and how much is being caused by oil and gas operations.
There are five such stations already in place, operating in a coordinated fashion, providing a comprehensive picture of regional air quality in those areas, and building a legally defensible dataset of pollution sources. Would it not make sense to enlarge this network to cover the entire regions where ozone is a problem? Otherwise, how are you ever going to know the true source of this highly problematic pollution, and therefore manage the problem?
Thank you.
Sincerely,
Rick Casey
Fort Collins, CO

Wrapping up 2020…

This week I spent a good deal of time following the proceedings of the AQCC.  After having read most of the GHG Roadmap and the Ozone Reduction SIP (over the course of the last couple of months), I sent in a written comment and also signed up to speak Wednesday night.  There was a good turn out, with statements from numerous elected officials including our own County Commissioner, John Kefalas.  Some comments were general, some focused on specific aspects of the SIP, but overall it was an hour and a half (I left before all the comments had been completed) of unanimous pleas for the commission to tighten regulations and to be more aggressive in reducing emissions.  


The next morning, I rejoined the AQCC zoom meetings to hear the staff response.  I sensed there was some disappointment that the public seems to under-appreciate the work that has been done and the progress that has been made.  A lot of their presentation was spent detailing the legal and procedural constraints that would make it nearly impossible for them to rewrite the SIP at this late date in order to include all of the alternatives that were being demanded, including the proposed early closings of the three coal generators.  There would be several serious consequences to any delay in submitting the SIP to the EPA.
They acknowledged that more needs to be done, and pointed out that there will be opportunities in the future for more revisions.


It was also mentioned that some of the comments received seemed to conflate regulations relating to O&G and those that relate to major sources of emissions that are non-O&G.


Between these two meetings I also had the privilege of participating in an excellent three-night on-line summit hosted by LOGIC. (I know many of you were also in attendance.)  Senator Faith Winter was the keynote speaker Wednesday evening and she gave a fabulous tutorial regarding effective advocacy for climate change.  From her talk and from the information I gleaned listening in to the AQCC, I have the following take-aways:


1)  Not all losses are really losses;  the testimony (both written and oral) given to the AQCC will likely bear fruit down the road.

2)  We have to get into the game early–staff mentioned that there were numerous opportunities for public comment during the summer when there would have been more time to incorporate alternatives; we have to do our homework, build relationships; and join the process early on.

3)  Some of the work must be done legislatively.  The AQCC, and other state agencies have to work within the authority given to them by the law. We need to engage more with state legislators, especially those who have shown an interest in developing related legislation.

4)  Speaking of building relationships, I honestly believe that our state leadership has made a dramatic shift from pre-2018 days. Getting things done in government and politics is a clunky, ungraceful business, but I think most of the state agencies are making a serious effort to address climate change.  They are not moving as fast or as boldly as we need them to, but our encouragement and support will go farther than constant criticism from all sides. Let’s give them credit where credit is due and then assure them that we will have their backs as they push forward. 


One final comment regarding Tom Gonzales.  I don’t know if he was present for Thursday’s vote, but on Wednesday it was mentioned that he was absent due to his responsibilities as Larimer County Health Director.  He has a few other things on his plate right now.