The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission on Friday adopted a regulation aimed at curbing the state's greenhouse gas emissions, a byproduct of last year's Senate Bill 181 and three other pieces of legislation.
Regulation 22, as it's called, improves how the state tracks carbon pollution and tracks it more often and more accurately, helping pinpoint sources, proponents contend. New monitoring also is expected to help Colorado figure out much of its air pollution is from within the state, and how much of it rides in from other states, as well as electricity generated in Colorado that is used elsewhere.
The rule also looks at air pollution sources that individually might be a small source of green house gas emissions, such as industrial landfills and underground mines, but collectively add up.
Rules adopted unanimously Friday also aim to phase out heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons typically from air conditioning and refrigeration systems, steering them to commercially available alternatives.
"Our economy is driven by tourism. Most of that tourism is around three things: skiing, the river, and camping, all three of which are deeply affected by climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions increasing," Salida Mayor P.T. Wood said Friday in a statement released by two organizations that represented dozens local governments, and Colorado Communities for Climate Action and the Local Government Coalition.
The coalition includes the city and county of Denver, Boulder County Public Health, the city of Aurora and Tri-County Health Department in south metro Denver.
"Carbon emissions have no boundaries," Denver City Council President Jolon Clark said in a statement. "Denver is taking a bold lead on climate action but we can’t reach our science-based goals without cooperation from our regional partners. I’m very proud that local governments, on the Front Range and the Western Slope, large and small, have come together to tackle climate change. These new rules will help us make sure we are focusing on the strategies that work to protect our health and all of our communities."
Cindy Copeland, air and climate policy specialist for Boulder County Public Health, said health departments across the state are engaged in a fight against a respiratory illness.
"By strengthening air quality standards, we can help protect Colorado against the impacts of climate change and pandemics like this one," she said.
Not everyone was satisfied, however.
Stacy Tellinghuisen, senior climate policy analyst at Western Resource Advocates think tank in Boulder, called the new rules a missed critical opportunity.
“The greenhouse gas reporting rules adopted by the commission mark important progress, but significant gaps remain, specifically regarding entities that supply transportation fuels to Colorado," she said in a statement. "The reporting gaps leave our state with an incomplete picture of emission sources, at a time when it is critical to make progress on reducing harmful air pollution from that sector. Even while our state leaders work to address the current health crisis, we know the climate crisis also requires urgent action to ensure a healthier and more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren."
Pam Kiely, senior director of regulatory strategy for Environmental Defense Fund, thought the rules should have gone farther as well.
“The Colorado Air Quality Control Commission decision today fails to protect human health and the environment in the most fundamental way, safeguarding the public’s right-to-know by requiring transparent and publicly accessible data,” she said.
Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said Friday that the industry has reduced and continues to reduce its emissions statewide. In December the commission established new emission inventory reporting requirements for oil and natural gas companies, he noted.
“The oil and gas industry has followed inventory reporting requirements at the federal level for many years, reporting to the Environmental Protection Agency," Haley said in a statement. "As the state implements its inventory programs for all economic sectors through Regulation 22, we urge them to use the existing data to fill in any gaps."
He said 70% of natural gas liquid sales from Colorado are not combusted in the state, meaning production inventories and emissions are not the same thing.
“It’s important to note that continuous emission monitoring is not ready for prime time, as many of those technologies are still being developed," Haley said. "There are several monitoring and measurement tools that do exist that can provide important snapshot data, but those measurements must go to laboratories and be analyzed, which takes time."
He said measurements matter, but only if they're accurate.
"There is not currently a one-size-fits-all approach to emissions monitoring, and more research and development is needed before rules can be effectively imposed and implemented," Haley said.