Colorado Politics columnist Paula Noonan recently insinuated that the oil and natural gas industry had something to do with the firing of a former University of Colorado professor, Dr. Detlev Helmig, and former Boulder Daily newspaper reporter John Spina. Neither is correct, which is why her April 30 column ("NOONAN | Plot thickens — along with the methane — in firing of a CU prof and a reporter") was laced only with innuendo instead of facts.
But even more troubling than her April tales of intrigue was her June 4 column regarding emissions, in which Noonan mistakenly describes methane ("NOONAN | Emissions reduction must start now").
According to the EPA, methane has a “negligible photochemical reactivity,” which means the reactivity rate is so low that it is not considered a volatile organic compound (VOC), and due to that low reactivity rate, local methane emissions are not a significant contributor to local ozone formation. As examples, the maximum incremental reactivity, or MIR, value for isoprene, which is produced by plants, is 9.3. The MIR value for formaldehyde is 6.6. And the MIR value for methane, as determined by the National Academy of Science, is 0.016. Noonan's claim that methane is a “principal component of ozone” is incorrect and fails to account for all of the factors that influence ozone formation in the nonattainment area. In fact, depending on the day and location, background ozone makes up approximately 70 to 80 percent of the ozone along the Front Range. That background ozone comes from the biogenic matter in our forests, as well as transport emissions beyond our borders. In short, only 20 to 30 percent of our ozone challenges are a result of local and regional human activity, which makes solutions difficult to come by.
However, industry is a strong partner among coordinated efforts to reduce ozone formation along Colorado’s Front Range. That has been the case for decades. Noonan's comments seem to ignore the fact that our air quality is much better than it was in the 1980s, even though at that time our population was nearly half of what it is today. Technologies and regulations have moved us in a positive direction, despite that population increase, as emissions by the oil and natural gas industry have fallen by more than half in the past 10 years alone. Those are facts, not innuendo, and your readers deserve to know them.
Dan Haley is president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.