STATE’S AIR QUALITY PLAN GETS EPA APPROVAL
Colorado’s plan to relieve regional haze has received preliminary approval by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to Governor’s office.
The plan was submitted as part of the EPA’s regional air quality rule that was approved by Congress to improve air quality in national parks and wildlife areas around the country. The federal agency will take public comment on its proposed approval of Colorado’s plan with finalization expected in September.
The Colorado Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act, which was passed by the Legislature in 2010, is an important component of the plan. As most of our readers know, it calls for emission controls, the retirement of older coal-fired power plants and the conversion of some plants from coal to natural gas.
Hickenlooper’s office said that by 2018, the plan will result in the reduction of 70,000 tons of pollutants annually, including 35,000 tons of nitrogen oxides. The plan impacts 30 units and 16 facilities, including coal-fired power plants or cement kilns.
Colorado’s State Implementation Plan for Regional Haze includes a number of federally required sections, including: a monitoring strategy, the addressing of existing stationary facilities and a plan for preventing impairment from future facilities, baseline current and natural visibility conditions, and a strategy for addressing future pollution issues in the state. The plan also addresses conditions in Colorado that are not federally enforceable, including open burning, wildfire smoke management and renewable energy.
The plan would improve visibility in the state’s scenic areas, including Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde, Maroon Bells and the Great Sand Dunes, said Christopher Urbina, the executive director and chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
COLORADO OIL AND GAS TASK FORCE STARTS WORK
A 12-person team tasked with sorting out how local governments might be involved with regulating the oil and gas industry in Colorado began their work Friday with clear direction from Attorney General John Suthers.
“The inspection authority can be shared and delegated, but the enforcement authority cannot,” Suthers said.
That may limit local efforts to impose new protective measures and issue citations but appears to leave room to craft new cooperative arrangements in the face of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s existing authority to promote and oversee oil and gas operations. MORE …
NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBE GAINS CONTROL OF OIL AND GAS ON RESERVATION
Southwestern Colorado is home to the Southern Ute Indian reservation, and as of last week, the nation’s first Native American operator of a Clean Air Act program.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s program after years of attempts to create an in-house permitting program to cover the reservation’s 1,058 square miles that span La Plata, Archuleta and Montezuma counties.
Operating a Clean Air Act program grants the tribe authority to issue permits and perform inspections of oil and gas production. EPA officials had been responsible for permitting projects within the reservation’s borders and they said they will continue to work with the tribe in an oversight capacity, as they do for state-permitting programs.
Plenty of oil and gas rigs can be found on the Ignacio-based tribe’s land in natural gas-rich San Juan Basin. In fact, the tribe operates its own gas production company, Red Willow Production Co., which oversees more than 400 wells on the reservation, with most dedicated to on coal bed methane. The company partners with major operators, such as Elm Ridge, ConocoPhillips, BP and Energen.
PUSH FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY PROGRAMS EXTENSION
The wind and solar industries have been pushing strongly to get extensions of popular federal programs onto existing legislation, and they will now be included in a massive highway spending bill.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has introduced an amendment that would grant a one-year extension of the Production Tax Credit aimed mainly at the wind industry and would for one year revive the recently expired Section 1603 Treasury Grant that had been a boon for the solar industry. It also includes incentives for cellulosic biofuel, biodiesel and renewable diesel.
Getting 60 votes, however, would be a monumental challenge, especially as the renewables industry as a whole continues to face skepticism from key members of the Republican party.
ENERGY HUNT IN PAWNEE NATIONAL GRASSLAND GETS ATTENTION
Environmentalists are waking up to the fact that there is major oil and gas activity at the Pawnee National Grassland, and they vow not to let another huge exploration venture go without comment.
“There is fire in our belly,” said Judy Enderle, executive director of the Denver-based Prairie Preservation Alliance. “This is precious shortgrass prairie and it must be protected.”
The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the 193,000-acre grassland along the Wyoming border between Greeley and Sterling, is preparing to send out scoping letters advising landowners, environmental groups, American Indian tribes and anyone else with an interest in the Pawnee that trucks that pound the ground looking for deposits of oil and natural gas will roll again this this year. MORE …