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Opinion Columns

Opinion: The Interior Department is hurting Colorado’s air quality

A Colorado county commissioner says that the rollback of methane limits pollutes Colorado and ignores the will of voters

The U.S. Department of Interior recently finalized rollbacks to the Bureau of Land Management Methane and Waste Prevention Rule.

The rule effectively reduces the waste of energy resources on federal and tribal lands, ensures a fair return to local governments and American taxpayers and mitigates air pollution.

To gut the rule, as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has done, not only defies common sense, but also ignores the thousands of American citizens and stakeholders who supported the rule’s development and have fought for it to be kept in place.

I am lucky to serve as a County Commissioner in Colorado — one of the leading states for regulating methane emissions from oil and gas operations on public lands.

Other states (including our neighbors Utah and New Mexico) have yet to catch up with 21st century technologies, which is why a federal rule to address wasted natural gas is imperative.

Joan May, San Miguel County Commissioner

An estimated $330 million dollars’ worth of natural gas from operations on public lands is wasted each year — energy that could be used to generate electricity and heat homes.

By gutting the rule, western communities miss out on federal royalties that would help fund education, infrastructure projects including roads and bridges, and mitigation work to address energy development impacts.

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Responsible oil and gas production under modern methane emission standards is the industry’s future. Leading companies have already adopted new technologies to cut air pollution and methane waste.

Moreover, research shows that Colorado’s statewide methane pollution rule has not slowed production.

The decision to rescind this rule that was developed with bipartisan approval after years of public meetings, hearings and comment periods, is a step backward for all communities affected by oil and gas production.

This rollback will worsen our air quality, particularly for citizens in the southwestern corner of our state, where Colorado methane standards can’t protect us from unregulated natural gas pollution from nearby states.

This latest dilution of regulations by Secretary Zinke will cause unnecessary waste and pollution despite the clear will of American citizens to uphold the methane rule.

Joan May is a county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colorado. She was first elected in 2006.