Now more than ever, we need bold leadership at the local, state and federal levels as we face the immediate and severe consequences of a rapidly changing climate. The 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report made it unequivocally clear that greenhouse gases are driving extreme weather, including the severe heat and drought we are experiencing here in Colorado and throughout the West.
One of the primary culprits behind the climate crisis is methane, a potent greenhouse gas released from oil and gas production that is responsible for at least 25% of the pollution contributing to our warming climate.
Thanks to the leadership of a pair of federal lawmakers from Colorado, our nation is taking critical steps toward addressing the methane problem. U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette championed a bipartisan effort this summer to reinstate commonsense EPA safeguards to reduce methane pollution, and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet introduced legislation to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells and, consequently, cut methane pollution.
The state of Colorado also is making strides on climate action. Thanks to the initial leadership of then-Gov. John Hickenlooper, and sustained by Gov. Jared Polis and many state lawmakers, we have developed and continue to strengthen nationally leading rules for the oil and gas industry, including regulations that cut methane pollution, prioritize public health and increase accountability for oil and gas companies.
As a result, and with the collaboration of industry leaders, Colorado has a thriving methane-mitigation industry, which has nearly doubled in size nationwide since 2017. In fact, according to Datu Research, Colorado has the second-largest methane mitigation industry in the nation with 50 employee locations, including headquarters and manufacturing facilities (California is No. 1).
Of course, there is still work to be done, and Colorado can’t go it alone. We need other states to get to work as well to implement stringent standards to reduce methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, and do their part to address our warming climate.
In Colorado, we know that strong methane standards mean more high-paying jobs. We have proven that climate-change mitigation measures are good for the economy. As local elected officials, we are each taking climate mitigation actions in our own county organizations.
Gunnison County is working to reach a level of environmental sustainability through use of alternative forms of energy, lowering of emissions, and use of energy efficient equipment.
Pitkin County is revising building and land use codes, electrifying infrastructure, incentivizing efficiency and alternative energy for building and transportation, building a 5 megawatt solar farm and addressing fugitive coal-bed methane from abandoned coal mines.
San Miguel County partnered with the Colorado Energy Office to conduct an all-facility energy audit, resulting in a 40% reduction in energy use, and is currently installing solar panels on county buildings to generate at least 70% of the needed electricity going forward. San Miguel also is partnering with the Town of Telluride to build 30 new affordable-housing rental units that will include onsite solar to offset the annual energy use of the project. Ouray County purchases 100% of its power from their local electric co-op’s green-energy program.
Extreme weather events, drought and wildfire are impacting all of us today, and unless we take immediate action at all levels of government, as the recent IPCC report emphasizes, these costly and devastating impacts are here to stay.
We applaud President Biden for taking decisive action this year by placing a moratorium on oil and gas leasing on public lands while the administration conducts a review of our federal oil and gas program. This is an important first step toward long-overdue reforms to this outdated system, more responsible drilling, and cutting climate-warming emissions from oil and gas operations on our federal lands.
We also are thankful to elected officials across Colorado, and to community leaders, who continue to advocate to curb methane pollution, and we appreciate our leaders in Washington, including Rep. DeGette and Sen. Bennet, for leading the fight against climate change at the federal level. We ask that all of our state and federal leadership in Colorado work collaboratively to advance legislation and action to reduce oil and gas pollution, and address the most serious issue we collectively face.
San Miguel County Commissioner Hilary Cooper, Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman, Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck and Ouray County Commissioner Ben Tisdel are members of Western Leaders Network, an organization that helps amplify the voices of local and tribal elected leaders on conservation issues in the West.