Conservation, community groups hail ruling that protects clean air rules

Denver court decision dismissing Weld County suit a win for residents living near oil & gas wells

DENVER (July 30, 2020) — Seven conservation and community groups with tens of thousands of members across Colorado hailed a court ruling yesterday dismissing a case by Weld County as a win for public health and the climate.

Denver District Court Chief Judge Michael A. Martinez granted a motion by the state of Colorado to dismiss Weld County’s lawsuit against the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The county had sought to overturn new air quality rules for oil and gas development adopted by the AQCC in Dec. 2019. They were the first air quality rules adopted under Senate Bill 181, which mandates reductions in ozone-forming pollutants and methane emissions from oil and gas development.

The seven conservation and community groups include Western Colorado Alliance (WCA), League of Oil & Gas Impacted Communities (LOGIC), Conservation Colorado, Earthworks, the Sierra Club, Citizens for a Healthy Community and the San Juan Citizens Alliance. They had intervened in the case in support of the state and in defense of the rules they helped pass in December.

The court’s decision allows the new air quality protections to take effect statewide, including one proposed by three local community organizations (LOGIC, WCA and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance) and adopted unanimously by the AQCC that requires energy companies to inspect wells, tanks and other infrastructure for leaks more frequently within 1,000 feet of homes, schools, parks and other occupied areas.

Judge Martinez’s decision is a win for people who live near wells and other oil and gas infrastructure. Coloradans statewide will benefit from reduced ozone emissions. And the state will also remain a leader in lowering methane emissions, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

Quotes: 

“This is an important win for Coloradans living with oil and gas on the Front Range. Impacted Coloradans have the right to expect that oil and gas wells in close proximity to their communities will be tested for leaks on a regular basis, and to be assured that they aren’t being exposed to methane and other toxic VOCs in their own neighborhoods. LOGIC stands behind this rule as necessary to protecting frontline Colorado communities across Weld County, the Front Range, and our state living with oil and gas.”  — Sara Loflin, Executive Director at League of Oil and Gas Impacted Communities

“This is good news for all Coloradans living next to oil and gas development. We have been working for decades to ensure basic protections for air quality and public health and are discouraged that some local governments are wasting taxpayer money trying to fight something as simple as inspecting for leaks. We all deserve to breathe clean air regardless of where we live and it’s only common sense to inspect oil and gas facilities more than once a year if they are built next to where people live, work and play.” — Emily Hornback, Executive Director at Western Colorado Alliance

“A public health crisis is the exact wrong time to waste taxpayer dollars on a frivolous bid to stop new rules that reduce pollution. We are thrilled to see yet another barrier to action fall and look forward to Colorado implementing policies that clean up our air and meet Colorado’s climate action targets.” — Sara Rose Tannenbaum, Climate Advocate, Conservation Colorado

“The State of Colorado wisely built commonsense protections from ozone-forming pollutants like methane that come from oil and gas activity across our state. As Colorado grapples with a devastating respiratory health crisis, we see the court’s decision as an important step to upholding pollution standards, which are vital to protecting public health and our economy.”  — Emily Gedeon, Acting Chapter Director of the Colorado Sierra Club

“It was beyond the pale for Weld County to try to roll-back necessary health protections for too many Colorado communities who were already fighting to protect their health and safety against neighboring oil and gas sites. The people of Colorado deserve the SB-181 protections that put them first, above the interests of oil and gas companies. We’re glad the court found that Weld County does not have the power to take that away.”  — Nathalie Eddy, Colorado and New Mexico Field Advocate at Earthworks

“This decision is a victory for citizens groups and the State in their efforts to enact stronger air quality regulations that protect all Coloradans. It should send a signal to Weld County and other similarly minded counties to stop using taxpayer dollars to undermine strong public health protections.” — Natasha Leger, Executive Director of Citizens for a Healthy Community

“We are pleased that Colorado’s strong new air pollution rules remain in effect to protect southwest Colorado’s air quality and our community’s health. As one of the state’s primary oil and gas producing regions, it is critical we keep the protections afforded by these rules.” — Mark Pearson, Executive Director of San Juan Citizens Alliance