How Colorado must lead as latest methane rulemaking advances

By Nini Gu

Colorado’s oil and gas regulators face an important decision that will determine whether the state can continue to successfully reduce methane emissions and meet its statutory climate goals.

In 2021, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission passed a rule that caps how much greenhouse gases can be emitted per barrel of oil and gas produced. However, the 2021 GHG intensity rule left the crucial question of how oil and gas operators can demonstrate that their emissions meet the new standard.

Allowing companies to dictate how emissions are measured and reported without strict policies and a requirement to use direct measurement data threatens to undermine the intensity standard and set a bad precedent for other jurisdictions — US and international. trying to implement performance-based standards.

Fortunately, the Air Pollution Control Division is now enforcing a Greenhouse Gas Intensity Review Rule to address this glaring omission, providing the opportunity to create a program based on the best available scientific evidence and based on real and meaningful results.

This greenhouse gas intensity verification rule must be accurate, reliable, and able to directly quantify the volume of real-world methane emissions so Colorado can make informed decisions to protect communities and the climate.

Get the rule right

Correct application of the direct measurement is crucial for the new rule. Current monitoring methods are able to detect emissions but cannot easily quantify the amount discharged, while emissions calculations using traditional bottom-up approaches routinely underestimate the amount of methane released and rely too heavily on assumptions rather than real data.

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Trust but verify: How Colorado must lead on the latest advances in methane rulemaking Click here to tweet

New and better technologies and methods are making it increasingly practical for producers, regulators and the public to get a more complete picture of the state’s oil and gas methane emissions – one based on actual observed emissions, not outdated assumptions and estimates.

It’s not unlike the Reagan administration’s famous approach to nuclear disarmament with the Soviet Union: trust but verify.

The Polity Administration can lead the nation and the world on this issue, but only by properly incorporating direct measurement into the GHG intensity verification rule.

For the rule to succeed, it must do the following:

  • Express the direct measurement as a requirementnot just an option that oil and gas producers can employ in their methane monitoring strategy at production sites.
  • Establish tangible and actionable standards to guide operator compliance and facilitate APCD enforcement.
  • Define which technologies must be used for direct measurement and how. A regulation that lacks clearly defined minimum standards will give manufacturers too much discretion to regulate themselves and ultimately undermine public confidence in these efforts.
  • Include a commitment for APCD to periodically revise this rule and update its standards to reflect current and evolving methane detection and quantification technologies.
  • Include a requirement for oil and gas producers to regularly reassess their methane measurement and monitoring logs to demonstrate that their strategies are not outdated.
  • Retain the APCD testing authority, or at least oversight of the tester certification process, with defined criteria for selecting which third-party independent certifications are acceptable. Clear auditing standards ensure consistency across all auditors and demonstrate the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
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Tap into federal funding

New federal funding is available to states to support effective measurement and monitoring of methane pollution. These resources can help states like Colorado develop strong programs and meet their climate and pollution goals.
The Inflation Reduction Act’s Methane Emissions Reduction Program provides $1.55 billion for methane monitoring and innovation. The EPA can provide grants to local governments and organizations for methane monitoring, meaning advanced technologies that use direct measurements are more accessible than ever — even as the range of available solutions and technologies continues to grow.

The Polis administration must seize this opportunity to introduce a GHG intensity review rule that will ensure that these technologies are properly deployed on a large scale. This is the only way to know that oil and gas producers are effectively meeting GHG intensity targets and that the state does not run the risk of missing its legal climate commitment. This rule allows APCD and the Air Quality Control Commission to demonstrate that transparent and scientifically rigorous methane standards are achievable.

Colorado was the nation’s first state to establish methane rules and set a brave example for the world at large, but winning a crown is far easier than retaining it. The Polity administration will soon show us if they have what it takes to maintain this leadership.

Please send comments on the GHG Intensity Verification Rule to APCD at [email protected] by February 28, 2023.


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