LOVELAND — Colorado health officials are mobilizing to deal with air pollution from oil and gas industry sources that emit at least 600 tons of contaminants a day.
Oil and gas emissions now are the main source of volatile organic compounds in Colorado and the third-largest source of nitrogen oxides, at a time when a nine-county area around metro Denver is already failing to meet federal clean-air standards, state data show.
But as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment emphasizes balance as it edges toward possible new rules to reduce pollution, Front Range residents increasingly are riled by a lack of scientific certainty about whether emissions harm their health.
Anti-drilling groups are making health fears the focus of campaigns against drilling near communities. In one case, a resident paid more than $1,200 for baseline air tests around her business.
“We’re talking about tiny molecules, and you can’t control them with steel flanges and a gasket,” said Irene Fortune, a retired DuPont chemist, collecting signatures in Loveland last week to put a drilling moratorium on the Nov. 5 city ballot.
Air pollution from wells, tanks and pipelines “is turning into ozone. That’s already a problem,” she said. “And state officials are talking about expanding oil and gas operations. What about the people who live here?”
A nine-member panel of air quality control commissioners appointed by Gov. John Hickenlooper would vote on any proposed air pollution rules. Four commissioners’ terms expire in January.