Back to Publications

State Air Program Developments

Paul R. Tourangeau, Nancy Vehr, Nancy Vehr, William Allison, Air Quality Issues Affecting Oil, Gas, and Mining Development in the West

Colorado is a state of extraordinary and diverse natural beauty. Our mountains, streams, wildlife and clean air support not only healthy lifestyles, but a healthy recreation and tourist economy. Colorado is also home to abundant energy resources including natural gas, oil, coal, wind and solar. In particular, there has been tremendous growth in domestic oil and gas development in recent years, and Colorado and adjacent Western states have been at the forefront of this important domestic resource. Hydraulic fracturing and advances in directional drilling have enabled operators to increase both the geographic and volumetric scope of development. While much of the focus and debate has been on potential water impacts associated with this activity, attention is increasingly focusing on air quality issues. Burning natural gas results in fewer emissions than coal, yet still presents its own air quality issues. Oil and gas emissions increase concentrations of criteria pollutants such as ozone, hazardous pollutants such as benzene, and non-traditional pollutants such as greenhouse gases. The continuing expansion of oil and gas activity is creating many more emission sources, particularly in the Piceance Basin on the Western Slope, and the Denver-Julesburg Basin northeast of Denver. Development is occurring closer to heavily populated communities that may not have a history and familiari