February 22, 2008

EPA Rips Wyoming Bureau of Land Management

Citing massive increases in air pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ripped into the Bureau of Land Management's plans to allow more than 4,000 new oil and gas wells to be drilled in southwestern Wyoming.

In comments submitted earlier this week, the EPA noted that previous drilling in the area had led to "significant and unanticipated" clean air impacts and called on the Bureau of Land Management to adopt stronger clean air safeguards before allowing any additional drilling.

The EPA's comments are the latest sign that booming oil and gas drilling in the region is maxing out air quality. Earlier this month, the EPA told the State of Colorado to reassess whether it should exempt thousands of oil and gas wells from clean air safeguards.

We've said it before and we'll say it again. Oil and gas drilling is the largest, fastest growing source of air pollution in the Rocky Mountain region. Kudos to the EPA for helping to make sure we don't lose our clean air in the midst of this latest boom.

February 15, 2008

AG Suthers: the Ball's in Ritter's Court

Colorado is the only state not joining in a lawsuit to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency's refusal to let states curb greenhouse gas pollution from vehicle tailpipes.

And today, at a University of Denver climate change law symposium, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers pointed the finger at Governor Ritter. In response to a question from Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action, Suthers stated that he would join in the fight to overturn the EPA's decision...if Governor Ritter's office asked him to.

Is he punting or telling the truth?

To review, the EPA last December rejected a request by California to adopt more stringent tailpipe emission standards. These same standards have been adopted or proposed for adoption by 17 states, including Colorado. Under the Clean Air Act, states have two choices--either adopt the EPA's tailpipe standards or California's. Because of the EPA's decision, states like Colorado can't curb greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle tailpipes.

So far, the states of California, Iowa, Florida, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Pennsylvania have all joined in a lawsuit against the EPA.

Colorado is conspicuously absent from this list. And that's confusing, to say the least. Last November, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter called for the adoption of California's clean car standards to help fight climate change.

So do we point the finger at Governor Ritter or Attorney General Suthers for not defending our ability to adopt clean cars?

Maybe it doesn't matter. After all, Rocky Mountain Clean Air has joined the lawsuit to defend Colorado's ability to adopt clean car standards. While the State itself may be missing in action, at least citizens are stepping up to the plate.

February 14, 2008

Big Wins for Clean Air in the Rockies

In the last week, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action has scored two big wins for clean air.

The first was last week, when the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that the State of Colorado needed to rethink exempting thousands of oil and gas wells from clean air safeguards. The ruling comes in response to a petition from Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action. Under the Clean Air Act, sources of air pollution that are connected and interrelated need to be regulated together, not piecemeal.

Despite this, thousands of oil and gas wells are regulated individually, even though they are connected to larger facilities (like compressor stations) and collectively add up to a significant source of air pollution. The EPA's ruling could mean the advent of stronger clean air safeguards across the entire Rocky Mountain region.

And just yesterday, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action learned that it successfully halted a plan that would have vented billions of cubic feet of methane (also known as natural gas) from a coal mine in western Colorado. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, not to mention the fact that its enormously wasteful to vent the gas. The amount of methane proposed for venting would have been enough to heat 35,000 homes for 12 years.

Responding to a challenge from Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action, the U.S. Forest Service reversed its own decision, ordering its local officials to more closely look at ways to control the methane.

We're hard at work on the frontlines, and it's paying off for our clean air and our climate. Happy Valentine's Day!

February 8, 2008

EPA's "More Mercury" Rule Struck Down

UPDATE: You can read the court's decision here >>

A bit of good news to end the week. Today, a federal court struck down a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that would allow dirty coal burning power plants to spew hazardous amounts of mercury into the air.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that is especially dangerous to children and developing fetuses. Under the EPA's rule, mercury from power plants would have been capped, and then traded like currency. While the plan might have cleaned up some power plants, it threatened to create dangerous "hot spots," or places where mercury pollution remained high and a serious threat to human health.

Today's court ruling is a major victory and sets the stage for full protection of human health from mercury poisoning.

February 4, 2008

"Collector" Cars a Real Problem

The picture above captures it all, but the Rocky Mountain News today elaborates on the details of an emerging problem in the Denver metro area: drivers using the "collector car" exemption to avoid complying with clean air standards for tailpipes.

Under Colorado law, any car 25 years or older can be registered as a "collector car" and avoid regular tailpipe testing. Because state law considers any car 25 years or older to be a "collector car," it means that trucks like the one above qualify for the exemption from tailpipe testing.

Case in point is the truck above, which was spotted driving near Cherry Creek in Denver with collector plates. It may be more than 25 years old, but we're hard pressed to call it a "collector."

In the meantime, while "collector cars" like the one above avoid tailpipe testing, the Denver metro area is struggling to clean up harmful ground-level ozone pollution, the key ingredient of smog.

So what needs to be done? While there may be a need for true "collector" cars to be exempt from emissions testing, the exemption needs to be tempered significantly. The limit should be pushed back to at least 1975 or earlier, and motorists must show that the car is only used for "collector" purposes (e.g., shows, tours, etc.), not regular driving.

February 3, 2008

Welcome to the Blog!

For over a year and a half now, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action has been blogging at the Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action and the Denver Ozone blogs. We've decided to consolidate our blogging in one, easy-to-read blog, called Our Clean Air, sort of your home for one-stop-shopping when it comes to clean air in the Rocky Mountain region.

You can still read all our old posts on the Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action and Denver Ozone blogs. You can also search our old blog posts through our website search engine, right in the upper right hand corner of our home page.

See anything that needs changed or addressed? Send us your comments, our contact information is below. Thanks everyone!