Rio Blanco County joined eight other counties in The Western and Rural Local Government Coalition (WRLG) filed suit today in Denver District Court challenging a small subset of new rules established by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission (Air Commission) in December 2019.
The counties participating in the legal challenge include Garfield, Cheyenne, Logan, Mesa, Moffat, Phillips, Rio Blanco, Sedgwick and Yuma counties, all located outside the ozone nonattainment area of Denver and the North Front Range. These WRLG counties value clean air and data-driven measures that allow them to meet and exceed federal health-based air quality standards. According to the suit, a few of the Air Commission’s recent rules revisions threaten significant economic harm with little or no environmental benefit to Coloradans.
"We have banded together to provide a rural voice for the public welfare, environmental concerns and economic viability of our communities," said Tom Jankovsky, commissioner, Garfield County Commission. "In this particular case, we have a simple ask of the Air Commission, which is for rules developed in a fair manner that recognize our needs as well as our successful efforts to protect air quality, without unnecessarily damaging our local economy."
According to the suit, if implemented, the challenged regulations will have the following impact on Colorado’s rural areas:
- Colorado’s rural areas have a large portion of the lowest producing and emitting wells. The proposed rules will make many of these wells uneconomic, which will result in termination of production. That will cut off annual revenue from severance and ad valorem property taxes on oil and gas production by as much as $3.8 million for local governments and special districts. This accounts for a disproportionate share of rural county revenues used for public services such as schools, libraries, community health care, and other social services.
- The oil and gas employment share in these rural areas is more than triple the statewide share. The proposed rules will have adverse, disproportionate impacts on rural communities with hundreds of full-time position job losses.
- The rules as adopted do little to assist the Front Range counties in meeting federal health-based ozone standards. For example, if oil and gas emissions were reduced to zero in our western and rural counties, ozone at the violating monitors will only decrease by an estimated 0.3 parts per billion (current standards are 75 ppb and 70 ppb), and the benefits of the challenged rules will be far less than that.
Under the Colorado Administrative Procedures Act and the Colorado Air Act, the Air Commission is required to analyze the economic impacts and purported benefits of all proposed rules, and also to prioritize local government concerns. In this case they failed to do so, said Terry Hofmeister, chairman, Phillips County Board of County Commissioners.
The Western and Rural Local Government Coalition (WRLG) is composed of 15 county governments and eight municipalities on the Western Slope and Eastern Plains representing 31 percent of the total land area and 45 percent of active oil and gas wells in Colorado. Nine of our coalition counties are participating in the Air Commission legal challenge. Based in Garfield County, this coalition was created out of necessity to provide a rural voice for the public welfare, environmental concerns and economic viability of our communities. For more information about WRLG please visit: www.westernruralcoalition.com.
SOURCE Garfield County