Methane Leaks Could Now Go Unchecked, But Not Likely In Colorado

The Trump administration just relaxed Obama-era industry regulations for methane leaks from oil and gas operations on federal lands. But reactions to the change in the Mountain West are mixed.  

Kathleen Sgamma is with Western Energy Alliance, an industry group based in Colorado that represents oil and gas companies throughout the west. She applauds the administration’s rollbacks and says businesses do better when they’re left to deal with problems themselves.

“When we innovate,” she said, “we can identify leaks faster and cheaper and fix them more efficiently than when a regulator like Colorado locks us into a technology and a method of doing things.”

Colorado has been regulating industry methane leaks since 2014 and has some of the strictest methane regulations in the country. And yet, according to Joel Minor with the Rocky Mountain chapter of the nonprofit environmental group, Earthjustice, “the oil and gas industry is thriving in our state.”

What’s more, air quality officials say methane leaks have declined sharply since the regulations were put in place. Minor is worried that this success is in jeopardy with the federal rollback.  

“That’s why having uniform federal standards is so important to level the playing field,” he said.

Minor said right now most of the states in our region have some regulations but none as strict as Colorado.  

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.