Lowering Methane Release in Colorado | American Lung Association

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Lowering Methane Release in Colorado

Methane Flame

Lowering Methane Release in Colorado

The American Lung Association in Colorado works to combat climate change and the numerous lung health issues it will create due to increased drought, wildfires, more air particulate and higher pollen counts. When people think of the human generated greenhouse gases that cause climate change, carbon pollution is the first gas that comes to mind. However methane is 25 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide within a 100-year timeframe and more than 80 times as powerful within a 20-year timeframe. In October 2014 NASA discovered a methane cloud the size of Delaware over southwestern Colorado.

The vast infrastructure of natural gas, including processing facilities, storage tanks, pipeline leaks, and well pads are contributing to these methane leaks, and in particular super emitters within the industry. When methane is released, oil and gas operations also emit toxic chemicals, such as benzene, that can harm the health of oil and gas workers and families living near drill sites, as well as ozone-forming volatile organic compounds. Ozone can trigger asthma attacks and worsen chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, and is especially harmful for at-risk populations such as children, seniors, low-income populations, and minorities. 

Colorado has demonstrated success tackling this problem. Two years ago, we became the first state to create air rules that targeted leaks from oil and gas production. And they are working. Two years later, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported that the number of wells that needed fixing fell 75 percent in the state’s most heavily developed oil and gas field located in the northeastern part of the state. 

In order to address the cause of climate change federally, both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Bureau of Land Management have issued regulations on methane release that protect both our environment and public health. 

These are just the first steps we need to combat ozone pollution and climate change, which is a force that will increasingly contribute to lung health problems. Colorado’s Front Range is still struggling to achieve safe levels of ozone pollution. However, by working together and through smart regulation we can help keep the air clean of pollutants like methane and ozone precursors and prevent breathing problems.

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