State announces proposals to inventory greenhouse gases and reduce emissions

Contact: Andrew Bare, 720-425-2736 (mobile),
DENVER (Feb. 20): Officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are following through on newly enacted laws that position Colorado to lead the nation on pursuing actions to reverse the impacts of climate change.

State officials presented the latest series of proposed rules at today’s meeting of the Air Quality Control Commission. The proposals consist of (1) a rule laying out how the state will require emitters to report greenhouse gases; and (2) a rule to reduce hydrofluorocarbons, a group of potent greenhouse gases. The commission scheduled a formal rulemaking on the proposals for May 21.

Today’s proposals add to an aggressive portfolio of strategies to reduce greenhouse gases. Within the past year, the department has also:
  • Adopted a zero-emission vehicle standard that requires automakers to sell more than 5 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2023 and more than 6 percent zero-emission vehicles by 2025. The standard expands consumer choice, providing greater access to electric vehicles.
  • Adopted the first phase of air quality rules to reduce oil and gas emissions, as per SB 19-181. The rules require, in part, oil and gas facilities to track methane emissions, conduct robust leak detection and repair, and reduce emissions from storage tanks and pressure valves. The department will propose additional rules to minimize emissions from oil and gas operations later this year.
  • Formed the first-ever Climate Change Unit, dedicated to reducing greenhouse gases throughout Colorado.
  • Participated in planning for electric utilities to substantially reduce emissions, as per SB 19-236.
“About a year ago, Governor Polis gave us the directive to be bold in protecting the health of our communities and the Colorado environment by reducing greenhouse gases, and we have been running with that directive,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “The department has adopted a car emissions standard to speed up the transition from fossil fueled vehicles to zero-emitting electric vehicles; we have formed the first-ever climate change unit at the department; we have enacted an initial round of rules to reduce oil and gas emissions under the new law; and we are helping electric utilities plan for the market-driven transition from coal power to renewable energy. There is great momentum to reduce emissions that lead to climate change, and we certainly built on that today by laying the groundwork for revamping the statewide greenhouse gas inventory in order to set reduction targets-- and moving forward on a rule to reduce some of the most potent greenhouse gases out there.”

Today’s proposed emissions reporting rule would fill gaps in the federal government’s reporting regime and provide Colorado with additional and higher-quality data for greenhouse gas emissions inventories. These data will better inform projections, as well as prioritize and evaluate ways to reduce emissions.

Several categories of polluters, including industrial solid waste landfills, industrial wastewater treatment facilities, active underground coal mines, local fuel distribution companies and importers and exporters of natural gas, petroleum and coal-based liquid fuels, would be required to report their greenhouse gas emissions regardless of the amount emitted. This adds to the mandatory requirements for oil and gas producers approved by the Air Quality Control Commission in December.
“We are driven to meet our goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to do so, we need to know our starting point. We have to ask the challenging questions and problem solve. We’re revamping our greenhouse gas inventory, and we will be able to answer questions with more precision and develop strategies that are informed by that data,” said Clay Clarke, head of the department’s newly formed Climate Change Unit.

Today’s rule on hydrofluorocarbons would phase out the use of the compounds in aerosol propellants, chillers, foam, and stationary refrigeration. It’s based on a model rule drafted by the U.S. Climate Alliance, of which Colorado is a part. The state would become the first in the country to adopt the model rule and the second state to develop hydrofluorocarbon rules.  

An analysis conducted by the division estimates that the new rule would reduce hydrofluorocarbon emissions by a carbon dioxide equivalent of 6.3 million metric tons by 2030.  

Hydrofluorocarbons are commonly used in refrigeration equipment, air conditioners, foam insulation and rigid foam products, and aerosol propellants. They’re also among the fastest-growing greenhouse gases in the world, increasing 10-15 percent annually, and division officials warned the commission that continued growth in hydrofluorocarbons usage could cancel out reductions in other greenhouse gases.

“We cannot wait for the federal government to act on hydrofluorocarbons, or anything else for that matter,” said John Putnam, director of environmental operations for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Colorado can’t solve the global climate crisis on its own, but we certainly must lead by example, and that’s what we’re doing. We’ve already seen other states take notice of the progress that we’re making on oil and gas regulations, electric utilities, and now hydrofluorocarbons.”

The proposed rule is the product of extensive engagement with stakeholders, including public meetings in Glenwood Springs and Denver.

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