Almost daily we hear in the media or in legislative committee rooms that “oil and gas is the largest contributor to ozone in Colorado.” It’s usually followed by an outraged call for industry “to be held accountable.”
But where is the data supporting this claim coming from?
Is it even true?
Let’s spend a few minutes unpacking the claim. The answer may surprise you.
Before diving in too much, it’s important to understand what ozone is and where it comes from. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines ozone as “a highly reactive gas composed of three oxygen atoms. It is both a natural and a man-made product that occurs in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, where it blocks UV radiation, and at ground level.” The EPA also provides further insight into how ozone is formed, stating, “Ground-level ozone – what we breathe – is formed primarily from photochemical reactions between two major classes of air pollutants, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).”
Oil and gas don’t emit ozone. Industry -- along with cars, trucks, power plants, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, water heaters, and even pine trees – emits VOCs and NOx that may form ozone. How much ozone forms, and when and where, depends on the weather. Colorado state agencies use scientific models to predict ozone levels, and monitors to measure what is actually in the air. The models show that oil and gas cause only a small share of Colorado’s ozone -- less than vehicles, much less than emissions that blow into our state, and much less than what occurs naturally.
It is simply inaccurate to say oil and gas is the largest contributor to ozone pollution.
As a Coloradan, it has been heartening to watch essential employees stepping up across the state during this difficult time. Nurses, doctors, and hospital support staff are literally risking their lives to save others. To those men and women, thank you doesn’t seem to be enough.
During this holiday season, as we gather with friends and family, we recognize and appreciate our blessings. Our industry has much to be grateful for this year, and at COGA, we are exceedingly grateful for all of you.
We thank you for your ongoing investment in our association and our industry, and we thank you for all that you do each day to produce the energy we all need to thrive in the 21st century.
But as we near the end of this historic year for our oil and natural gas industry, I think it’s good to take stock of the past year and look ahead to what’s to come.
Working in the oil and gas industry in Colorado has not been easy these past few years. Rocky commodity markets, layoffs and activists who want to put us out of business have taken their toll on morale more times than some of us would like to admit. Our shared belief that the work we do helps people live longer, happier, healthier, and more productive lives has helped us endure through tough times. Sadly, a highly unusual set of events has led us to what may be some of our most challenging days yet.
News broke last week that a home explosion in Firestone was caused by gas leaking from a nearby one-inch flowline. Unprocessed gas from the cut line bled off and saturated the soil, migrating through the French drain system and into the sump pit of the house. Two men lost their lives in the explosion, and one woman was critically injured.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the affected families. It may sound cliché to continue to offer those sentiments, but it feels like it can’t be said enough. The Colorado Oil and Gas Association fully supports the investigation by local and state authorities into what happened that led to this heartbreaking tragedy.
Colorado's oil and gas industry has become a convenient bogey man when times get tough and the state is overturning couch cushions trying to meet its budget needs.
We may employ more than 100,000 men and women, pay more than $1 billion in local and state taxes annually and help pay for roads, bridges, rec centers, libraries and parks in every corner of Colorado, but when state funds run low, someone always wants to tap oil and gas for more.