Fracktivists and frackthusiasts have reached a historic compromise in Colorado, a hot spot for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that recently saw three communities -- and a possible fourth -- vote to ban the practice entirely. The agreement, announced today by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, joins three oil-and-gas producers with the Environmental Defense Fund to track and eliminate methane leaks, making it the first U.S. state to limit methane emissions from natural gas and oil production.
Methane, the main component of natural gas, is 21 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A boom in U.S. natural-gas supplies brought on by hydraulic fracturing has opened a debate over whether expanding the use of gas sets back efforts to fight climate change.
The EPA in 2012 issued the first rules to fight air pollution from gas drilling. The regulations require operators to use a technology known as green completions in which escaping gas is captured. Those national rules don’t apply to oil wells, which would be covered in Colorado.
By specifically targeting methane emissions, the Colorado rules will force the capture of more of that gas, said Dan Grossman, regional director for Environmental Defense in Colorado. He said the three companies in the agreement are the state’s largest oil and gas producers.
The joint proposal still has to go through outside comments and a February 2014 hearing before becoming rule.