Yesterday, I was teaching my kids about the harsh reality of life. You can never continue to gain benefits without being required to pay for them. Sometimes, you might be required to pay later, but getting all benefits in life complimentarily is impossible. The recent air pollution plan in Colorado is reminiscent of the same philosophy.
The oil and gas industry has long been given several privileges because of its contribution to the economy. However, the tide seems to have changed, and strict new norms have been put in place to be followed by all members of the industry. To put things in perspective, this is the country’s first statewide limit on emissions of methane. Is this the right approach to adopt while dealing with an extremely critical industry-- one that contributes significantly to the state’s economy? Before we debate this question, let us have a background of the situation.
Colorado is blessed with numerous oil and gas reserves. Therefore, the industry generates numerous jobs for the state. However, at the same time it does adversely affect the environment of the state. The levels of methane emissions have escalated, and as you might expect, they have the potential to have serious impact on the health of the inhabitants.
This leaves the state government in a conundrum. Should it give preference to the industry that is helping it keep its economy afloat, or does it need to put a lid on the methane emissions to protect the health of the people? This question can be tricky at times, but Colorado decided to take a stand. The all-new plan, which has received much attention from supporters and detractors alike, promises to significantly reduce emissions. The ultimate objective is to improve the environment that the people of the state live in.
Following are some elements of the plan that make this decision highly courageous (and highly outrageous for some):
1. In the U.S. this is the most comprehensive leak detection and repair program for oil and gas facilities.
2. The regulations cover a complete gamut of hydrocarbon emissions, making it a very challenging task for the members of the industry.
3. Has the ability to cut down on more than 92,000 tons of volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions every year.
4. If executed as planned, it can cut down on methane emissions by up to 60,000 tons per year.
THE WAY FORWARD?
So, we come back to the same question with which we started our conversation earlier. Has Colorado set the right precedent, or can this end up being a brazen effort of the state which might only hurt its economy?
Certain commentators on the issue believe that the oil and gas industry is highly strategic for the future growth of the state’s prospects. Therefore, such harsh norms against the same can push the state’s growth plans into the dark. The other way of looking at the matter is that the members of the industry are only paying the cost of doing business. Regardless of the business you participate in, you have to pay some costs (either in the form of taxes or adhering to regulations). By coming up with such stringent norms, Colorado’s government has ensured that the oil and gas industry integrates the concern of the local people into its functioning.
Another fact that goes in favor of the state government is the fact that this decision was implemented after discussions with experts in different fields. Professionals, who had varied and at times conflicting opinions and interests, were consulted about the issue. Therefore, the final decision reflects the perceptions of various people, and is hence expected to uphold the interests of state’s residents and also the members of the oil and gas industry.
In short, it seems that the government is headed in the right direction. It would, however, be suggested to tread carefully on this path, and always keep the oil and gas industry in confidence while erecting any new regulations, which can severely affect the industry’s functioning. After all, the industry is crucial to the state’s economic health.
Penny Olmos is an editor and writer for HHI Lifting.
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