Colorado lets oil and gas companies pollute for 90 days without federally required permits that limit emissions | VailDaily.com

Colorado lets oil and gas companies pollute for 90 days without federally required permits that limit emissions

BRUCE FINLEY | The Denver Post
FILE-- On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, the Colorado Legislature gave final approval to a bill that would dramatically change how the state regulates the oil and gas industry, shifting the focus from encouraging production to protecting public health and the environment.
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Colorado public health officials have let oil and gas companies begin drilling and fracking for fossil fuels at nearly 200 industrial sites across the state without first obtaining federally required permits that limit how much toxic pollution they can spew into the air.

Air pollution control officials at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment allow the industry to emit hundreds of tons of volatile organic chemicals, cancer-causing benzene and other pollutants using an exemption tucked into the state’s voluminous rules for the industry — rules that former Gov. John Hickenlooper, state leaders and industry officials long have hailed as the toughest in the nation.

They rely on this 27-year-old state exemption to give oil and gas companies 90 days to pollute, then assess what they need from Colorado regulators before applying for the air permits that set limits on emissions from industrial sites.

“It is a loophole that allows pollution at some of the times when the pollution is the most extreme,” said U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, who chairs a congressional panel that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency.

Colorado’s practice may not be legal under the federal Clean Air Act. While oil and gas companies are required to install controls to minimize emissions during the 90-day window, state inspectors don’t check unless they receive specific complaints. State health officials told The Denver Post they have begun a review of whether the exemption complies with federal law. This comes as Gov. Jared Polis has signaled his intentions to try to improve Colorado’s deteriorating air quality.

Read the full story via The Denver Post.