REGIONAL AIR QUALITY
Oil and gas development has become a major contributor to air pollution in the intermountain west. Parts of rural Colorado now violate federal ozone standards, largely because of drilling. Ozone (smog) is linked to respiratory and heart problems and increased mortality for children and the elderly, and degrades visibility. Oil and gas development can also release volatile organic compounds on a localized basis, leading to severe health effects.
WW is leading efforts to reduce air pollution from energy development in our region. For example, we recently challenged BLM’s approval of a new compressor station near Carbondale due to the agency’s failure to consider air pollution, climate impacts, and health and safety concerns associated with fugitive emissions. Several years ago, Wilderness Workshop settled an important lawsuit against the BLM over drilling projects in the Colorado River Valley. In building a case, we identified that BLM has been playing a shell game to approve thousands of new wells without considering the cumulative impacts those wells have on the air we breathe. The judge sent it back, requiring BLM to consider air pollution and set up a more transparent system for informing the public about oil and gas proposals.
Air pollution is a major consequence of oil and gas development, and forcing federal land managers to take it into account will likely result in less of it, or at least better mitigation of it. Moreover, we’ve been saying for a long time that the BLM has done a poor job of alerting the public about oil and gas development proposals; that’s why, for example, so much of the Thompson Divide was leased without any public awareness or media coverage. We will continue to advocate for clean air and fight against any ventures that might affect our right to breathe easy.