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Colorado Loses $26 Million in Natural Gas Every Year

PHOTO: Every year, oil and gas development on public and tribal lands leads to the release of more than $360 million worth of natural gas into the environment, according to new analysis commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy.
PHOTO: Every year, oil and gas development on public and tribal lands leads to the release of more than $360 million worth of natural gas into the environment, according to new analysis commissioned by the Environmental Defense Fund. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Energy.
June 24, 2015

DENVER - Oil and gas companies operating on public and tribal lands are squandering $360 million a year in natural gas, according to a new analysis released by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Bill Midcap, director of external affairs for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, said the amount of oil and gas released at well sites as methane pollution in Colorado could provide cooking and heating fuel for 100,000 of the state's low-income families.

"They have trouble paying their electric bill, they have trouble paying their heating bill," he said. "Here we are just venting this fuel off into the atmosphere, when it really could be put to good use."

Midcap said losses occur when gas is burned off, vented or just leaks from well sites or pipes.

Colorado is one of the top five polluters listed in the report. More than 8 billion cubic feet of gas is released every year in the state, valued at more than $26 million at current market prices, the report said. Colorado was the first state to require operators to repair leaks on state and private lands, but the rule doesn't apply to drilling on federal lands.

The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees oil and gas development on public lands, is set to propose rules to cut emissions by up to 45 percent over the next 10 years. Dan Grossman, Rocky Mountain regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said he hopes the new rules will improve how waste is managed across states.

"There's a lot of discrepancy across the country with different BLM field offices in how they treat gas that's leaked or vented or flared," he said. "One of the things that we're hoping this rule will do is bring some uniformity and predictability to that process."

Not only is the industry wasting a valuable asset, Grossman said, but it's generating harmful pollution and contributing to climate change. Methane, the main component of natural gas, packs 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, according to the report.

The report is online at edf.org.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO