NREL Records Record Ozone Pollution

Readings at the NREL air quality monitoring station peaked at 94 ppb (the standard is 80), the highest ozone reading recorded so far this summer. The NREL station is the closest to Golden, and I don’t know if levels are likely to be higher or lower down in our small valley (are there any air quality experts out there that can answer this?), but it seems like bad news for Golden any way you look at it.

As we continue to violate air quality standards in the Denver area, Denver continues to run the risk of going back into “non-attainment” on ozone pollution, which could have significant repercussions for things like federal transportation dollars (if you think we don’t have enough money to meet our transportation needs now, just wait until we go back into non-attainment).

The sources of this pollution: some mixture of automobiles, oil and gas drilling, agriculture, other industrial emissions, and perhaps other sources as well. One particularly contentious source is oil and gas drilling, especially in the eastern plains counties like Weld. Industry has aggressively argued that they aren’t making a significant contribution, and the Environmental Protection Agency started using infrared cameras to figure it out.

That sparked the ire of Oklahoma Senator Inhofe, who criticized the EPA for using this innovate and improved pollution detection method. It was refreshing to see the Rocky Mountain News editorial yesterday chastising Senator Inhofe for his nonsensical attack:

Who could possibly object to better methods of collecting data on air emissions? The U.S. senator who chairs the committee that handles environmental issues has, and that’s disturbing . . .

After a News story published June 20 revealed that federal environmental regulators were using infrared cameras to view heretofore invisible emissions from gas and oil wells in Adams and Weld counties, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., fired off a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency demanding an explanation.

Inhofe’s letter said the filming process – which recorded emissions from pipelines, valves and storage tanks – threatened the “trust” between the EPA and the oil and gas industry.

Presumably Senator Inhofe is angry that the EPA is using improved technologies for detecting air pollution because he’s concerned that his oil and gas company supporters might not be able to continue claiming that they have little to do with increasing ozone pollution in Golden and elsewhere in Colorado. Hats off to the Rocky for speaking out.

Incidentally, you can track today’s air pollution levels at the state’s Air Quality Index web site. You can also review the air pollution levels over any specific time period at any monitoring site (including Golden’s).


One Response to “NREL Records Record Ozone Pollution”

  1. goldenvoices Says:

    The Denver Post also ran an article:

    “The Front Range this weekend saw some of the highest levels of ozone for the year, making it more difficult for the region to stay in compliance with federal clean air rules . . .”

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