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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) last week proposed new rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from oil and gas drilling operations in the Centennial State. His proposals include a first-in-the-nation call to force drillers to reduce the emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas linked to global warming and the major ingredient in natural gas. Other rules would require companies to regularly search out and repair gas leaks in their drilling and production equipment and to keep records of their findings. Companies would also be expected to cut emissions of other volatile organic compounds that some scientists say contain cancer-causing pollutants and contribute to heightened ozone levels. Many of the regulations would apply to both current and new wells not yet in place. The proposal comes just weeks after four Colorado communities enacted moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in their areas. Hickenlooper developed the proposal in conjunction with both energy and environmental interests: oil and gas developers Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Encana Corporation and Noble Energy as well as the Environmental Defense Fund, a national advocacy group. "Natural gas is a crucial part of this country's future, but we need to address the anxieties and concerns of the public," Mr. Hickenlooper told the Wall Street Journal. "People want clean air and clean water where they live, and that is a legitimate expectation." Hickenlooper has been under intense pressure from opponents of fracking, including Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colorado), who represents three of the four communities that banned the controversial drilling process. He responded to the governor's proposal by saying the state lacked true "common sense" guidelines on the process. "Unfortunately, the fracking rules are overseen by an oil and gas commission that is heavily influenced by the oil and gas industry," he said during a House floor debate. "They don't have at their disposal the independence or the ability to enact real penalties for violations of our laws and their charge is not first and foremost to protect homeowners and families and health." Hickenlooper spokesperson Eric Brown disagreed, maintaining the proposed rules make Colorado "a national model and leader in environmentally protective energy production." The state's Air Quality Control Commission will have final say on most of the proposed rules. It is expected to act on them early next year. (NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL, DENVER POST)
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