On Wednesday, March 25th the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission hosted its hearing virtually, with opportunity to offer public comment online. 350 Colorado staff and members were there to comment, calling for a halt to all oil and gas activities for at least 30 days and until COVID-19 is contained.
Research has shown that high pollution levels increase our vulnerability to COVID-19. Oil and gas extraction and production activities are responsible for up to 40% of air pollution in Front Range. During this time of a respiratory pandemic, our leaders must do more to protect air quality. Below is the statement offered to the COGCC by 350 Colorado’s Communications and Development Director, Julia Williams.
Today we are gathered on zoom because we are currently living in the midst of a global pandemic present in our state and our communities. This pandemic, COVID-19, results in respiratory illness, respiratory distress, and even death, at alarmingly high rates. People with reduced lung capacity, those immuno-suppressed and the elderly are at higher risk.
Oil and gas activities are responsible for as much as 40% of the pollution that resulted in the EPA reclassifying Colorado air quality as in “serious” violation of air quality laws. This pollution is a leading cause of respiratory and heart disease for impacted communities, greatly increasing our population’s risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19. Many businesses that increase public risk are being asked to shut down during this pandemic, oil and gas should be no exception.
For example, yesterday, officials from the CDPHE released a statement urging Coloradans not to engage in open burning activities during the current COVID-19 response. Stating “the COVID-19 virus poses a particular threat to individuals with a history of heart or respiratory illness. Smoke from open burns could put a strain on already vulnerable populations.”
Yet, open burns are far from the largest source of air pollution in Colorado. The American Lung Association lists “reducing emissions from existing and new oil and gas operations” as one of the key actions Colorado must take to improve air quality across the state. Stating you are concerned and prioritizing public health, without addressing this issue is foolish.
We are calling for all fossil fuel extraction and production activities known to release harmful VOCs and air pollution to be ceased, without exception, throughout the state for a minimum of 30 days and until the pandemic is contained in Colorado. Furthermore if you are going to pause rulemaking, you must also pause permitting and operations.
Colorado is at a crossroads, already we are taking extreme, but necessary measures to minimize the risks of COVID-19 on our communities. It is time the COGCC does the job it is required by law to do, put public health and safety first. Given this directive by law, I would like to know how the COGCC is working to reduce emissions to help protect our population from the risks of COVID-19?
Our response to this pandemic will be looked back upon for years to come, which side of history do you want to be on?
Want to take action? Please sign and share this new petition calling for a halt to all oil and gas activities for at least 30 days and until COVID-19 is contained! Our Governor, CDPHE and COGCC must prioritize our health and safety via protection of air quality during this respiratory epidemic.