Question to TSW Community.. Keystone Ski Area and Nitrous Oxide Pollution?

Bruce Finley had an interesting article in the Denver Post in January, that covers all sources of various greenhouse and other polluting gases. Interesting graphs if you happen to live in Colorado. What was curious to me was this:

“The biggest nitrogen oxides polluters include power plants, topped by the Tri-State facility in Craig (6,677 tons) and Colorado Springs’ Martin Drake plant (1,293 tons), along with multiple oil and gas industry polluters and others, including Vail Resorts’ Keystone ski area.”

Naturally, I wondered, “what’s this about?” and “why Keystone and not the other ski areas?”. I emailed Bruce and he said that Keystone made the top 20, and he was also curious and double-checked with the State. Apparently the use of generators and other equipment emits these gases.

Hopefully others more familiar with Colorado ski areas will know something about why Keystone is different. If not, I’ll do some more scratching around.

5 thoughts on “Question to TSW Community.. Keystone Ski Area and Nitrous Oxide Pollution?”

  1. Interesting that such a “clean” popular outdoor recreation facility would be considered a major source of greenhouse & polluting gasses. But then you think about all of the traffic flowing from the populated Denver metro area into these mountains, most of them burning fossil fuels. And yes, as you point out, Sharon, all those lifts require consumption of energy, but in addition all of the lodging, restaurants, etc. built up to accommodate all of those visitors do the same. And finaly let’s not forget that all of those wonderful ski runs were once forested, sequestering and storing carbon that were converted into permanent clearcuts with none of the usual forest function.

    • And water for drinking, flushing, dishwashing and snowmaking…I’m not picking on the ski industry, but sometimes I think climate policy devolves to “other people/industries stopping what they are doing but not me/mine.”

  2. Here’s some additional information and context from Bruce Finley’s interesting article, which didn’t make it in the original blog post because apparently focusing on Vail Resorts’ Keystone ski area as perhaps the 20th biggest nitrogen oxides polluter was more of the intent.

    A Post review of federal and state data found Colorado has been one of 15 states where, due in part to the oil and gas boom, pollution increased after 2005 before leveling off around 2016, reversing previous progress.

    Greenhouse gases that force climate change — carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, chlorofluorcarbons, hydrofluorocarbons — make up the bulk of Colorado’s 125 million tons of air pollution each year.

    Federal records show that 46 million tons, or 36% of the total, comes from 119 large industrial polluters, including 35 power plants. More than half the electricity in Colorado still comes from burning coal despite a decade of state efforts to spur a shift to clean energy.

    The top 20 greenhouse gas polluters in Colorado include Xcel Energy’s Comanche, Craig, Pawnee, Hayden, Cherokee and Fort St. Vrain power plants, along with a mix of other industrial sources such as the Swiss-owned Holcim cement factory near Florence and the Canadian-owned Suncor Energy oil refinery north of Denver, EPA records show.

    The 10 largest emitters of greenhouse gases in 2017, all power plants. Percentages represent the proportion of total greenhouse gas emissions by all large facilities (47 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent), including power plants, petroleum and natural gas facilities, meat processing operations and others.

    Colorado polluters also emit hazardous chemicals including air toxics that cause cancer and serious health problems, including thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide, benzene, hydrogen cyanide, nitric oxide, perchloroethylene and others. They emit tens of thousands of tons of particulates, which cause heart and lung problems.

    And records show Colorado polluters emit more than 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. These VOCs and nitrogen oxides bake in sunlight and form the ground-level ozone for which Colorado now ranks among the nation’s worst violators of federal air quality health standards….

    The biggest VOCs polluters include the crude oil pipeline company Plains Marketing (696 tons), with a base in Denver, and the Suncor oil refinery (590 tons), records show….

    Oil and gas companies release 45% of total VOCs emissions, 22% of nitrogen oxides emissions and 12% of greenhouse gas emissions, the records show. (Industry lobbyists tout site-by-site clean-ups, but state officials say improvements were offset by the industry’s expansion so that only VOCs decreased slightly and nitrogen oxides slightly increased.)

  3. My point was…

    You would expect power plants (especially as much coal as we use/not produce) to be the biggest.
    You would expect “The biggest VOCs polluters include the crude oil pipeline company Plains Marketing (696 tons), with a base in Denver, and the Suncor oil refinery (590 tons), records show.”

    Since we tend to discuss production of oil and gas and coal more than where it’s used, I tried to pick out the “producing” from the “using” in this article. There’s a very interesting graph that I couldn’t link to that has GHG’s by source in percentages. For the year 2020 it looks like natural gas and oil systems is 11% and coal and abandoned mines is 5%, where electric power is 25% transportation 25%, residential and commercial fuel use is 20% and agriculture 8%.

    You can also look at these figures and say that the impact of producing oil and gas (11+5, I guess because you’d have abandoned mines anyway) so 16% max, is minimal compared to the use of oil and gas and coal (70%).

  4. Speaking of the Oil and Gas and Fracking Industry in Colorado, including those operating on federal public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management….

    Colorado has lost out on untold millions in state and local tax revenue because of the widespread failure of oil and gas companies to submit production data to regulators, a report released last week by state auditors found. Now anti-fracking activists want those regulators to do something about it.

    In a complaint filed today, February 4, with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, activist group Colorado Rising calls on the agency to “immediately commence an enforcement action seeking penalties by issuing a Notice of Alleged Violation,” and to seek the maximum penalty of $15,000 per violation per day from the offending operators….

    The complaint follows a report released by the Office of the State Auditor and presented to lawmakers at the Capitol last week, which found that over a three-year period, oil and gas operators failed to submit more than 50,000 monthly well reports as required by state law. Production data from those reports is used in the calculation of severance taxes, which are levied on mineral owners based on the amount of oil, gas and other non-renewable resources that are extracted every year.

    Overall, 316 out of 420 [or over 75%!!!] actively producing oil and gas operators failed to comply with reporting requirements between 2016 and 2018, the report found. While auditors and COGCC officials declined to give an estimate of how much revenue was lost, the report found that Colorado’s effective severance tax rate was just 0.54 percent — the lowest of nine peer states analyzed by auditors.

    “This audit shows how oil and gas operators have failed to pay millions in tax revenue to the state, local governments and their communities, all the while running expensive television ads to tout their contributions to the state,” House Speaker KC Becker, a Democrat from Boulder, said in a statement on the audit’s release. “We have one of the lowest severance tax rates in the nation, and yet operators aren’t even paying what they owe.”


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