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Colorado Governor Hickenlooper Touts New Air Pollution Rules For Oil And Gas Industry

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper answered questions about his goals in the upcoming legislative session during a press briefing in his office Thursday afternoon, December 19, 2013. | Karl Gehring via Getty Images

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is touting the state's new air pollution curbs on the oil and gas industry — but he insists that local efforts to curb drilling run afoul of constitutional property rights.

The governor gathered environmentalists, state health officials and representatives of the oil and gas industry Tuesday to tout new air-quality controls.

The rules, adopted over the weekend, include the nation's first statewide limits on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

The rules also call for infrared cameras to detect air pollution at oil and gas sites. State health officials say the changes will make a significant dent in the types of emissions that contribute to ozone pollution.

"Some people feel this still does not satisfy the issue of local control," said Hickenlooper, referring to groups pushing for longer setbacks and other drilling changes not addressed in the new rules.

But Hickenlooper insists that local governments can't ban oil and gas production without violating the property rights of those who own mineral rights.

A citizens group is currently gathering signatures for a possible ballot measure to amend the state constitution to give local governments more control over oil and gas activity. Meanwhile, the state is embroiled in litigation with one town that voted to curb hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Hickenlooper said he hopes the air-pollution changes address the "understandable concerns" about the health effects of drilling. "Most people are focused on making sure we protect the air and the water," he said.

The national head of the Environmental Defense Fund, Fred Krupp, attended the Denver news conference and touted the rules as "a whole new paradigm for environmental protection."

A bill to increase penalties for drilling violations is still likely to be debated in the state Legislature. Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, said the bill is likely to be ready for introduction next week.

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