Nine counties in Colorado including Mesa County are challenging air quality rules that were passed in December.

The counties filed a lawsuit in Denver to challenge the rules set down by the Air Commission.

The counties included in the suit are Garfield, Logan, Cheyenne, Mesa, Moffit, Rio Blanco, Phillips, Sedgewick, and Yuma.

They are part of a 23 county organization called the Western and Rural Local Government Coalition (WRLG) that represents a significant portion of the state that has oil and gas wells. The issues they are concerned with are the changes that are being made do very little for the environment and could cause oil and gas companies to lay off even more people.

Environmentalists claim the new rules will keep Western Colorado from experiencing Denver like air quality as well as help to clean up the Front Range.

The proposed rule changes will affect Colorado's rural areas more, due, in part to oil and gas drilling. The proposed rules will make many of the low producing and emitting wells not economic, which will, in turn, reduce revenue by as much as $3.8 million. Loss of this revenue would impact smaller communities and reduce or eliminate some public services such as libraries, schools, and other community services.

The reason these counties have banded together int he first place is to make sure Western Colorado has a voice, explains Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky:

We have banded together to provide a rural voice for the public welfare, environmental concerns and economic viability of our communities. In this particular case, we have a simple ask of the Air Commission, which is for rules developed in a fair manner that recognize our needs as well as our successful efforts to protect air quality, without unnecessarily damaging our local economy."

Oil and gas employment on the Western Slope is three times as high as the rest of the state, and implementation of these new rules could result in huge employment losses. The group also challenges the presumption that instituting these rules on the western side of the state would have any impact on the Front Range.

The rules were adopted last month, and with the appeal, it is hoped they will not go into effect until this is resolved.

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