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Federal ozone pollution standards and Colorado nonattainment areas

Colorado's ozone pollution challenge

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Background on Colorado’s nonattainment areas

Colorado’s air quality has improved over the past several decades. This includes ground-level ozone pollution, where concentrations have generally trended downward in the Denver metro/north Front Range area. However, the area is not in compliance with federal air quality standards for ozone pollution. To come into compliance, Colorado must submit plans to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These plans show how Colorado will reduce ozone pollution in the nonattainment areas. Learn more about the history of ozone and past planning efforts in Colorado. 


2008 federal ozone standard nonattainment area
In 2022, the EPA reclassified the Denver metro/north Front Range as a “severe” nonattainment area under the 2008 ozone standard. It was downgraded from its previous classification as “serious” nonattainment. The attainment deadline for the 2008 standard is July 20, 2027, based on 2024-2026 ozone season data. 


2015 federal ozone standard nonattainment area
In 2022, the EPA reclassified the Denver metro/north Front Range and northern Weld County as a “moderate” nonattainment area under the 2015 ozone standard. It was downgraded from its previous classification as “marginal” nonattainment. The attainment deadline for the 2015 standard is August 3, 2024, based on 2021-2023 ozone season data.


Addressing ozone nonattainment
The Air Pollution Control Division, the Air Quality Control Commission, the Regional Air Quality Council, and other local partners continue to evaluate and implement control strategies aimed at reducing air pollution. In particular, this work focuses on reducing emissions of precursors to ozone formation — nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). 

These partners also continue to prioritize ozone precursor pollutant reductions using other ongoing strategies and directives, such as:

  • Advancing greenhouse gas reductions.

  • Advancing pollutant reductions that increase visibility. 

Ground-level ozone pollution and health
Learn more about ground-level ozone and how it may impact your health.

State Implementation Plans to meet federal ozone standards

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Update: Read our December 2023 press release about the new State Implementation Plan and measures to reduce ozone.

EPA requires Colorado to draft and submit a State Implementation Plan. The plan details how the state will attain federal ozone standards.

The Air Quality Control Commission approved a new State Implementation Plan in December 2022 for the 2015 standard and in December 2023 for the 2008 standard.

The December 2023 plan shows the state will meet 2008 federal standards. Read the December 2023 State Implementation Plan and associated Technical Support Documents.

Reducing ozone pollution formation from oil and gas

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In December 2023, the Air Quality Control Commission adopted innovative measures to curb air pollution emissions from the oil and gas sector. These measures are in addition to Colorado's State Implementation Plan.

The oil and gas sector is a main source of nitrogen oxides. The new measures include requirements such as: 

  • Operators must reduce emissions during the summer months when ozone pollution is highest. This applies to drilling and pre-production operations in the parts of Colorado that do not meet federal ozone pollution standards. These operations include hydraulic fracturing, which is also called fracking. Colorado is one of the first states to have this kind of rule. 
  • Operators must reduce overall nitrogen oxide emissions over time. 
  • Operators must reduce emissions from stationary engines statewide. This includes engines for large equipment that operators park at oil and gas sites while they’re drilling.

Reducing ozone pollution formation from lawn and garden equipment

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In February 2024, the Air Quality Control Commission adopted a rule to reduce air pollution from gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment. These measures are in addition to Colorado's State Implementation Plan.

The rule restricts the use of handheld and push gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment for local, state, and federal governments only during summer months. Summer is the season when ground-level ozone pollution formation is highest.
 

For local governments, the rule applies:

  • Only in the ozone nonattainment area. 
  • Only to equipment below 10 horsepower.

For state government, the new rule applies:

  • Statewide.
  • For equipment below 25 horsepower.

The rule includes exemptions for:

  • Emergency services.
  • Public safety.
  • Wildfire mitigation.
  • Riparian/forest/grassland management (including noxious weed management).

The rule does not include restrictions on commercial use aside from government contracts or residential use. The rule does not restrict personal lawn mower use.

The use restrictions go into effect June 2025. The final rule language (Regulation 29) will be published in the public register on the commission's regulations website. More information on the rule can be found in this fact sheet

Public, technical work group, and stakeholder meetings

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Previous public listening sessions

The Air Pollution Control Division hosted public listening sessions to share:

  • Basic ozone information.
  • Identify planning processes and potential reduction strategies.
  • Provide opportunities to share concerns and suggestions. 
     

Please find presentation materials and recordings below.
 

August 5, 2023, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. 

May 31, 2023, 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

February 21, 2023, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.  

January 26, 2023, 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

May 14, 2022, 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. 

April 26, 2022, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

January 22, 2022, 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

January 20, 2022, 6:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Previous technical work group meetings

June 26, 2023, 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

February 27, 2023, 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 am

March 27, 2023, 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 am 

April 24, 2023, 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 am 

May 22, 2023, 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 am 

 

Previous stakeholder meetings

The division hosted a number of industry meetings in 2022 for sources of nitrogen oxides (NOx) or volatile organic compounds (VOC) over 25 tons per year in the nonattainment area.

February 16, 2022

February 8, 2022