Colorado continues to take action to reduce ozone pollution

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State gets EPA to commit to work with Colorado on a plan that’s tailored and targeted to Colorado’s needs as law and science allow.

DENVER, September 16, 2022: The Environmental Protection Agency has officially announced that it is changing the federal ozone pollution classification for Colorado’s Front Range – along with the classification of five other areas nationwide. It presents an opportunity for Colorado to hold polluters accountable and adopt new strategies to tackle emissions of ozone precursors. The state has been preparing for this reclassification and has significantly invested in the state’s air division in order to address it. The Regional Air Quality Council and the Air Pollution Control Division have created a State Implementation Plan to reduce ozone pollution levels to meet federal standards in under four years. The Air Quality Control Commission will consider whether to adopt the plan in December before forwarding it to the state legislature.    

“The department has developed multifaceted strategies to reduce ozone pollution,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “The latest State Implementation Plan equips us with new tools to improve air quality along the Front Range.”

While the EPA requires reformulated gasoline for areas that the agency classifies as severe nonattainment, Colorado does not need reformulated gasoline to reach ozone attainment goals. The state’s expert modeling shows that Colorado can reach 2008 ozone attainment standards by 2026, without relying on reformulated gas. The state has asked the EPA to re-evaluate the requirement and is committed to doing everything possible to avoid it. The EPA has responded to the state that it will work with Colorado “to explore all flexibilities that may be available under the Act to best meet Colorado’s implementation needs and public health goals of the law.”

“We go beyond measuring ozone pollution at the Air Pollution Control Division; we mitigate it,” said Michael Ogletree, director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. “Thanks to the Polis Administration, we have the tools we need to implement and enforce robust air quality policies for all pollutants, including ozone.” 

The Front Range reclassification gives the state new tools to crack down on pollution and protect the air we breathe. It allows the state to review a larger number of sources of air pollution and require them to commit to specific ways they will work to lower emissions. The department’s Air Pollution Control Division will be able to issue more stringent permits for as many as 600 more oil and gas facilities and about 100 more industrial sites. Facilities have 12 months from the reclassification to either submit a new Title V permit or a synthetic minor permit. The Air Pollution Control Division will then have 18 months to issue those permits. 

To prepare for reclassification, the division and Regional Air Quality Council drafted a State Implementation Plan. The plan includes several methods to achieve ozone attainment such as: 

  • Analyzing and utilizing new technologies to control emissions. 

  • Expanding ozone requirements to include northern Weld County, which is now a part of the nonattainment area under the 2015 ozone NAAQS. 

  • Adopting contingency measures that will be implemented if the area fails to reach attainment.

  • Developing emission inventories for milestone years and tracking progress toward air quality goals.