Colorado Welcomes Biden Administration’s Shared Goal to Improve Air Quality

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The Polis Administration is Investing Additional Resources to Cut Pollution and Fight for Cleaner Air 

REMOTE April 12, 2022: Today, in response to nationwide increases in ozone pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a change that will help build upon Colorado’s strategies to protect and improve the air we breathe. The federal proposal would change the ozone pollution classification for Colorado’s Front Range – along with the classification of five other areas nationwide. This comes at a time when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has launched new tools and strategies to reduce ozone pollution. The public can weigh in on the proposal in the coming weeks before it becomes official.

“The Polis Administration has been committed to reducing pollution since day one, making up for lost time from previous years. We’re making large investments in meaningful strategies that will result in major reductions of ozone pollution, and we look forward to working alongside the EPA on this issue,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of CDPHE.

Air pollution can be harmful to human and environmental health. The EPA measures and labels the amount of ozone pollution to ensure air quality standards protect communities from harmful particles in the air. When the measured amount of ozone in the air changes, the EPA proposes a change to the label assigned to that location. The local community is asked to share input and feedback with the EPA about their experiences with clean air and pollution. Local input helps the EPA determine if a label change, or reclassification, is necessary to continue to support local governments to protect clean air. 

One of the first actions taken by the Polis Administration was to work with the EPA to hold major polluters accountable, and changing the ozone pollution label is an important part of that work. When the EPA label changes, it allows the state to review a larger number of sources of air pollution and require those polluters to commit to specific ways they will work to lower emissions and pollution. The Polis Administration has fought for a budget that provides the staff and resources Colorado needs to both effectively regulate major air polluters and invest in clean air for Colorado. With this decision, Colorado will finally have the tools and personnel available to hold polluters accountable.  

The Governor’s budget and legislative proposals called for historic and innovative investments to further the state’s priority of improving air quality. They will:

  • Improve the state’s ability to require major polluters (i.e., Title V polluters) to follow more stringent restrictions. The state will inspect major polluters and require them to keep the state up-to-date on their progress. 

  • Conduct more air monitoring and share data about pollution with surrounding communities. 

    • Increased monitoring at oil and gas sites, including doing flyovers to monitor pollution.

  • Allow greater outreach to communities that are heavily impacted by pollution to increase transparency and give communities more information about how to protect their health.

  • Give Coloradans money to incentivize using electric lawn equipment. 

  • Putting more electric school buses on the roads, replacing old diesel-powered buses. 

  • Establish a grant program to reduce emissions from diesel trucks.

  • Let Coloradans use buses and other mass transit systems for free during the summer months when ozone pollution is highest. 

  • Investment in a greener transportation system statewide:

    • Ensure there are safe places for Coloradans to bike and walk, and make electric bikes more available to people who need to get around town. 

    • Expand Bustang service along the I-70 and I-25 corridors. 

  • Establish a grant program to reduce emissions from industrial facilities beyond regulatory requirements.

  • Help reduce pollution from buildings by improving their energy efficiency and increasing use of high efficiency electric heat pumps.

  • This builds on groundbreaking legislation from last year that ensures at least an 80% reduction in pollution from electricity generation by 2030 and invests in getting a million electric cars on the road by 2030.

Long-term exposure to elevated levels of ozone pollution can result in constricted and inflamed or damaged airways, increased frequency of asthma attacks, exacerbation of lung diseases like emphysema, increased susceptibility to lung infections and breathing problems.

“I’m deeply committed to reducing pollution throughout Colorado and particularly for communities that are disproportionately impacted. We have made extraordinary gains in our air quality strategies over the past few years, and now we plan to do even more. I came to CDPHE this past November to make a difference, and that’s what I intend to do,”  said Michael Ogletree, director of the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. 

The state has seen significant success in reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen, which are ozone precursors. Since 2019, CDPHE has taken a number of major steps to reduce emissions of ozone precursors, including:

  • Colorado’s low- and zero-emission vehicle rules, which gives Colorado consumers more options to buy electric cars, coupled with build-out of public charging stations, has moved Colorado up the ranks in terms of electric vehicle sales – with over 50,000 EVs on the roads this month. 

  • Rules to cut emissions of volatile organic compounds, which help create ozone pollution, from products such as paint and architectural coatings by 24 tons per day. 

  • A December 2019 rulemaking to cut emissions of pollutants that help create ozone pollution from the oil and gas industry by thousands of tons per year. 

  • A 2020 rulemaking to cut emissions of oxides of nitrogen, which help create ozone pollution, from the development of oil and gas wells.

    • This rulemaking also created new requirements for controlling emissions of volatile organic compounds.

  • Securing closure dates for coal-fired power-generating units across the state. These dates are now part of the law and the division can enforce them. 

  • 2021 rules to reduce emissions from pneumatic controllers in oil and gas operations. This reduces fugitive emissions of pollutants that help create ozone pollution.

  • A pioneering December 2021 rulemaking for the oil and gas industry which will reduce emissions of pollutants that help create ozone pollution by more than 14,000 tons per year.

  • Upcoming rulemakings to reduce pollution from Colorado’s largest industrial facilities.

  • Separately, the Transportation commission adopted a groundbreaking Greenhouse gas Pollution Standard in December 2021 that will also reduce emissions of ozone precursors.

  • The Public Utilities commission is in the process of the review and approval process for Clean Energy Plans from Xcel Energy and Tri-State Generation and Transmission that will ensure at least 80% pollution reduction by 2030.

The five other serious non-ozone attainment areas being reclassified to severe are:

  • Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI

  • Dallas-Fort Worth, TX

  • Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, TX

  • Morongo Band of Mission Indians

  • New York-N. New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-CT