November 17, 2022
Air Quality Control Commission invites public comment on improving Colorado’s dangerous air pollution levels
Boulder County Commissioners encourage residents to share their thoughts on regulation of ground-level ozone
Boulder County, Colo. -- In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reclassified Colorado's Front Range as a "Severe" violator of federal air quality standards for ground-level ozone. In an effort to improve air quality and meet federal standards, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) is considering regulations (referred to as a ‘rulemaking’) proposed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to reduce air pollution in the Front Range.
The county believes the proposed air quality plans should be more aggressive in tackling the issue of ground-level ozone and along with other local governments, recently outlined suggestions in a pre-hearing statement ahead of the AQCC’s December hearing. These measures are even more urgent after CDPHE recently acknowledged it had underestimated emissions from oil and gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations. The county believes the AQCC must create a plan of action that does a better job of protecting the health of all Coloradans, especially communities of color and low-income communities, who are disproportionately hurt by the health impacts of air pollution.
“The air we breathe affects each and every one of us and the time for strong action is now,” said Commissioner Matt Jones. “The effects of air pollution and, in turn, the climate crisis, are personal to me and many others in Boulder County. Less than a year ago, my wife and I had to evacuate due to the climate crisis-driven Marshall Fire and we are lucky to still have our home. While disasters are thankfully not an everyday occurrence, my late father, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, struggled daily with the effects of air pollution, often reaching for his inhaler because he said it felt like he was drowning. These are just two personal examples amongst thousands that our community experiences. The Boulder County Commissioners encourage residents to let the AQCC know what they think about regulating ground-level ozone.”
A Rulemaking Hearing, with an opportunity for public testimony, is scheduled for Dec. 13-16. The AQCC is currently accepting written public comments, which are due no later than November 29, 2022 at 5 p.m. and should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boulder County, as part of the Local Government Coalition, will give testimony at the December hearing.
Ground-level Ozone and Colorado’s Air Quality
Under the Clean Air Act, the Denver Metro/North Front Range was first classified as a nonattainment area for the first ground-level ozone standard in 1978 and is now a Severe nonattainment area.
Unlike the good, protective ozone layer in the upper stratosphere, ground-level ozone is a harmful air pollutant. Ozone can permanently damage lungs and worsen lung conditions like asthma. Children, older people, those with lung conditions, and those who work outdoors are most impacted.
Ground-level ozone is formed from emissions produced by oil and gas development, power plants, and other industrial activity, as well as emissions from everyday activities that involve the burning of fossil fuels, like driving gas powered cars or using gas powered lawn mowers.
Because of the Front Range’s ozone nonattainment problems, the state is charged with developing plans to achieve the ozone standards, but so far these plans have failed to protect Colorado’s air quality. Additional emissions control measures to reduce volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, the main pollutants that create ozone, need to be added to the plans to better protect public health and the environment.
In July 2022, Boulder County, in partnership with several other local governments and Colorado Communities for Climate Action, sent a comment letter to the Regional Air Quality Council asking for the inclusion of more aggressive mitigation actions. Those proposed measures were echoed in the local governments’ pre-hearing statement during the ozone rulemaking, but it’s highly doubtful that any additional measures will be added at the AQCC hearing.