July 12, 2023
Federal and Local Leaders Discuss Climate Crisis, Environmental Justice, and Equity
U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine Visits Boulder County
Boulder County, Colo. -- On Monday (July 10), the Boulder County Commissioners welcomed U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine to Boulder County as part of the Admiral’s efforts to address the impacts of the climate crisis on public health. Starting at Boulder County’s air quality monitoring station at the Boulder Reservoir, Admiral Levine learned about efforts to measure the impact of fossil fuels on the county’s air and how that air is affecting the health of the community. Admiral Levine continued her tour at Boulder’s Mapleton Mobile Home Park where local residents shared how they used income-qualified grants from the county’s EnergySmart program and Colorado’s Affordable Residential Energy (CARE) program to make their home heathier, safer, and less reliant on fossil fuels.
At the Historic Downtown Courthouse, Admiral Levine convened a discussion with community representatives, federal agencies, and elected officials on the topic of the climate crisis and its impact on public health, environmental justice, and racial equity.
“The climate crisis is happening now. We need to partner at the Federal, state, and local levels to ensure a healthier, more climate-resilient future for all those living in the United States. Taking lessons learned from innovative programs like those of Boulder County, and working at the community-level to apply those solutions across the country is key. We need community-led solutions that honor the diverse cultures across the United States as we move forward,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health ADM Rachel Levine.
“Tackling the climate crisis is a priority for Boulder County and its residents,” said Commissioner Claire Levy. “We know that to effect change, we need to work together at all levels of government, which is why we were delighted to welcome Admiral Levine to Colorado this week. We also know the importance of engaging with communities of all kinds and including the wisdom of diverse communities as we work to address the climate crisis. The Admiral is acutely aware of the impacts of the climate crisis on public health, and we appreciated the opportunity to show her firsthand the programs and mitigation efforts we are undertaking at a local level.”
“With our beautiful mountain views and gorgeous outdoor spaces, it is sometimes possible to briefly overlook our poor air quality here in the Front Range,” said Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann. “It is, however, clear through our monitoring efforts that the problem continues. Boulder County will continue to advocate for cleaner air and more resilience in the face of the climate crisis – both as a health issue and a matter of racial equity. We look forward to building on the discussions we started this week with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”
Boulder County Air Monitoring at Boulder Reservoir
At the Boulder Reservoir, Boulder County Air & Climate Policy Advisor Cindy Copeland briefed Admiral Levine on the county’s efforts to monitor Boulder County’s air for the impact of oil and gas operations, as well as the county’s efforts to bring about change to Colorado’s air quality policies through efforts like the Protecting Communities from Air Pollution Act and the recent ‘clean trucks’ regulations approved by the Air Quality Control Commission.
Energy Efficiency Programs
Residents in Boulder’s Mapleton Mobile Home Park are using county and state programs that support renters and homeowners in their efforts to be less reliant on fossil fuels at reduced or no cost. Resident Habiba showed Admiral Levine her new high-efficiency mini-split heat pump that replaced an unsafe gas combustion furnace. Through these programs, she was also able to improve her home’s weatherization via insulation and air sealing, enroll in a community solar garden, and install a new energy-efficient refrigerator.
Environmental Justice Roundtable
Admiral Levine and the Boulder County Commissioners welcomed representatives from the offices of federal elected officials as well as FEMA, EPA, and community organizations to discuss the climate crisis with a focus on environmental justice and racial equity. Themes which emerged from the discussion included feedback that community organizers would like to see long-standing systemic inequities addressed at the center of climate and environmental solutions and would welcome more coordination from all levels of government.
The Inflation Reduction Act, which was introduced by the Biden administration last year to help tackle the climate crisis, was discussed as an opportunity, but also as a challenge when it comes to ensuring that funding is made available where it’s needed. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working to address this challenge through the Justice40 Initiative, which aims to ensure that 40 percent or more of overall benefits of climate and infrastructure investments go to disadvantaged communities, and other efforts to make sure vulnerable communities and facilities that serve them can access the opportunities the IRA creates.
Admiral Levine concluded her visit to Boulder County by meeting with young people from Boulder County’s Open and Affirming Sexual Orientation and gender identity Support (OASOS), a program offered through Boulder County Public Health. OASOS members shared their experiences as members of the LGBTQI+ community while Admiral Levine shared her experience as a transgender woman.