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July 10, 2020

Federal appellate court deals victory for improved air quality in Boulder County

Federal appellate court deals victory for improved air quality in Boulder County

Boulder County, CO – Today a federal appellate court dealt a victory to Boulder County and other proponents of improved air quality. In a case about how boundaries are drawn around sources of air pollution in the Front Range, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) designation of the Metro-Denver ozone nonattainment area.

The current ozone nonattainment area stretches along the Front Range from Castle Rock in the South to Fort Collins and Greeley in the north and west into Rocky Mountain National Park. The area did not include northern Weld County and its thousands of oil and gas sources. These sources contribute to the serious ozone problem in the Metro-Denver area and the northern Front Range of Colorado, including Boulder County.

The court ruled the EPA’s decision to exclude northern Weld County from the nonattainment area was “arbitrary and capricious.” The court has ordered EPA to reconsider its decision because the previous nonattainment decision was inadequately supported and reasoned.

“We are encouraged that the EPA will reconsider excluding northern Weld County from the ozone nonattainment area,” said Cindy Copeland, Boulder County Public Health air and climate policy specialist. “Including northern Weld County in the area would require many oil and gas sources to meet EPA requirements to reduce emissions, which would help to greatly improve ozone levels for front range residents.”

Including the Weld County area in the ozone nonattainment area would bring many additional oil and gas sources into air quality planning under EPA requirements. The resulting reductions in nitrogen oxides (NOX) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) pollution would help to greatly improve ozone levels in the Denver metro area, including Boulder County. Air quality conditions and ecosystem health at Rocky Mountain National Park could also be improved with more emissions controls.

The ruling is a result of a lawsuit against the EPA filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by the Boulder County Board of Commissioners, the Center for Biological Diversity and National Parks Conservation Association.