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April 10, 2023

Groundbreaking Legislation Will Protect Colorado’s Air

Boulder County Commissioners Welcome Plans to Reduce Air Pollution

Boulder County, Colo. -- The Boulder County Commissioners have welcomed the Protecting Communities from Air Pollution Act, which, if passed by the Colorado General Assembly, would provide Colorado with the powers needed to tackle the state’s public health crisis caused by air pollution.

For decades, Front Range residents have suffered from air condemned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as failing to meet national standards. On March 16, Governor Polis acknowledged that pollution from oil and gas sources in the state are key contributors to our poor air quality.

“Governor Polis has announced new targets for Colorado to reduce oil and gas emissions by 2025 and 2030, and the Protecting Communities from Pollution Act creates the playbook needed to meet these targets,” said Commissioner Claire Levy. “Boulder County supports the efforts by the state’s legislators to protect our air and, most importantly, the health of our community.”

“Low-income communities are more likely to suffer from the impacts and ill-effects of air pollution,” said Commissioner Marta Loachamin. “The urgency of addressing our air pollution cannot be overstated as communities of color are also more affected. Air quality is not only a matter of public health, but also of equity and justice. This bill will improve the health of millions of Coloradans, especially neighbors, friends, and family with respiratory illnesses and anyone whose job requires them to work outdoors.”

“The time for change is now and this new legislation makes that change possible,” said Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann. "The clock is ticking, and the summer ozone season is fast approaching. The Protecting Communities from Pollution Act is our chance to secure a healthier future for all."

The bill is expected to be introduced later this week by Representatives Jennifer Bacon and Jenny Willford and Senators Faith Winter and Julie Gonzales.

What is ground level ozone and why are regulations needed?

Ground-level ozone is a key reason the Front Range’s summer air quality is so dangerous to our health.

Invisible and harmful, ozone forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds meet sunlight. The source of Boulder County's ozone problem is mainly oil and gas operations and vehicle fumes, which get trapped against the mountains. Not only does climate change exacerbate ozone season, but ozone itself is also a greenhouse gas, which contributes to the overall warming of the planet.

Breathing ground-level ozone can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Ozone also can reduce lung function and may permanently scar lung tissue.

Those most affected by air pollution include children, the elderly, those with respiratory conditions, and everyone who works outside.

What does the legislation do?

To address the public health crisis created by ozone, the bill proposes the following action:

  • Improve the air quality permitting process by tightening controls and improving analyses for oil and gas, energy, manufacturing, and other industries
  • Increase coordination between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with the aim of improving air quality
  • Enhance public complaint processes and increase opportunities for public enforcement of air quality standards
  • Create new electrification requirements and emissions standards for stationary engines used in oil and gas operations.
  • Introduce six new measures that will reduce ozone precursor emissions to the ozone state implementation plan for the Denver Metro/North Front Range ozone nonattainment area. (In 2022, the EPA reclassified the Denver Metro/North Front Range area from a “Serious” to a “Severe” nonattainment area for ground-level ozone.)

Show your support

State representatives from across Boulder County are working to protect our air. Community members can contact their state representatives through the Colorado General Assembly ‘Find my legislator’ website to express support for the proposed legislation.

Collage of all three Boulder County Commissioners