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September 24, 2020

OSCAR Newsletter | September 2020

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September 2020

Welcome to Boulder County's Office of Sustainability, Climate Action, and Resilience (OSCAR) newsletter. This newsletter is emailed once a month and contains stories and information about our work and offers ways the public can get involved in sustainability and climate action initiatives.



Director of Sustainability, Climate Action & Resilience, Boulder County

With wildfires raging across the West and smoke clouding the skies, the devastating reality of climate change is impossible to ignore. Here in Boulder County, our team is focused on climate action more than ever and we are fortunate to welcome a new Climate Strategist, Matt Lappé, to OSCAR. Below, Matt shares some of the latest climate change trends affecting Boulder County. — Susie


Matt Lappe Circle

We are living through challenging times. There are over 50 active wildfires in the West that have burned over 5 million acres. Entire towns have been destroyed and poor air quality has affected the lives of tens of millions of people. In order for our community to prioritize climate solutions, it is important to understand the relationship between climate change, wildfires, and those who are most affected by increased exposure to smoke.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, here is what we know. First, wildfires are becoming more numerous, larger, and more damaging. Here in Colorado, six of the ten largest fires on record have been in the past decade, with the Pine Gulch fire setting a new record for acres burned.

Second, climate change is a major driver. According to research, climate change leads to increased temperatures, earlier snowmelt, and drier forests, which have resulted in a doubling of the number of acres burned since the 1980’s. Here in Boulder County, without climate action, we could experience nearly 40 days per year of temperatures over 90 degrees, compared to just two days per year historically.

Finally, communities of color and low-income families face the greatest risks from increased exposure to wildfire smoke. Here in Boulder County, Hispanic and Latinx individuals are already exposed to more air pollution, have more underlying health conditions, and are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 than other populations. The worsened air quality from wildfire smoke compounds these other risk factors, driving home why we must center social justice at the core of our climate solutions.

Despite these concerning trends there are reasons to be hopeful. According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 65% of Boulder County residents think fossil fuel companies are responsible for global warming damages. And 78% of your neighbors support regulating CO2 as a pollutant. In our community, it’s clear that we care deeply about climate solutions, and here at OSCAR, we are doing everything in our power to realize our vision: a sustainable, just, and resilient community where all people and natural systems thrive. — Matt

Future Avoided Cost Explorer: Colorado Hazards

Changes in global climate patterns show Colorado will face more frequent and intense hazards in the future. This interactive map and dashboard created by the State of Colorado allows you to explore how flood, drought, and wildfire may cause economic damages under a variety of climate and population scenarios. You can also explore resilience actions that communities can take to reduce hazard risk, respond better during a disaster, and recover from disasters more quickly.

Colorado 2050

COVID-19, Ventilation, & Energy Efficiency

In case you missed it, Partners for a Clean Environment (PACE) hosted a webinar, COVID-19, Ventilation, and Energy Efficiency for Building Owners and Managers last month. Commercial building owners and managers learned about changes to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that will reduce COVID-19 transmission risk for occupants while preserving energy efficiency. The webinar featured air pollution/particle exposure expert Dr. Kristen Fedak and NORESCO Director of Sustainability Services Jim Zarske.

Click here to view a recording of the webinar.

PACE Webinar

Electric Vehicle Resources

Thinking about making the switch to an electric car? Visit to learn more about electric vehicles along with information about models and charging.

The web page also has up-to-date information on limited time offers and purchasing discounts.


Recent News

Restore Colorado

Boulder County wins USDA funding

This funding will promote community compost and waste reduction through the launch of a pilot project, Restore Colorado: A Table to Farm Movement, in collaboration with nonprofits Mad Agriculture and Zero Foodprint. This program aims to accelerate a more sustainable and circular food economy while incentivizing healthy soil practices. Read more here.

Ollin Farms

Longmont's Ollin Farms restores land using regenerative practices

The farm's conservation restoration initiative, Project 95, avoids monoculture and herbicides while designating land for pollinators and soil regeneration. Ollin Farms was an inaugural recipient of $40,000 from OSCAR's Sustainable Food and Agricultural Funding Program. Read more in the Longmont Times-Call.

Jack's Solar Garden

Jack's Solar Garden pioneers agrovoltaics in Longmont

Now This profiled OSCAR partner and agrovoltaics trailblazer Jack's Solar Garden in a recent video. Jack's Solar Garden will use agrovoltaics — the co-development of the same area of land for both solar power and agriculture — to create enough electricity to power over 300 homes. Watch the video here.

Air Quality and Public Health

Ozone Action Days

Ozone reaches dangerous levels

Extraordinarily high levels of ground-level ozone were recorded in Boulder County this summer. The combination of hot temperatures, wildfire smoke, and air pollution created environmental conditions that threaten the health of Boulder County residents.

Air quality monitoring stations in Longmont and at the Boulder Reservoir recorded dangerous spikes in ground-level ozone on August 25, with the highest measurements, taken from 5 minute averages, reporting 102 parts per billion shortly after 1 pm in Boulder and over 115 parts per billion around the same time in Longmont. The federal health standard is 70 parts per billion.

Ozone has often been in the "unhealthy for sensitive groups" to generally "unhealthy" categories this summer, with over 40 ozone action days issued for the Front Range. Recognizing this potential health threat, local governments in Boulder County have engaged air researcher Dr. Detlev Helmig to monitor multiple pollutants at five sites. This data can be viewed in real-time at

While driving declined in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, traffic is returning to normal levels. Oil and gas production is nearly as active as at this time in 2019. These human activities contribute to ground-level ozone and also fuel climate change, which in turn increases the length and severity of wildfire season in the Western United States. The combination of fine particulates in smoke with lung-burning ozone is particularly damaging for seniors, children, and those with heart and lung conditions – many of the same people who are at added risk from COVID-19.

"The bottom line is that these are dangerously high levels of ozone,” said Cindy Copeland, Air Quality Specialist at Boulder County Public Health. “These high levels are continuing and they are only partially due to smoke. Because of climate change, wildfires are becoming more part and parcel of daily life in Colorado during the summer and shouldn’t be discounted as exceptional events. Emissions from the sources that we can control need to be reduced even further so we don’t continue to have such unhealthy conditions during the summer months when people both need to work outside and want to enjoy the outdoors.

Individuals can take action to reduce ozone emissions and the impacts of climate change by reducing driving, combining car trips, switching to electric lawn equipment, and filling up on gasoline after 5pm. Learn more by visiting

Read more about the intersection of climate change, wildfires, ozone, and public health in Boulder County on Climate Docket.

Meet the Team

Elizabeth French, PACE Business Sustainability Team Lead

What do you do at OSCAR? I help manage the county’s commercial sustainability program, PACE.

Hometown? Jones, OK

What do you like most about your job? While I thoroughly enjoy the statistics behind how the PACE program is positively contributing to GHG emission reductions, I absolutely love hearing personal stories from businesses about how PACE has helped them save money and reach sustainability goals.

Hobbies? Hanging with the fam, camping, hiking, snowboarding, and hopefully traveling again sometime soon.

Favorite book? The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz & Janet Mills

Favorite movie? What We Do in the Shadows

What are you reading right now? How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Favorite musician? James Blake

Elizabeth FrenchFrench Interests
Events Calendar

Sustainable Resilient Longmont Celebrates National Drive Electric Week

Zoom Webinar — The EV Solution: How Electric Vehicles combat climate change while promoting affordability and equity

September 24, 2020

6:00 - 8:00 PM

An educational webinar with presentations by Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones, Francie Jaffe (City of Longmont), and Christine Berg (Colorado Energy Office). The event will also feature a panel discussion with local electric vehicle (EV) owners about affordability and incentives followed by a virtual test drive of two EVs and an electric motorcycle.

Register here

Sustainable Resilient Longmont Celebrates National Drive Electric Week

EV Motorcade

September 26, 2020

5:00 - 6:00 PM

Begins at: Roosevelt Park SE Parking Lot

Route: From Roosevelt Park the motorcade will head South on Main St, then U-turn at 3rd Ave, back North on Main St.

To participate in the motorcade and for more information visit