May 16, 2023
Weakened Air Quality Legislation Still Creates Opportunity to Reduce Pollution
The Protecting Communities from Air Pollution Act Significantly Amended By Legislature
Boulder County, Colo. -- Last week the Colorado General Assembly passed The Protecting Communities from Air Pollution Act (HB23-1294), which Boulder County supported throughout the legislative process. The bill was introduced as comprehensive legislation to tackle the public health crisis caused by air pollution and was supported by 47 of Colorado’s counties, cities, and towns, as well as health professionals from across Colorado and communities and groups severely impacted by the Front Range’s poor air quality.
Unfortunately, the proposed regulations were weakened under aggressive industry pressure. However, the legislation is still important and the interim committee established with the bill will be a crucial opportunity to bring about stronger air quality regulations in Colorado.
The final version of the bill maintained important pieces of the original legislation, including increased enforcement of air and oil and gas permits based on public complaints, a strengthened air quality complaint processes, and a ‘rulemaking’ (process of making regulations) by April 2024 to define and continue progress on reducing the ongoing public health impacts of the oil and gas industry.
Over the summer, the interim committee, made up of state representatives, will look at Colorado’s ongoing air quality problem, explore additional measures to reduce ground level ozone, and identify potential reforms to the permitting process.
“The public health crisis created by the unhealthy state of Colorado’s air quality continues to be a matter of equity and social justice,” said Commissioner Marta Loachamin. “We are hopeful that progress can be made over the summer by the legislature’s interim committee and that they will look meaningfully at the impact of the oil and gas industry on low income communities that are disproportionately hurt by ground level ozone.”
“Boulder County will continue to share its air quality expertise and years of scientific data in order to advocate for stricter controls on oil and gas operations and other industries that are poisoning our air,” said Commissioner Claire Levy. “Over the summer, we will work with state elected leaders to bring about stronger legislation in the 2024 legislative session.”
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.
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.