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While Colorado has passed one of the strongest climate laws in the nation and made environmental justice and health a priority, the state’s leaders shockingly continue to let polluters run the roost, endangering people and communities, and threatening to derail action for the climate.

It’s why Coloradans are increasingly asking, are state leaders on their side or the side of polluters? It’s high time they decide. Take action today. 

The latest disturbing revelation is a whistleblower complaint filed in late March over the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division’s pattern and practice of approving illegal air pollution permits. The complaint detailed that for more than a decade, the Air Division has illegally approved permits for new mines, fracking sites, gravel pits, asphalt plants, slaughterhouses, and more.

Excerpt from whistleblower complaint

In e-mails submitted with the complaint, the whistleblowers revealed the Director of the Division himself ordered employees to ignore violations and that managers directed staff to falsify data.

In response, WildEarth Guardians, Colorado Latino Forum, 350 Colorado and many others called on Governor Jared Polis to remove the Director and halt the approval of new air pollution permits, while also calling on Attorney General Phil Weiser to launch a legal investigation.

During a virtual press conference, our friend Ean Thomas Tafoya with the Colorado Latino Forum called out the Polis administration for its blatant disregard for the law, and called on the Governor and the Attorney General to take forceful action as a matter of environmental justice.

Check out the virtual press conference here >>

Ean Thomas Tafoya with the Colorado Latino Forum speaking out during virtual press conference

Tellingly, neither the Governor nor the Attorney General have responded.

In fact, the only comment made to date has been a brief statement from an acting spokesperson for the Governor, who said:

“It’s important to note that Colorado is not in violation of any state or federal law or regulation with regard to modeling. There are no federal or state laws in place governing the threshold to have modeling done for minor source permitting.”

This remark vividly demonstrates what people are up against in Colorado.

The issue isn’t about whether the law requires air pollution modeling, it’s about whether state leaders are protecting people from illegal air pollution. Sadly, this truth seems lost on the Governor and his staff, who seem only to care about finding excuses to justify turning a blind eye to real public health threats.

What’s worse is that the latest whistleblower complaint is truly just the tip of the iceberg. The track record of Colorado leaders putting polluters’ interests before people, health, and environmental justice is long and sordid. It includes:

The list could go on.

This isn’t about politics, it’s about a state government led by those who seem to care more about protecting polluters than protecting people.

Governor Polis, Attorney General Weiser, the Colorado Air Pollution Control Director; they all seem to be driven to maintain the status quo of environmental injustice, degraded public health, and community suffering.

We’re not hopeless, though. Colorado leaders still have a chance to set things right and choose to put people over polluters. It’s going to take more than words, however.

The ball’s in the court of Governor Polis, Attorney General Weiser, and other leaders in Colorado. They need to make a choice. Either they stay the course and confirm that polluters matter most in the state. Or they demonstrate tangible action to protect people, achieve environmental justice, and slash harmful pollution.

The choice is theirs to make. Help them make it.

Today, Colorado Governor Jared Polis released the state’s final roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The roadmap ostensibly lays out the path for Colorado to meet the climate goals of House Bill-19-1261, which requires greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced 26% below 2005 levels by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050.

We acknowledge the moral responsibility of centering and lifting the voices of communities and organizations that work with frontline communities in government sanctioned sacrifice zones. To that end, below is the statement of frontline voices on Governor Polis’ Roadmap:

We know the problems and we have solutions, but Colorado government isn’t listening

Frontline communities say the Governor’s GHG Roadmap doesn’t go far enough

We live on the land of the Ute, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and 48 surviving tribes whose descendants are still living and traveling through what we now call Colorado.

In Colorado, frontline communities are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. For generations, communities of color and low-income have experienced the worst air quality, the worst water quality, and disproportionately live on contaminated soil—by no accident. Landfills, toxic waste treatment facilities, and polluting industries are more likely to be located near communities of color and low income. This concentration of pollution—compounded by extreme weather (heat waves and storms) and a lack of resilient community infrastructure, including healthcare and housing—means that these same communities, especially segregated rural and workforce communities, end up disenfranchised and struggling to survive.

To truly protect communities disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis we must first acknowledge then dismantle the harmful practices of environmental racism, white supremacy and predatory capitalism—made all the more clear by COVID19. Exclusion from decision making processes coupled with government negligence has resulted in environmental violence to our communities for generations, with little to no consequences for violators. We have sought to improve our relationship with the government so that we may heal these systemic problems and government sanctioned sacrifice zones together. We demand a government that is ready to guarantee the equal protection of us all under the law, for these laws to put our health and safety first, and for their policies to be made in consultation with the people most harmed by the legacy of pollution and the climate crisis.

  • It has been almost two years since HB19-1261 passed, and our communities have yet to see tangible action to rein in toxic air pollution or climate crisis-causing emissions. Our state needs to start moving rulemakings and policy now to make sure pollution in frontline communities is reduced and that our state’s climate goals are met. Every moment we delay, the communities who have been most harmed by pollution continue to live with the associated health
  • Colorado’s Climate Action Plan requires engagement and support of disproportionately-impacted communities, yet we are still waiting for CDPHE’s Equity Framework. The delay of this framework signals that disproportionately-impacted communities were not sufficiently consulted or centered, and therefore, are unlikely to reap the benefits that could come from the Governor’s
  • It is past time that we protect the people and respect the science. To be good ancestors for the next seven generations, the government should no longer silo and sideline equity efforts and instead actively work to untangle the systems that created these disproportionate impacts in the first

“The responsibility now rests on Colorado lawmakers and policy makers to build trust by giving the equity analysis top priority on their path to climate action. To truly remedy the generations of inequity and harm imposed on communities not afforded the same platforms to protect ourselves we need to stop doing with politics and economics what has been done to BIPOC communities for generations. That means no longer ignoring, flushing out, or choking out those communities most at risk to environmental and social injustice.”

  • Renee Millard-Chacon, Commerce City, CO Spirit of the Sun, 720-224-4204

“We have known for decades that when it comes to environmental pollution, BIPOC communities suffer the most. This pandemic is highlighting the disproportionate impact on our communities. So many Coloradans have voiced their concerns to our government agencies and even to the Governor himself. Each time we are told there will be change, yet polluting sites all over the state are still in operation despite dangerous, documented violations. If real actions are not taken now, by the time relief from environmental racism reaches us, it will be too late.”

  • Patricia Nelson, mother of a student of Bella Romero Academy Greeley, CO 337-532-0135

“Farmers and farm-workers are on the frontline of climate change daily — facing the threats of deepening drought and increasing heat. They are facing the impacts head-on and also ready to be part of the solution. Rural communities, agriculture, and workers all need to be central in conversations about climate action.”

  • Pete Kolbenschlag, Delta County, CO Colorado Farm & Food Alliance 970-261-0678

“Because our communities tend to have fewer financial resources, which translates to less political power, it tends to be easier for polluters to get away with contaminating our environment. Additionally, being in Southern Colorado away from the Capitol we have even less power. Our neighborhoods are used as waste dumps and rather than polluters paying for proper pollution prevention and waste management, the people of our communities end up subsidizing their profits with our health. Colorado regulators would be wise to recognize that our communities are the most directly and severely impacted and we have first-hand knowledge of the polluting practices of some of the worst corporate actors and therefore, have the potential to be an extremely valuable resource of information in the regulatory process.”

  • Jamie Valdez, Harmed by Xcel Energy’s Comanche Plant’s pollution, Pueblo, CO 720-933-6363

“The Greenhouse Gas Roadmap must ensure that communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by harmful pollution and climate change are first in line for clean air protections. Governor Polis must fully listen and learn from Indigenous, Black and Brown people’s experience with pollution in order to protect the health of Colorado’s most impacted communities. Colorado’s most precious resource is its children — they all deserve clean air from this day forward.”

  • Shaina Oliver, member of the Dineh (Navajo) and Field Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force Colorado 303-994-2421

“Environmental racism is not holding Polluters accountable, it is overwhelming communities with bureaucratic processes that are only meant to check boxes, and othering our communities by not giving us equal protection under the law. Justice isn’t charity — we have rights to a healthy environment. Racism will continue as long as the government continues to sanction sacrifice zones, where our rights can be ignored for profit.”

  • Lucy Molina, Suncor is her deadly neighbor Commerce City, CO, 720-275-5479

“As a former oil and gas worker, I have seen first hand the destruction the oil and gas industry has on the land, workers, and rural communities, especially Indigenous nations. Now, I see gentrification pushing our Black and Brown people out of cities and down valleys. Often this redlining and gentrification puts us into toxic environments, and if they aren’t yet the industry has plans to seek the minerals beneath our homes at any cost, including our health.”

  • Emmett Hobley – Denver, CO, 720-610-6969


We the undersigned acknowledge the moral responsibility of centering and lifting the voices of communities and organizations that work with frontline communities in government sanctioned sacrifice zones.

350 Colorado

Clean Energy Action

Colorado Fiscal Institute

Colorado Farm & Food Alliance

Colorado Latino Forum

Colorado Rising

Colorado Sierra Club

Conservation Colorado

Defiende Nuestra Tierras


E2- Environmental Entrepreneurs

Environmental Defense Fund

Good Business Colorado

GreenLatinos Colorado

Healthy Air and Water Colorado

Moms Clean Air Force

Mountain Mamas

Natural Resources Defense Council

North Front Range Concerned Citizens

Progress Now Colorado

Spirit of the Sun

WildEarth Guardians

While Colorado is set to adopt new rules to crack down further on the oil and gas industry’s dangerous air pollution, the state is still wildly off track to fully protect communities and the climate in the face of unchecked fracking.

This has to change. And during the week of September 14th, we’ll have a chance to deliver a call to action to Governor Jared Polis.

On September 17, the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission will hold a hearing to decide whether to adopt new rules to further crack down on toxic gases during fracking. The proposed rules would require more stringent emission controls on engines used at oil and gas well sites, set limits on pollution at waste disposal sites, and, for the first time ever, require air quality monitoring before and after drilling.

The rules are a positive step forward and will build upon new regulations adopted last December to rein in fracking pollution. In a formal filing last July, WildEarth Guardians expressed support for the rules, although called on the Air Commission to strengthen them in key areas.

Still, Colorado remains way off track to meet legally required climate targets. Worse, as fracking continues to boom in the state, there’s simply no way Colorado can effectively make progress in confronting the climate crisis.

This crisis isn’t just putting the climate at risk, it’s disproportionately threatening the health and safety of low income neighborhoods and communities of color.

At the September 17th Air Quality Control Commission meeting, WildEarth Guardians will be presenting testimony urging the citizen board to go further and faster in confronting the oil and gas industry’s harmful air pollution. The bottomline is, the Commission needs to adopt rules that help wind down and ultimately end fracking in Colorado.

You can help deliver this message loud and clear at a virtual public comment hearing next Thursday September 17 starting at 4:30 PMThe Air Commission will be giving the public a chance to comment over Zoom, click here to sign up ASAP >>

To attend and observe the virtual public comment hearing also make sure to register via Zoom, click here >>

We’re urging people to deliver a short and simple message to the Air Quality Control Commission and Governor Jared Polis. If you can attend and speak out, make sure to say the following:

  • The Commission needs to take bold action to adopt rules that rein in the oil and gas industry’s toxic air pollution;
  • For people’s health and the climate, the Commission needs to adopt rules that help Colorado wind down and ultimately end fracking in the state;
  • The Commission needs to more quickly and boldly to confront the oil and gas industry’s climate pollution to ensure progress toward meeting Colorado greenhouse gas reduction goals; and
  • Governor Jared Polis needs to get Colorado back on track to meeting legally required greenhouse gas reduction targets and to ensure climate justice in the state.

And please, share you personal stories and experiences with the Air Commission! Help them understand that peoples’ health, lives, and futures literally depend upon them taking swift and effective action for clean air and the climate.

If you can’t attend the virtual hearing, then please e-mail comments to the Air Quality Control Commission today at cdphe.aqcc-comments@state.co.us.

Colorado can and should be a leader in climate action in the United States. It’s up to us to make sure Governor Polis, the Air Commission, and other state leaders take the initiative to make it happen. Join us by speaking out for clean air and the climate on September 17. Then make sure Governor Polis hears directly from you that climate action can’t be delayed!

Colorado Governor Jared Polis and his administration yesterday missed a legally required deadline to propose new climate regulations, further setting back progress toward curbing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the state.

By law, the Polis administration was required to propose new regulations to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets by July 1, 2020. That day has now passed with no new regulations.

With reports confirming the state was already not on track to meet its climate goals, WildEarth Guardians is stepping up to soon file suit to enforce the July 1, 2020 deadline and upping calls for Governor Polis to fulfill his commitment to climate progress in Colorado.

The Polis administration’s lack of effective climate action isn’t just jeopardizing the state’s ability to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a major environmental justice concern. Landmark climate legislation passed in 2019 required the state to prioritize reducing greenhouse gases where emissions disproportionately impact Black and Latino communities, low income neighborhoods, and Indigenous peoples.

Calls for Governor Polis to confront environmental racism and advance environmental and climate justice have mounted in the wake of the George Floyd protests, emphasizing that social inequities are directly related to environmental inequities.

In spite of some positive steps to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, the Polis administration has fallen behind in achieving meaningful reductions. A recent letter from Polis’ Air Pollution Control Division confirms that current progress is “not sufficient” to meet the state’s legally required climate milestones. 

In response to Colorado’s missed climate deadline, WildEarth Guardians is doubling down on calls for Governor Polis to:

  • Immediately suspend approving air pollution permits for new sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Help retire the state’s largest industrial sources of climate pollution, including the Suncor oil refinery in north Denver, as quickly as possible.
  • Commit Colorado to achieving 100% renewable electricity generation by 2030.
  • Phase out fracking in the state by 2025.

Under House Bill 1261, which passed and was signed into the law by Governor Polis in 2019, Colorado must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050.

Fifty years ago, a group of visionaries created an event to honor, celebrate and protect the earth. The original founders of Earth Day were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too.

If Earth and its natural systems are to thrive in the next 50 years, we need a deep recommitment to the bold vision that inspired the first Earth Day. Simply put, it’s time for action and we need Guardians like you to step up and help be a catalyst for the type of bold changes needed to address systemic problems, like the nature crisis and climate crises.

First, if you haven’t already, sign our Earth Day Pledge and make sure to share it with your friends and family.

Next, help us take over social media for Earth Week! To do that, we’ve assembled ready-to-go images for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you’re short on time, we’ve even put together some sample Facebook posts and Instagram hashtags for you. We’ve created something extra special for people on Twitter: A compelling series of 15 tweets. We’d be especially grateful if you could send them all out!

Finally, you can find WildEarth Guardians on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @WildEarthGuardians, so make sure to tag us!


All Earth Day images can be downloaded from this folder. They’re already sized for Facebook/Instagram or Twitter. You can also click on each image below and get a full-size image for use on social media.

Suggested Tweets

Start your very own Twitter Storm by sending out the following 15 tweets. We’ve made it simple: Just grab and post! Please note: If an image isn’t associated with the suggested tweet (Example: Suggested Tweet #1) an image will automatically propagate when you post the entire tweet.

Suggested Tweet #1
The original founders of #EarthDay were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/

Suggested Tweet #2
Sign the Earth Day Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge @wildearthguard

Suggested Tweet #3
Thanks to the catalyzing effect of the original #EarthDay vision—as well as a deep and wide progressive social and political movement—a whole suite of environmental safety nets now exist to protect nature, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/americas-bedrock-environmental-laws-a-conversation-with-john-horning/

Suggested Tweet #4
This #EarthDay is a time to reject dualities that seek to deny our interdependence and embrace our shared destiny—planet and people have one health. From this stems our belief that the rights of nature and the rights of people are inextricably intertwined. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/

Suggested Tweet #5
Help spread the word about #EarthDay2020! Check out our Earth Day social media tool kit for a series of ready-to-go tweets, posts, and images. Let’s be loud and be proud this #EarthDay! @wildearthguard https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayToolkit

Suggested Tweet #6
There has never been a better time to chart a new course towards a restorative and regenerative future. Take the #EarthDay Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge @wildearthguard

Suggested Tweet #7
Extractive industries that mine, drill, log, and graze on #publiclands are fueling the climate crisis and the nature crisis. We must equitably retire extractive industries on public lands. Take action: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay

Suggested Tweet #8
Living rivers are vital to the diversity of life on earth. To ensure the future health of rivers and the species that depend on them, we must revive the pulse of great waterways and expose the historic injustice to rivers. Take the pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay

Suggested Tweet #9
Native #wildlife, especially carnivores, are suffering under the multiple and intensifying threats of habitat destruction, climate disruption and questionable hunting and trapping practices. We must nurture an ethic of compassionate co-existence: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay

Suggested Tweet #10
Public lands in the American West are home to some of the last remnants of wild, yet still unprotected, landscapes in our nation. There are potentially up to 40 million acres of #publiclands that would be eligible for permanent protection. ACT: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay

Suggested Tweet #11
Times like these show the importance of safety nets. We must secure and strengthen environmental safety nets like the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act to meet the challenges ahead. Sign the pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay

Suggested Tweet #12
WildEarth Guardians’ #EarthDay vision calls for leadership at all levels of society. We need leaders from all political spectrums to shoulder the responsibility of creating and embrace the vision of a new, more nurturant social contract with citizens. https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/

Suggested Tweet #13
Living rivers and
#cleanwater are vital to all life. Flowing, healthy rivers nourish communities, connect ecosystems, and provide corridors and habitat for fish and wildlife. Sign the pledge to protect and defend #livingrivers: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge #EarthDay

Suggested Tweet #14
We must deepen our commitment to greater equity and inclusion in our human communities to ensure that people are treated with compassion and afforded the dignity that all people deserve. #EarthDay https://wildearthguardians.org/brave-new-wild/news/earth-day-2020-a-vision-for-the-next-50-years/

Suggested Tweet #15
The beauty, resiliency, and dynamism of Earth can still inspire a sense of awe and wonder in each of us. If we re-commit, with a greater sense of urgency, to the founding vision of #EarthDay, we can ensure future generations will experience the beauty too. https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge

Suggested Facebook Posts

Suggested Facebook Post #1

The original founders of Earth Day were inspired by an understanding that Earth and its life support systems were increasingly vulnerable. They also understood a profound and simple truth—if the Earth suffers, then humanity suffers too.

As we commemorate this 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we do so with a somber reckoning that we have not heeded planetary health warnings early or well enough. Therefore, these times require ever more bold actions to realign our commitment to Earth and its natural systems and our mutual well-being.

Here’s what guardians like you can do today to help us collectively achieve this vision.


Suggested Facebook Post #2

If Earth and its natural systems are to thrive in the next 50 years, we need a deep recommitment to the bold vision that inspired the first Earth Day. It is a time for action. It is time to reweave the threads of the environmental, public health, and economic safety nets, which ensure that the public welfare and the common good are each protected.

Take the Pledge: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge

Suggested Facebook Post #3

Happy Earth Day…Now get to work for the Earth!

Our Earth Day social media tool kit is a one-stop-shop of ready-to-go tweets, posts, and images.


Instagram Hashtags and Link for Bio

Put this link to the Earth Day Pledge in your bio: https://guardiansaction.org/EarthDayPledge

Hashtags: Use one, or use them all!

#EarthDay #EarthDay2020 #EarthDayEveryDay #ClimateAction #StopExtinction #PublicLands #Wildlife #EndTheWarOnWildlife #LivingRivers #KeepItInTheGround #ProtectWhatYouLove #SaveTheEarth #SaveThePlanet #ProtectOurPlanet #ActOnClimate #EarthWeek #WaterIsLife #CleanWater #CleanAir #Biodiversity #Coexistence #ProtectNature #SaveNature #ProtectWildlife #OneEarth #Together #EndangeredSpecies

WildEarth Guardians joined 23 other Colorado nonprofits and over 1,600 individuals calling on Governor Jared Polis, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and State Land Board to take immediate action to protect those most vulnerable to risks of COVID-19 by halting all fossil fuel activities and the resulting hazardous pollution during the COVID-19 crisis. Across Colorado, poor air quality disproportionately impacts the elderly, low-income communities and people of color; those who are already most impacted by the pandemic and economic downturn.

Experts around the world have warned that air pollution makes people more vulnerable to COVID-19, stating that those at the highest risk include populations with pre-existing health conditions such as respiratory disease. Colorado’s poor air quality is a major driver for respiratory illness across the state, resulting in more than 32,000 child asthma attacks annually.

“For our health and welfare, we’re pleading with Governor Polis to pause fossil fuel production and give people a chance to focus on protecting themselves, their families, and their communities,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.  “In light of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s more critical than ever to defend our clean air and put people before polluters.”

Read the press release.

In case you missed it, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program is restarting weekly Facebook Live updates, sharing with you the latest insight, news, and perspective on our work to confront the climate crisis here in the American West.

Join us every Wednesday at 1 PM mountain time on WildEarth Guardians’ Facebook page!

Our hope is that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can maintain effective outreach to our members and supporters and continue to keep people engaged, involved, and active. Our push for more virtual engagement is part of WildEarth Guardians’ broader effort to adapt and remain effective in this time of unprecedented  crisis.

If you can’t make the live update, don’t worry.  All updates are posted on WildEarth Guardians’ Facebook page and you can watch them anytime, check ’em out >>

In the meantime, you can watch our update from earlier this afternoon, we were joined by WildEarth Guardians’ Staff Attorney, Daniel Timmons, and Climate and Energy Program Attorney, Rebecca Fischer. The main topic of discussion was WildEarth Guardians’ latest call for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to put the brakes on selling public lands for fracking in New Mexico.

And stay plugged in to all of WildEarth Guardians’ upcoming virtual events, they’re all listed on our website here >>

This week and part of next, a series of public events are set to unfold that will advance efforts to safeguard clean air and rein in the fracking industry’s toxic air pollution in Colorado. You can show up, speak out, and help make a difference!

Billed as a “Week of Action for Clean Air in Colorado,” WildEarth Guardians will be joining a coalition of allies to show up on the frontlines and ensure strong, new rules are adopted that put Colorado on the path for clean air, a safe climate, and healthy communities.

To really win, we need your help! Everyone in Colorado has a chance to engage. Below is the schedule of events. Scroll down even further for more background info.

Week of Action for Clean Air in Colorado!

If you can’t show up to one or more of these events, then at least sign our petition calling on Colorado Governor Jared Polis to get behind stronger clean air rules, including a ban on flaring!

Flaring at an oil and gas well east of Denver.

More Background

The oil and gas industry’s toxic emissions are not only fueling dangerous levels of ground-level ozone, particularly along the Front Range, but also threatening communities and residents with cancer-causing benzene and other harmful gases

As people suffer, industry is also fueling the climate crisis by releasing potent methane gas and using their political influence to keep society dependent on oil and gas.

It’s no wonder regulators have been blunt that current levels of fracking pollution are “not acceptable.”

Meanwhile, the Air Quality Control Commission and state health officials are finally moving to confront the industry’s toxic pollution

Spurred in large part by the passage of new state legislation that puts public health and safety ahead of the interests of the oil and gas industry, the Air Commission is weighing whether to adopt new rules to clamp down on emissions.

Deemed a “first step” to fully confronting the oil and gas industry’s pollution, the rules stand to eliminate loopholes, tighten controls, and ensure greater transparency around companies’ emissions.

The proposed rules come as report after report shows regulation is dangerously inadequate.

Colorado regulations allow oil and gas wells to be drilled and fracked in close proximity to homes.

Current rules are not only flawed, but not effectively enforced. Researchers also continue to confirm that regulators have drastically underestimated total emissions, erroneously claiming that industry’s pollution has been reduced.  

What’s more, health studies continue to confirm significant short and long-term risk to people and communities in proximity to fracking sites

Compounding these health risks, the Denver Metro/Front Range region continues to fail to meet health standards for ozone, the key ingredient of smog.  On December 20, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will declare the area a “serious” nonattainment area for ozone.

Oil and gas extraction contributes more than 40% of the region’s ozone-forming pollution–more than any other industry.

To top it off, industry is chronically violating clean air laws, abusing a loophole that in some situations allows companies to obtain permits to frack after drilling and beginning production.

Last May, WildEarth Guardians sued seven companies in federal court under the Clean Air Act to put an end to this abuse and these widespread violations.  A hearing in this case is scheduled for this Thursday, December 12 in Denver.

There is a need for stronger clean air rules in Colorado, to eliminate loopholes, and to slash emissions.  And the Air Quality Control Commission has adopt new rules as a first step forward.

However, from our perspective, the science is clear that to truly restore clean air, the state has to wind down and ultimately phase out oil and gas extraction. 

Coupled with the need to fully safeguard public health and protect the climate, Colorado needs to ultimately get off fossil fuels.

Governor Jared Polis has said, “We have to do everything in our power right here at home to make our air cleaner and our people healthier as soon as we possibly can.” 

If the Governor is serious about clean air and health, then he has to support the Air Quality Control Commission and also push for even deeper pollution cuts and a move away from oil and gas extraction.

We’ll see how everything unfolds over the next week or so. Hopefully Colorado will take the first big step toward reining in the oil and gas industry’s toxic air pollution and set the stage to help the state transition away from fossil fuels.

While Colorado has made bold commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, if Governor Jared Polis overlooks the full carbon footprint of the oil and gas industry, the state stands to fall short of achieving meaningful climate action.

Implementing the Colorado Climate Action Plan

This week, officials with the Governor’s Office, Department of Public Health and Environment, and Energy Office are set to unveil a roadmap for meeting the state’s ambitious climate goals.

At the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission’s monthly meeting this Thursday, they’ll share more around the “development, scope, and timing” of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

The briefing comes as the Air Commission will develop rules to implement House Bill 19-1261, otherwise known as the Colorado Climate Action Plan to Reduce Pollution. The Plan sets three key goals for reducing climate pollution:

  1. Achieve a 26% reduction (below 2005 levels) in statewide greenhouse gases by 2025;
  2. Then achieve a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030; and
  3. Finally achieve a 90% reduction in emissions by 2050.

Without a doubt, these are aggressive goals. Achieving them is exactly the bold action needed to confront the climate crisis right now.

However, if Governor Polis and the Air Commission aren’t careful, any statewide climate gains could be erased in the face of ramped up fracking.

The reason: Colorado is a huge exporter of oil and gas.

Oil well near Windsor, Colorado along the Front Range.

Colorado’s Outsized Climate Footprint

While accurate numbers are tough to find, recent reports indicate more than 90% of the state’s produced oil and two-thirds of all gas is shipped out of state for processing, refining, and burning.

That means Colorado has an outsized climate footprint that extends far beyond its state lines.  But just how big is this footprint?

We can calculate that using factors developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that estimate how much lifecycle carbon pollution (i.e., from production to consumption) is tied to oil and gas production.

According to these factors:

  • For every barrel of oil produced, 0.43 metric tons of carbon dioxide is ultimately released.
  • And for every thousand cubic feet of gas produced, 0.0551 metric tons of carbon is ultimately released.

Doing some math, we can see how much climate pollution Colorado exports as it pipes, trucks, and otherwise ships oil and gas out of state.

Let’s take oil and gas production in 2018.

According to a query of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission production data, companies sold more than 176 million barrels of oil and more than 2.2 billion thousand cubic feet (i.e., 2.2 trillion cubic feet) of gas in 2018, an unprecedented amount.

Crunch the numbers and that adds up to nearly 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emission.

Based on projections for 2019, where even higher levels of production are expected, we’ll likely see emissions associated with oil and gas production exceed 200 million metric tons.

The table below shows total production by year and estimated carbon emissions.

Total carbon emissions associated with oil and gas production in Colorado in 2018 and 2019 (projected).

To put this all into perspective, Colorado’s most recent greenhouse gas inventory report discloses that in 2015, total statewide emissions from ALL sectors amounted to nearly 127 million metric tons of carbon.

By 2020, regulators project statewide emissions of a little over 125 million metric tons of carbon. 

That means oil and gas production is responsible for nearly twice as much climate pollution as all other sources of emissions within the state of Colorado.

Also to put this into perspective, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas equivalency calculator, 200 million metric tons of carbon equals the amount of climate pollution released every year by 51 coal-fired power plants.

Colorado’s oil and gas industry is responsible for as much climate pollution as more than 50 coal-fired power plants.

Now it’s true, not all oil and gas produced is shipped out of state to be burned.

Yet with more than 90% of oil and the vast majority of all gas exported, it still means statewide emissions pale in comparison to the climate footprint of the oil and gas industry.

Confronting Colorado’s Full Climate Impacts

This means at current rates of fracking, even if Colorado achieves its greenhouse gas reduction goals, it will still be responsible for a huge amount of climate pollution.

Any climate action plan that refuses to acknowledge this or do anything about it would be an utter failure.

So what can Governor Polis and the Air Quality Control Commission do?

Even though Colorado’s Climate Action Plan is based on statewide greenhouse gas reductions, it doesn’t mean that regulators can’t prioritize opportunities to reduce emissions that lead to reductions in oil and gas emissions even outside the state.

For example, the Air Commission could prioritize setting rules that actually decrease the level of oil and gas production in Colorado, such as through a declining cap on emissions and an offsetting program.

Last May, WildEarth Guardians and its partners urged the Commission to do just that.

Oil pipeline north of Denver sending crude out of state.

And it doesn’t mean that regulators can’t start to disclose total lifecycle oil and gas industry emissions associated with oil and gas production.

In fact, last August WildEarth Guardians called on Colorado officials to begin disclosing these emissions in order to inform the public and drive better policy development.

Ultimately, Governor Polis and the Air Quality Control Commission have to acknowledge the need to wind down and ultimately phase out oil and gas extraction in the state.

That may be a tough political pill to swallow, but to do otherwise is nothing short of climate denial. The reality is, Colorado can’t frack its way to a safe climate.

A Healthy Move

Helping Colorado transition away from oil and gas production wouldn’t just be good for the climate, it stands to greatly improve the state’s air quality and health.

Along the Front Range “unacceptable” levels of oil and gas industry air pollution have pushed ground-level ozone concentrations to dangerous highs. Ozone, which is a key ingredient of smog, is such a serious problem along the Front Range that the Environmental Protection Agency is set to sanction Colorado for failing to comply with health standards.

And most recently, a Colorado-sponsored study confirmed that significant health risks exist for those in close proximity to oil and gas well sites.

The study underscores that reining in fracking near homes and communities will safeguard public health. In doing so, it will also keep greenhouse gases in check.

Fracking site in Broomfield, Colorado near homes.

A Call to Action

WildEarth Guardians and its partners are calling on Governor Polis and the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission to clamp down on fracking and help the state transition from oil and gas.

However, we need your help to make this happen! If you haven’t yet, sign the petition today and tell Colorado’s Governor and the Air Commission that they need to clamp down on the oil and gas industry and rein in their toxic pollution.

And stay plugged into our Colorado for Clean Air Campaign and our efforts to tackle the oil and gas industry’s toxic, climate destroying air pollution. Sign up today to be a Clean Air Guardian!

If Colorado has any chance of meaningfully confronting the climate crisis, it has to rein in fracking and oil and gas extraction.

Fracking is decimating clean air in Colorado, putting health, safety, and communities at risk.

That’s why WildEarth Guardians and several other partners are stepping up to ensure the state adopts strong new rules to rein in the oil and gas industry’s pollution and start putting people first.

In a Prehearing Statement filed last week, we spearheaded efforts to defend Colorado’s clean air, climate, and health from fracking.

Together with Colorado Rising, 350 Colorado, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Mothers Out Front, the Lookout Alliance, Fort Collins Sustainability Group, and the Larimer Alliance for Health, Environment and Safety–collectively the Clean Air, Climate, and Health Coalition–we called on the Air Quality Control Commission to adopt new rules that:

  • Eliminate oil and gas industry loopholes
  • Ratchet down aggressively on oil and gas industry emissions statewide
  • Ensure comprehensive emission inventories of industry’s toxic pollution
  • Make sure industry controls its air pollution as early as possible
  • And most importantly, prohibit flaring

On the last point, our goal is put an end to the dirty and wasteful practice of flaring at oil and gas well sites. If a company has to flare, they shouldn’t be allowed to drill, frack or produce. Period.

We’ve already called on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to stop letting the fracking industry burn its gas. Now we need state air regulators to step up.

Enclosed flares at a fracking site near Greeley north of Denver.

Our Prehearing Statement was filed as part of a rulemaking proceeding before the Air Quality Control Commission. The proceeding will culminate with a three day hearing in mid-December in Denver where we intend to provide testimony and urge the Commission to clamp down on the oil and gas industry.

This rulemaking was spurred by the passage of Colorado Senate Bill 19-181, which directed the Air Commission to take further steps to rein in the oil and gas industry’s air pollution.

It’s also been spurred by worsening ground-level ozone (i.e. smog) pollution in the Denver Metro region and mounting scientific evidence that fracking is destroying public health.

Our Clean Air, Climate, and Health Coalition is engaging for one reason: to compel Colorado air regulators to start saying “no” to the oil and gas industry.

As we’ve said previously, “if Colorado’s Governor is serious about reining in unhealthy air pollution, we have no choice but to set real limits on fracking and oil and gas production in the state. In the face of ramped up drilling, better emission controls simply won’t cut it.”

We urge the AQCC [Air Quality Control Commission] to set a goal of minimizing emissions such that public health and the climate are fully protected.

– Colorado Clean Air, Climate, and Health Coalition

Stay tuned for more as this rulemaking process unfolds and get involved as opportunities arise! There will be public hearings throughout the state in December, including on the Western Slope in the towns of Rifle and Durango, and one along the Front Range in Loveland.