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Guardians Calls on Colorado Governor to Back Off Delay of Denver Smog Cleanup

Date
November 28, 2018
Contact
Jeremy Nichols, (303) 437-7663, jnichols@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy
Denver, CO – WildEarth Guardians today called on Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and the State’s Health Director to back down from plans to delay cleaning up smog in the Denver Metro Area.

“The Denver Metro Area is in the midst of a smog crisis,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.  “For our health, now is the time for aggressive action to clean up this air pollution, not delay and footdragging.”

In a letter to the Governor and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Interim Director, Karin McGowan, WildEarth Guardians called on the officials to withdraw a June 2018 request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to allow the state a one-year extension to reduce dangerous levels of ground-level ozone in the Denver Metro Area.

Ground-level ozone is the key ingredient of smog and forms when pollution from smokestacks, tailpipes, and oil and gas operations react with sunlight.  During the summertime, ozone levels in the Denver Metro Area frequently exceed federal health limits.

The region has been in violation of federal health limits on ozone for years.  Under the Clean Air Act, Colorado was required to clean up the region’s ground-level ozone pollution by July 20, 2018.

Unfortunately, during the summer of 2018, ozone levels exceeded federal health limits on dozens of days and state air officials have acknowledged the region remains out of compliance.  The high ozone levels in 2018 coincide with record high levels of oil and gas drilling in the region.

Colorado requested the EPA grant a one-year extension to clean up the Denver Metro Area’s smog on the basis of it’s claim that the region suffered no exceedances of health limits in 2017 and was on track to comply with ozone standards.

However, this claim is now belied by the reality that the region continues to suffer from elevated smog levels and continues to be in violation of ozone limits.

Nevertheless, on November 14, the EPA proposed to approve Colorado’s request.  If approved, the one-year extension would allow Colorado to delay adopting stronger clean air safeguards for a year or longer.

In today’s letter, WildEarth Guardians urged the Governor to withdraw Colorado’s request for an extension, stating:

“In light of the region’s ongoing failure to comply with federal smog limits, we urge you to keep communities on track for clean air and to prioritize the protection of public health, not slow down these efforts.”

Concurrently, WildEarth Guardians called on the EPA to hold a public hearing around its proposal to grant Colorado a one-year extension to clean up smog in the Denver Metro Area.  The agency is seeking comments on its proposal until December 14.