EPA proposes to expand Colorado bad air zone to add northern Weld County


Federal government officials have proposed expanding the area along Colorado’s Front Range, where air quality violates national health standards for ground-level ozone pollution, saying Wednesday they wanted to add the northern half of County Weld.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal follows a 2018 lawsuit by a coalition of clean air advocates that highlighted pollution by volatile organic compounds from oil and gas operations. The United States Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, ruled last year that the EPA had failed to properly account for pollution from industrial facilities.

For more than a decade, air quality in several Front Range counties has violated federal health standards. In 2020, the EPA declared Colorado a serious violator, reclassifying the state as moderate and triggering a requirement that Colorado reduce air pollution from VOCs and nitrogen oxides by this year.

The latest EPA proposal means the air that residents breathe across Denver, Boulder, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, Weld and parts of Larimer counties likely do not meet the national health standard of 70 parts per billion for air pollution. ‘ozone. Ozone levels in the Denver metro last summer hit 90 ppb, state data showed.

Ozone causes acute breathing problems and triggers asthma attacks.

“After state officials let the fractured oil and gas industry pollute our beautiful Colorado skies with asthmatic smog for more than a decade, it’s refreshing to see the Biden administration, the EPA , stand up to them, ”said Robert Ukeiley, lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “This step helps us move closer to the renewable energy economy of the future which will provide clean air not only to people, but also to wildlife and plants.”

EPA officials have opened a 30-day period for public comment and a 120-day period for state governments to provide information and challenge the proposal.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Previously, state air pollution officials said they plan to ensure reductions by tightening permits for industrial operations and controlling emissions from facilities that emit more than 50 tonnes of pollution per year, against a previous authorization threshold of 100 tonnes.

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