Groups gather to call for stronger action to address Colorado’s unhealthy ozone pollution

Media Contacts

DENVER – As the Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) prepares to meet later today to begin considering plans to cut harmful ozone pollution in the Denver Metro/North Front Range region, advocates gathered outside the building to call for additional actions to ensure the region can meet health-based federal clean air quality standards. 

Coloradans living along the Front Range have been exposed to dangerously high levels of ozone air pollution as the region has failed to meet EPA air quality standards for over a decade. Breathing elevated levels of ground-level ozone is harmful and can cause or worsen not only respiratory conditions such as asthma and lung damage but also certain cardiovascular diseases. People’s health and quality of life are on the line and ozone fuels the climate crisis, which in turn fuels hotter days that increase the risk of ozone alerts.

Advocates are calling on state leaders to step up and take the action needed to make the air safer to breathe for the millions of Coloradans who call the Front Range home. On Nov. 29, 18 groups, many of whom were represented at today’s gathering, submitted a letter to the AQCC laying out specific policies they want the air quality regulators to consider. The suggested measures range from committing to adopt clean cars and trucks standards; to further cutting emissions from oil and gas operations; to phasing out gas-powered lawn and garden equipment; to expanding transit, walking and biking options and more.

“The Front Range has a serious ozone problem. It’s past time that someone steps up and approves some serious solutions,” said CoPIRG Foundation Clean Air Advocate Kirsten Schatz. “When we have so many options for cutting down on our harmful ozone pollution, it doesn’t make sense to wait any longer to commit to as many of those solutions as we can.”

“Oil and gas emits the most ozone-causing pollution of any sector in Colorado,” said Conservation Colorado’s Climate Campaign Manager Lorena Gonzalez. “Communities, especially those who are most impacted, need a plan to reduce ozone that holds this sector accountable for its share of our ozone crisis.”

“For 15 years now, Colorado has failed to meet ozone standards. This year, the EPA downgraded many parts of Colorado from “Serious” to “Severe” levels of ozone pollution. This pollution is putting millions of Coloradans at risk of developing or exacerbating serious respiratory and health conditions. We have an opportunity as a state to address ozone by implementing a strong plan that tackles pollution from transportation, building, and oil and gas sectors in the ozone SIP. The time to act is now,” said Ramesh Bhatt, conservation chair of the Colorado Sierra Club.

“Our lungs need oxygen, not ozone! Colorado’s ozone pollution is disproportionately impacting communities across the state, including children,” said 11-year-old Madhvi Chittoor, founder of Madhvi4EcoEthics. “It is time for the state to take meaningful action to address the impacts of ozone on the Front Range, including on people, animals, and plants, and improve air quality for all –  especially those who have faced increased health impacts for far too long.”

“It’s time to make change: it’s long overdue, and we’ve sat on it long enough,” said Black Parents United Foundation Environmental Justice Program Coordinator Nikie Wells. “No more talking about protecting what we all need. Let’s stop ozone pollution now!”

“We all know loved ones and friends with disabilities or chronic lung and heart conditions; we see them suffer over the many high-ozone alert days each summer,” said Mental Health & Inclusion Ministries Founder Rev. Amy Petré Hill. “To honor them and protect the health of all creatures across the Front Range, we are called to create and implement a comprehensive ozone reduction plan immediately.”

“We need a plan that significantly reduces pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park, provides enforceable restrictions on oil and gas industry emissions, and protects human health,” said Tracy Coppola, Colorado Senior Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). “Colorado should be leading and setting long-overdue, strong ozone reduction standards for other states to follow. Our people and our parks depend on it.”

“Over 434,000 Colorado community members are impacted by asthma, including my youngest son and me. And each year for the past decade, Colorado’s air quality has failed to meet EPA  standards for ozone. We need leadership to provide comprehensive protections addressing the ozone-smog pollution that harms our health,” said Shaina Oliver, Moms Clean Air Force Colorado state coordinator.

“Everyone on the Front Range is breathing air with too much ozone and it is damaging our health. It is long past time that the state took the serious measures needed to protect our health and clean up our air,” said Leslie Glustrom of Clean Energy Action.

“We know that ozone causes many respiratory issues including coughing, shortness of breath, bronchitis and damage to the lungs and yet we still willingly allow oil and gas companies in Colorado to contribute to one of the worst non-attainment zones in the United States as per the EPA. It is shocking that we continue to place short-term profits over health,” said Scott Simmons, chapter lead for Climate Reality Project Northern Colorado.

“Addressing air pollution on the Front Range is critically needed to protect Coloradans’ health, and we call for immediate action,” said Alana Miller, Colorado Policy Director at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “Thankfully, there are strong solutions that can, and should, be adopted now, including cleaning up dirty diesel trucks and transitioning swiftly to all-electric cars. These will curb harmful ozone pollution, create jobs and enable people across the region to breathe easier.”

“Week after week I hear complaints from parents worried about the effects of Colorado’s air quality on their kids. In a state like ours, no child should have to stay inside on summer days because of ozone alerts. It’s about time the state takes executive action,” said Mi Familia Vota Environmental Justice Organizer Jacob Belgrad. 

“For too long, our Latino community – children, people with preexisting chronic diseases, outdoor workers— have been disproportionately breathing in more ozone pollution,” says Victor Galvan, strategic partners manager at Protégete. “The longer we wait to act, the more ozone threatens the health and safety of our communities. Leaders have the tools to tackle ozone pollution. They just need to act – and fast.”