CoPIRG applauds governor’s proposal for big cuts to harmful ozone pollution

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, March 16, 2023

DENVER Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced executive actions today to take concrete steps to reduce the harmful ozone pollution that plagues much of the state.

The directives will help the state achieve its climate and clean air goals by directing regulatory authorities to craft a plan that reduces ozone-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from the oil and gas sector by 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030. 

According to the Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC), the oil and gas sector accounted for an estimated 45% of NOx emissions in the northern Front Range region in 2023. In 2017, the oil and gas sector released an estimated 78.2 tons per day of NOx. A 30% cut of NOx from the oil and gas sector from the 2017 baseline levels will result in an overall NOx emissions reduction of approximately 11.9% in the region from current estimated levels. A 50% cut of NOx from the oil and gas sector will result in a 21.5% reduction of overall NOx emissions in the region from current levels.

The governor also called for state regulatory authorities to update best practices to address ozone and a new program to incentivize entities to exceed pollution reduction goals. CoPIRG looks forward to working with these regulatory authorities to ensure they accelerate our state’s timeline to meet health-based EPA air quality standards and clean up our air.

The governor’s directives relate directly to a number of the major actions called for in CoPIRG’s recently released Ozone Agenda, a package of policies we are calling on state leaders to pass this spring to cut harmful air pollution across multiple sectors such as transportation, lawn and garden, oil and gas, buildings and appliances, industrial facilities and more.

CoPIRG Clean Air Advocate Kirsten Schatz released the following statement: 

“No single solution will bring ozone pollution in our region down below unsafe levels, but we clearly need to address emissions from the oil and gas sector in order to get there since it is the largest source of ozone-forming NOx in the region. Meeting the goals in Governor Polis’s new executive order will be critical to clean up our air and come into attainment with the health-based standards our region has failed to meet for a decade. 

After years of missing the mark on clean air, these directives will help ensure our ozone reduction planning process will actually reduce harmful air pollution.

Every pound – or in this case, ton – of ozone-forming pollution that we can prevent from entering our air matters for our health and our quality of life.” 

Nitrogen oxides (NOx) combine chemically with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight to form ground-level ozone. Breathing ground-level ozone can cause harmful health effects including lung damage, worsening of existing respiratory conditions such as asthma and even cardiovascular disease. Even short-term exposure to elevated ozone levels can lead to an increased risk of death.

In recent years, the northern Front Range region – roughly from Castle Rock up to Fort Collins and Greeley – has suffered from some of the highest ozone pollution in the country. These high ozone levels mean the region is also failing to meet the national health-based air quality standards for ozone, and in 2022, the EPA reclassified the region from “serious” to “severe” nonattainment of these standards.