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Clean Air Ambassador: Jeremy Nichols

From what I have seen and experienced, the most prosperous communities are the healthiest. Let's keep that trend alive.

Living in the Denver metro area of Colorado, I've experienced days when the air quality has been so bad that you can't see the mountains, when the region is blanketed in a suffocating brown cloud, and when just going outside—whether to ride bikes or play on the playground with my nine-year-old son—leads you to taste and feel the pollution whenever you breathe in.

Already, our region is struggling to meet federal limits on smog pollution and as we continue to grow, we are flirting with violating other air quality standards. And while I've been fortunate as nobody in my family has yet experienced serious respiratory conditions, several of my closest friends have such conditions, which flare up whenever the air quality is poor.

Coal-fired industrial sources are of greatest concern. Whether it's the coal-fired industrial boilers at the Coors brewery less than a quarter mile away from my home, the large coal-fired power plants throughout the Denver metro area, or the dozens of other sources that burn coal—including cement kilns—throughout Colorado, I know that these facilities release more toxic air pollution than any other activity in the state. And for my friends throughout the state, I know that these facilities create enormous concern. Whether it's friends in Lyons struggling with mercury and other toxic air pollution from the CEMEX cement plant, friends in Lamar frustrated that a local coal-fired power plant continually fails to meet basic air quality standards, or friends in Pueblo, who were shocked to learn that with the construction of Xcel Energy's 750-megawatt Comanche 3 boiler, the state's largest coal-fired power plant is now right in their backyard, the sentiment seems universal.

My concern is preventing problems. I don't want to wait for my son to come down with asthma before doing something about it. And if we can keep my friends and others from having to suffer through weeks of summertime smog and other unhealthy air quality days, I say, let's make it happen.

I want officials in Washington, D.C. to know that people care. My neighbors may not be speaking out on this issue, but I can tell you that if things get better, if sources of air pollution are held to modern pollution control standards, if the air clears, if the brown cloud goes away, and if our mountains stay visible, they will notice and they will be supportive. To protect our community's right to breathe clean air, we need safeguards that ensure our industries are using the cleanest fuels, the best pollution control technologies, and most importantly, putting public health first. From what I have seen and experienced, the most prosperous communities are the healthiest. Let's keep that trend alive.
 

Ambassador Group Affiliation: 
WildEarth Guardians
Ambassador Profession: 
Climate and Energy Program Director