Governor Jared Polis signed Colorado’s Protecting Communities From Air Pollution Act (HB23-1294) into law today. While community and conservation groups recently celebrated the passage of a scaled-back version of the bill, they used today’s signing to call for stronger action from the interim legislative committee and a separate rulemaking on cumulative impacts that were both required through the legislation. The groups urged legislators and the administration to center and listen to impacted community voices through these two processes, holding big polluters like the oil and gas industry accountable for the harm they cause, rather than deferring to industry talking points.
For the interim committee, groups called on legislators to focus on crafting long-overdue fixes to our broken permitting processes that today routinely streamline new pollution increases without regard to their air quality impacts, and to identify measures to meaningfully reduce ozone pollution and bring Colorado back into compliance with federal air quality standards. For the rulemaking to define and reduce cumulative impacts, groups urged the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC, soon to become the Energy and Carbon Management Commission) to prioritize and act on the needs of impacted communities, provide resources to support public participation, and ensure equal representation of stakeholders so that outcomes are not weighted in favor of industry.
“Moms are grateful that the Colorado legislature and Governor Polis understand that Colorado has a severe air pollution problem,” said Jen Clanahan, co-director of Mountain Mamas. “Because of the threat posed to our children’s health by the air they breathe, moms are desperately looking to the interim committee to come up with solutions that truly address the problem. Since the Denver-Aurora metro area has been found to rank 6th worst in the nation for ozone pollution, they have a great deal of work ahead.”
“Now that HB1294 is signed, we can get back to work on securing the solutions needed to truly address our air quality problem,” said Lorena Gonzalez, communities & justice manager for Conservation Colorado. “This summer’s legislative committee will give us another shot at securing the critically important permitting reforms that remain necessary to halt Colorado’s ozone crisis. State leaders must ensure the outcome of this forum responds to the needs and priorities of disproportionately impacted communities, who continue to experience harm from cumulative impacts due to government inaction.”
“If not now then when?! We all know there is a climate crisis — we need all hands on deck after the signing of this ozone bill, starting with Governor Polis,” said Nikieday with Black Parents United Foundation. “My lungs say act now!”
“On days with air quality alerts, I expect to see more patients visiting with respiratory exacerbations like asthma attacks, among other conditions like heart attacks or strokes,” said Jennifer Camello, MD and advocate for Healthy Air and Water Colorado. “I feel it is my responsibility as a physician to elevate the voices of the patients I treat, and so I am urging state lawmakers in the interim committee established by House Bill 23-1294 to put forth bold, actionable solutions to Colorado’s ozone crisis. The health of our communities depends on it.”
“By signing this bill, Governor Polis and the state of Colorado are acknowledging that air quality across the state needs significant improvement,” said Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson of Earthworks. “Every county in the Denver metro area gets a failing grade for ozone from the American Lung Association. We look forward to the interim committee process, hearing from Coloradans impacted by harmful air quality and deciding on the bold action needed to address this urgent problem.”
“This bill signs into law a mandate for a cumulative impact rulemaking by the COGCC,” said Heidi Leathwood of 350 Colorado. “We thank the Governor for signing the bill, and urge him to direct the COGCC to create a common sense definition of cumulative impacts that does not look at oil and gas pollution in a vacuum but acknowledges how pollution from all sources interacts and accumulates to compound the community harm. We look to the interim committee to recommend policy that will actually reduce pollution in disproportionately impacted communities and statewide.”
“It has never been more urgent for Colorado to comprehensively take action on dangerous ozone pollution,” said Alana Miller, Colorado policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The impacts from our reliance on oil, gas, and other fossil fuels disproportionately harm communities whose voices are too often not at the table. The processes established in this bill are critical opportunities to center the needs of community members, while identifying and planning bold actions to reduce air pollution.”
“Today’s bill signing marks the start of our next chapter to secure the strongest possible action on ozone pollution in Colorado,” said Rebecca Curry, policy advocate for Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “It is clear from the oil and gas industry’s frantic attempts to derail HB23-1294 that Colorado must at long last address the cumulative impacts of air pollution and reform our broken permitting system. In this summer’s legislative committee, our lawmakers must center the voices and needs of our most impacted communities and not the fossil fuel industry.”