Groups Urge Governor to Sign Colorado Ozone Bill, Call for Strong Action From Interim Committee
Protecting Communities From Air Pollution Act seen as a starting point for much-needed reform
Conservation and community groups celebrated passage of the Protecting Communities From Air Pollution Act today and called upon Governor Jared Polis to sign the bill into law. The bill, sponsored by Representatives Bacon and Willford, as well as Senators Gonzales and Winter, was pared down to ensure passage of key components this year following strong opposition from the oil and gas industry. The groups have urged legislators to convene an interim committee this summer to advance the strongest possible action on ozone pollution.
The final bill maintained important pieces of the original legislation, including increased opportunities for permit enforcement, strengthened air quality complaint processes, and a rulemaking by April 2024 to define and continue progress on cumulative impacts. The bill also establishes an interim legislative committee to more closely examine solutions to the state’s ozone crisis in the coming months. The committee will look at Colorado’s air quality problem, explore additional ozone reduction measures, and identify potential reforms to the permitting process.
“A healthy environment is a basic human right and this bill is a first step to taking public complaints seriously and protecting communities from a toxic buildup of pollution,” said Heidi Leathwood, climate policy analyst for 350 Colorado. “We urge the governor to sign this bill, and then to support continued efforts to bring our pollution under control and stand up to pressure campaigns from the oil and gas industry.”
“Coloradans deserve better air and better protections from harmful ozone pollution, and this bill gets us one step closer. Although the bill as passed lags far behind the bill we introduced and what our communities demanded, every policy starts somewhere,” said Jared Bynum, climate justice policy coordinator with Colorado Rising. “This bill gives us a chance to begin having real conversations about solutions to tackle the brown cloud, to clean up our air, and to bring Colorado back in compliance with federal law.”
“The Sierra Club is pleased that the legislature has passed a bill that provides a starting point for addressing our notorious air quality,” said Ramesh Bhatt, chair of the Colorado Sierra Club Conservation Committee. “We call on Governor Polis to sign this bill, and subsequently collaborate with the legislature and other interested parties to generate meaningful actions for curbing pollution. All Coloradans should be able to enjoy their basic rights to clean air and a healthy environment.”
“Health professionals across Colorado understand the real public health crisis we face from pollution. We won’t stop pushing for solutions because the health of our state is our top priority,” said Sabrina Pacha, director of Healthy Air and Water Colorado, which helps health professionals work on policy solutions at the intersection of public health and climate. “This bill lays the foundation for more important work to come.”
“Essentially this was NOT the bill the community deserves at all,” said Portia Prescott, president of the Rocky Mountain NAACP CO-MT-WY State Conference. “Unfortunately, it’s all we can get right now given the tough opposition of the oil & gas industry and weak commitment from the Polis administration on advancing the right solutions to the ozone crisis for all communities.”
“We call upon all Coloradans to heed the word to ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’” said Jeff Neuman-Lee, co-chair of Together Colorado’s Climate Justice Legislative Team. “Among other things, this means that we don’t pollute each other’s air. The Protecting Communities From Air Pollution Act is a path ahead toward ending a significant source of pollution that works to form lung burning ozone.”
“This bill is a crucial step in protecting our families from the threats of ozone pollution, but we must acknowledge that our fight for clean air is far from over. Black and Brown communities have been struggling to breathe for too long, eagerly awaiting meaningful action,” said Nikieday with Black Parents United Foundation. “We are closely watching to ensure that Governor Polis takes decisive action to advance environmental justice by signing the bill.”
“The passage of House Bill 23-1294 gives our coalition a pathway to fight to protect our communities from the impacts of enduring some of the highest ozone pollution levels in the nation. Many Coloradans, especially low-income communities of color, still need solutions to truly address our bad air quality problem,” said Lorena Gonzalez, Conservation Colorado’s climate campaign manager. “We urge Governor Polis to sign the bill into law and fight alongside communities to secure clean air for every Coloradan.”
“No single solution will solve our ozone problem but it’s clear that we need to do more to tackle pollution coming from oil and gas and related sectors. We’re glad to see this bill takes important steps in that direction,” said CoPIRG Clean Air Advocate Kirsten Schatz. “Our health and quality of life depend on reducing ozone pollution as quickly as possible, from as many sources as possible.”
“Ozone pollution is harmful to our health and children are particularly susceptible to the damage it does,” said Sara Kuntzler of Mountain Mamas. “Children in low income and high Black Indigenous and People of Color areas are subjected to a disproportionate amount of pollution meaning their health is particularly at risk. Moms across Colorado agree, it is critical that we address our air pollution problem. While this bill lost some important aspects during the legislative process, we are pleased that it has passed. It is a necessary first step and should be implemented without further delay so we can protect Colorado’s kids. Every day that we wait is a day that the health of Colorado’s kids is at risk.”
“The bill that passed today will make meaningful improvements in the lives of Coloradans most directly impacted by oil and gas operations in this state, despite the many desperately needed provisions that were carved out,” said Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson of Earthworks. “This bill will help communities speak for themselves by allowing impacted Coloradans to submit evidence of potential violations, and requiring agencies to consider that evidence in their investigations. Coloradans deserve to be heard, and this bill will help make that happen.”
“While this bill isn’t everything that the community deserves, it lays the foundation for meaningful reform to address our ozone crisis,” said Rebecca Curry, policy advocate for Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “We urge Governor Polis to sign this bill into law and launch a much-needed conversation in the interim committee around the strongest possible solutions. Legislators must use that forum to elevate the voices of our most impacted communities and tune out the tired talking points from the oil and gas industry.”
“Colorado is in an air pollution crisis that harms our health daily, and disproportionately impacts Black and Brown and low-income communities,” said Alana Miller, Colorado policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This bill is a critical first step toward protecting us from this toxic pollution, and the state must continue to center the needs of communities as it strives to clean up the air.”
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