With Broad Public Support, Legislators to Introduce Package of Bills to Address Colorado’s Ozone Crisis

Legislation will focus on permitting reform, air quality enforcement, additional measures to cut harmful pollution in Colorado


Renée M. Chacon, Womxn From the Mountain, 720-224-4204, reneemchacon@gmail.com

Guadalupe Solís, Cultivando, 303-285-0839, guadalupe.solis@cultivando.org

Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson, Earthworks, 507-421-9021, andrewfg@earthworksaction.org

Kirsten Schatz, CoPIRG, 720-507-8806, kschatz@copirg.org

Angela Simental, Conservation Colorado, 303-605-3483, angela@conservationco.org

Perry Wheeler, Earthjustice, 202-792-6211, pwheeler@earthjustice.org

Sara Kuntzler, Mountain Mamas, 202-531-9568, sarak@mtnmamas.org

Noah Rott, Sierra Club, 406-214-1990, noah.rott@sierraclub.org

Gloria Handyside, Boulder County, 303-441-1622, ghandyside@bouldercounty.gov

Velma Campbell, Mothers Out Front, Pueblo, CO 719-671-1330, vlcampb3@gmail.com

Megan Kemp, Healthy Air and Water Colorado, 303-961-6462, mkemp@healthiercolorado.org

With broad public support, state legislators today will unveil three bills to address Colorado’s problematic permitting, enforcement, and pollution reduction processes that have allowed the state’s ozone pollution crisis to worsen. The bills build on the work of the 2023 legislative interim committee on ozone, which brought together stakeholders from across the state to identify priority legislative solutions for Colorado’s air quality problem.

The first bill, to be introduced by Senators Kevin Priola and Lisa Cutter and Representatives Manny Rutinel and Lorena Garcia, focuses on pollution reduction measures to help bring the Front Range into compliance with the Clean Air Act. The second bill, to be introduced by Representatives Jennifer Bacon and Jenny Willford, addresses Colorado’s broken air quality permitting process that has allowed new sources to pollute our air while the region is already in violation of federal air quality standards for ozone. The third bill, to be introduced by Senator Faith Winter and Representatives Meg Froelich and Elizabeth Velasco, focuses on strengthening enforcement of air quality regulations and holding polluters accountable for polluting our air and harming our health.

Ozone pollution can cause serious health problems including shortness of breath, asthma attacks, decreased lung function, increased risk of respiratory infections, and aggravated lung diseases. Studies have also linked lower birth weight in newborns to ozone levels in their community. Low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by poor air quality, leading to increased health risks, higher healthcare costs, and missed days of school and work.

See factsheets with additional information on each bill.

“Generations of disproportionately impacted communities deserve to finally be respected and validated for their sacrifice on the frontlines of environmental racism and degradation with the enforceable protections these bills finally address,” said Renée M. Chacon, cofounder of Womxn from the Mountain. “However, this is just the beginning to addressing equity for DIC and holding predatory industries accountable to the cumulative impacts of harms to the air, water, land, and people, that has been their legacy on BIPOC and DI communities. May we learn from the past going forward.”

“As they stand, Colorado air quality laws and regulations do not protect public health and wellbeing. Communities in Commerce City and North Denver know we cannot rely on existing laws and regulations to enforce the law and bring true accountability to polluters. We need the support of bold and compassionate legislators to ensure that industry cannot continue to repeatedly pay their way across violating the law,” said Guadalupe Solís, director of environmental justice programs at Cultivando. “Among the many assets within this suite of bills, we look forward to efforts providing a backbone to the current penalty structure so that future settlements against violators reflect actual damage caused to the people and that proceeding funds are allocated to improve the public health of impacted communities truly.”

“Black communities across Colorado, enduring disproportionate impacts amidst the state’s ozone challenges, demand overdue recognition and protection against environmental racism,” said Portia Prescott, president of the Rocky Mountain NAACP CO-MT-WY. “It’s time for proactive solutions to reform how our state approaches permitting and enforcement. Let’s empower our leaders to confront polluters head-on, eradicating systemic inequities and safeguarding the well-being of those most impacted. As vital air quality bills emerge, may they signify a new era of health and equity for all.”

“Nurses across Colorado’s Front Range are perpetually alarmed by the frequency and severity of poor air quality and its impacts on the health of our communities,” said Dr. Darci Martinez, president of the National Alliance of Hispanic Nurses Denver Chapter. “The need to act on ozone is critical, especially for communities of color, who disproportionately bear the burden of health-harming emissions and other climate impacts.”

“Reduction of ozone and ozone precursor pollutants is essential for public health and mitigation of climate change throughout Colorado, especially in communities of color and low income, like my home, Pueblo, CO. Tighter regulations and enforcement are necessary because voluntary industry compliance repeatedly has failed to achieve needed decreases in pollution,” said Velma Campbell, MD, MPH, Mothers Out Front volunteer. 

“As people of faith, we believe we are all called to care for our neighbors and for our shared home,” said Rev. Bonita Bock with Together Colorado. “The ozone problem in Colorado is affecting all of us, especially those in communities where corporate polluters have chosen to locate with little regard for the wellbeing of their neighbors. We need urgent action on ozone to protect our families and communities.”

“Health is top of mind for Colorado communities every time we are notified of poor air quality, especially via Ozone Action Alerts, of which we had 38 last year,” said Megan Kemp, policy and advocacy manager for Healthy Air and Water Colorado. “These three pieces of legislation bring necessary solutions to the ozone crisis here in Colorado that will result in people’s health being put first.”

“Moms are counting on the state legislature and the governor to take bold action to address ozone pollution, which disproportionately impacts children, leaving them vulnerable to lung diseases like asthma, heart disease, cancer and other health problems,” said Sara Kuntzler, Colorado program manager for Mountain Mamas. “These three bills will help bring Colorado in line with federal clean air standards and protect the health of our children, especially those in disproportionately impacted communities. We all deserve to breathe clean air.”

“Coloradans are calling for action to clean up our air: everyone from health professionals to athletes to impacted community members to faith leaders to local government leaders are demanding that the state do more to make our air safe to breathe,” said CoPIRG Clean Air Advocate Kirsten Schatz. “Passing and implementing this package of bills will go a long way towards cleaning up the air pollution harming our health and quality of life.”

“Breathing shouldn’t be dangerous, yet Colorado has failed federal air quality standards for over a decade. Oil and gas operations are the largest source of ozone pollution in Colorado, and we need urgent action to hold these polluters accountable for harming communities. Supporting these bills will help us build a future where all Coloradans can work and play outside without fear of serious health consequences,” said Kelly Nordini, Conservation Colorado CEO.  

“Passing these bills would be a significant step toward addressing Colorado’s ozone crisis,” said Rebecca Curry, policy advocate for Earthjustice’s Rocky Mountain Office. “Communities continue to suffer because our worst polluters are not being held accountable. The legislature must take meaningful steps to address our broken polluter permitting system, strengthen the enforcement of air quality regulations, and reduce fossil fuel emissions.”

“Over the last several years, impacted residents, health professionals, and air quality experts have urged Colorado legislators to take action to address the state’s ozone crisis,” said Andrew Forkes-Gudmundson of Earthworks. “This suite of bills represents a significant effort by legislators to address this issue by reforming the way we permit new sources of pollution in the nonattainment area, holding polluters that violate their permits accountable, and working to reduce fossil fuel pollution from existing sources across the state.”

“Coloradans all want clean air and clear skies but are tired of years of pollution so bad that it’s not compliant with federal law. We deserve better,” said Margaret Kran-Annexstien, director of Colorado Sierra Club. “Legislators have an opportunity with these three bills to protect the health of our communities and hold accountable the polluters that are responsible for the ozone crisis.”

“It has never been more important to protect our communities from the dangers of air pollution,” said Boulder County Commissioner Ashley Stolzmann. “Coloradans in the Front Range and beyond have suffered with poor air quality during the summer for too long and stronger action is essential to reduce ozone-causing pollution. To protect our most vulnerable residents, these bills will reduce emissions from transportation, heavy-duty diesel vehicles, and oil and gas, reform air pollution permitting and increase maximum daily fines to give counties much-needed additional power to hold polluters to account.”

Smokestack of Valmont Power Station in Boulder, Colo., emits a plume of smoke into a hazy, darkened sky.
Valmont Power Station in Boulder, Colo., in 2011. (Josh Schutz / Getty Images)

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