Apr 13, 2022 - Business

Colorado air pollution now severely in violation of federal standards

A golfer at the City Park Golf Course in September 2021 as haze clouds downtown. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images
A golfer at the City Park Golf Course in September 2021 as haze clouds downtown. Photo: AAron Ontiveroz/Denver Post via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Tuesday downgraded the Denver metro's air quality level, a much-anticipated move that will trigger tougher new regulations on polluters.

What's happening: The Environmental Protection Agency now labels a nine-county region from Fort Collins to Castle Rock as "severe" for its violations of federal ozone standards.

  • The rating change from "serious" came after the state failed to adequately cut emissions from cars, power plants and other industries in recent years.

What's next: About 500 sources of pollution will need permits designed to monitor and control emissions under the new regulations.

  • Gas stations will have to sell higher-cost fuel that emits fewer pollutants starting in summer 2024, authorities say.

Between the lines: Colorado β€” or more specifically, Gov. Jared Polis β€” wanted this crackdown.

  • The state planned to explore a waiver from federal air quality rules because more than half its pollution came from beyond state lines.
  • But soon after taking office, Polis said he wouldn't seek the exemption and revoked a request for more time to comply with federal standards.

What they're saying: The Polis administration said Tuesday it "welcomes" the federal move, and touted millions in new spending to address air pollution, including new air quality inspectors, the electrification of school buses and the expansion of mass transit.

  • The governor "has been committed to reducing pollution since day one, making up for lost time from previous years,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in a statement.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the state of Colorado previously explored, but did not obtain, a waiver from federal air quality rules.

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