DENVER—Hours ago, representatives from both sides of the aisle voted to pass HB-1309 to protect air quality and public health in Colorado.
Currently, state law binds Colorado’s air quality protections to federal minimum standards. HB-1309 would allow Colorado to maintain current air quality protections when federal rollbacks would lower pollution control standards or allow increases in emissions, putting control over Coloradans’ health back under state control.
Many Western states including neighboring Wyoming, Arizona, and Kansas already have the local control that Colorado is seeking to regain.
Local governments welcome the increased state authority.
According to Gregg Thomas Environmental Compliance Supervisor at the City and County of Denver, “We applaud the house’s move to increase state authority to protect air quality. The anti-backsliding measures in HB-1309 to allow Colorado to prevent the rollback of air quality regulations will benefit all Coloradans.”
The push for more state power to protect public health comes in the aftermath of proposed federal rollbacks to air quality laws that would dramatically increase the amount of pollution power plants and industrial sources in Colorado are allowed to produce.
These rule changes, which would allow industrial sources in Colorado to increase emissions of smog forming volatile organic compounds by up to 93%, have public health advocates concerned.
“Colorado has the second highest incidence of asthma of any state in the nation and more than 175,000 people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” said Will Coyne of Environment Colorado. “The last thing we need is more smog in our air.”
Colorado already struggles with mercury, smog, and haze pollution. Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park recorded the third highest atmospheric mercury concentration in the nation in 2003 and so much mercury washes out of our air the fish from 6 lakes in Colorado are unsafe to eat. Colorado exceeded federal health standards for ozone (smog) 60 times in 2003 and areas across the state still struggle to meet minimum standards. Haze obscures views throughout Colorado. Even low levels of particulate pollution damage health and our tourist economy.
“Federal rollbacks are bad for Colorado’s health, economy, and environment” said Silverman. “HB-1309 would allow Colorado to protect our state when the federal government won’t.”
A diverse coalition including the public health officials, public health advocates, religious groups, local governments, labor unions, agricultural groups, rallied behind HB-1309 to support cleaner air in Colorado.