DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado communities along the Front Range from Denver to Fort Collins will now face stricter rules to improve air quality after a long-anticipated decision from the Environmental Protection Agency dropped Friday.
The EPA officially downgraded the region that contains Denver, Boulder, Greeley, Fort Collins and Loveland from “serious” to “severe” violators of federal ozone standards, after proposing the move this spring.
According to the American Lung Association’s State of Air report for 2022, the Denver-Aurora area is the seventh worst in the country for ozone pollution, trailing major metro areas including Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Diego.
Over their past six reports, more western cities and fewer eastern cities are trending toward severe ozone pollution.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has already launched a new campaign to raise awareness about the change from the EPA.
A big change Colorado will face because of the reclassification is permitting through CDPHE. The Title V amendment of the Clean Air Act was created in 1990 to create a permit program for stationary sources of air pollution. Businesses that pollute beyond a certain level are required to obtain a permit from CDPHE.
According to CDPHE, there are roughly 260 active major sources that require permits in Colorado under the previous threshold. With the new classification, about 470 new businesses will need to go through the permitting process. That brings the total of major Title V sources in the state to a roughly 730, now that the change is official.
Another change that could impact the average Coloradan’s wallet is a shift to cleaner gas that’s generally more expensive and known as reformulated gasoline. According to the EPA, 25% of gasoline sold in the U.S. is reformulated and is currently used in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
But CDPHE is arguing the state can reach its target ozone levels by 2026, without having to shift to the more expensive gasoline.
In a statement, a spokesperson for CDPHE said “The state has asked the EPA to re-evaluate the requirement and is committed to doing everything possible to avoid it. The EPA has responded to the state that it will work with Colorado ‘to explore all flexibilities that may be available under the Act to best meet Colorado’s implementation needs and public health goals of the law.'”